This is actually a pretty big deal. Most people don’t realize it, but North America is one of the few places in the world that uses high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) to sweeten drinks and other items. Most other places in the world use pure glucose, which is the main sugar our bodies are built to run on. Fructose is far sweeter than glucose so you can use less of it to sweeten a product. High fructose corn syrup is typically composed of around 55% fructose and another 45% glucose. If you order a coca cola in the Caribbean, you’ll notice that is has a very different (and far more enjoyable IMO) taste that here in North America — that’s because they still use glucose to sweeten it.
It was once believed that the affects of fructose on the body were relatively minor – fructose only has a marginal impact on blood sugar levels, while glucose directly influences blood sugar and insulin. Current research is starting to reveal just how bad it is for the body though, especially when coupled with glucose.
Without getting into too much detail, the fructose in high-fructose corn syrup effectively causes a traffic jam in the liver. Coupled with glucose, the results are rather dramatic, and the body has a hard time controlling blood sugar levels.
That’s why it’s good news that Pepsi is about to start trials for some of the their drinks without HFCS. Given that the research community is about to start pressing hard against additives such as HFCS, I suspect Pepsi is preparing for a little pro-active damage control. Whatever the reasons though, I’m definitely glad that these companies are at least considering ditching HFCS in their products.