What’s the difference between sucrose, fructose, and high-fructose corn syrup?

Fructose is simple, naturally occurring monosaccharide largely found in honey and fruit.

Sucrose, or table sugar, is one molecule of glucose bonded to one molecule of fructose, yielding a disaccharide. It’s found naturally in plants, like sugar cane, and we get the white and brown stuff when we process sucrose from those plants.

High-fructose corn syrup isn’t just plain old fructose. While it’s a combination of fructose and glucose, it’s also manufactured from an enzymatic process using glucose syrup from corn. It’s not naturally occurring like sucrose.

There’s one more -ose to add to the list: glucose.

Glucose is a simple sugar. It’s a monosaccharide, meaning it contains one type of sugar. It’s naturally abundant in many foods like pasta, rice, bread, potatoes, and others. We use glucose for energy.

The general consensus has largely promoted the idea that you should avoid high-fructose corn syrup, and accept sucrose as a better alternative. However, this study suggests that they’re all equally bad for us.

But before you grab one more: sugary treat there are things you might want to consider

You probably already knew that Sugar is not good for you, however, recent research finds new reasons to lower sugar intake and may cause you to look at sugar in quite a different light.

In July of 2021, the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism published a study about the effects of Sugar.

The study found that both sugar and high-fructose corn syrup increase your risk factors for illnesses like type 2 diabetes and other chronic illness in the same way. 

Perhaps you figured pure cane sugar-sweetened products are somehow better than processed food and drink that use high-fructose corn syrup. But this study suggests they all offer the same risk. Using Sugar-sweetened beverages the study looked at several controlled groups and found that no matter the sugar the potential to raise your risk for chronic illness, insulin sensitivity, and fatty liver increased.

What are the key differences between sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup?

Sucrose, (regular table sugar), is one fructose molecule paired with one glucose molecule. Both fructose and glucose are monosaccharides, together they make the disaccharide sucrose. Because sucrose is a disaccharide, your liver can break it down into its separate parts of fructose and glucose.

In High-fructose corn syrup, the fructose and glucose molecules are free meaning they aren’t bound together. If your liver needs more energy, it can push more of the glucose into circulation throughout the body and If it does not it can absorb it.

When ingested about 10 to 15 percent of the fructose is used in circulation and the rest is absorbed and stored as fat in your liver. Fructose Kinase is the enzyme that controls fructose regulation and is always ready, so when fructose is introduced into your body the fructose kinase is ready to metabolize it. However, Glucose can be diverted and metabolized later.

The trouble starts when your diet is high in added sugar. Your liver becomes overloaded due to the combination of glucose and fructose and it becomes difficult to process these excess nutrients so it stores them in your liver as fat. The fructose stored as fat that eventually gets pushed into circulation is where we get the “bad cholesterol” or LDL, triglycerides, and fatty acids from. 

Your body can usually lower the high levels of glucose with insulin but the excess fat storage within the liver prevents the insulin’s ability to take up the glucose and prevents the body’s insulin from countering the glucose in your system.

The study found that you are at increased risk for metabolic diseases such as diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, cardiovascular disease, and even obesity from all sugars no matter what the type. 

It’s not that sugar itself puts you at a higher risk for mortality. But the increased consumption of sugar increases your risk for chronic illnesses. This, in the long run, also puts you at a higher risk for poorer health long term overall and events death.

Sources Cited: Spivack, E. (2021, September 7). Is a Diet Coke healthier than A PSL? New study reveals complicated answer. Inverse. Retrieved September 30, 2021, from https://www.inverse.com/mind-body/sugar-high-fructose-corn-syrup-health-science.