Coca-Cola ingredients: High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) & sugar

A standard 330ml can of coke contains no nutrients other than 139kcal-worth of energy. A McDonald’s ‘standard’ coke, however, is 950ml and contains 400kcal, a fifth of our daily energy requirement.

My understanding is that there isn’t any high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is in UK Coca-Cola. This may change in a couple of years’ time. The EU’s current HFCS output quota is 700,000 tonnes and that this quota is being lifted in September 2017 when all production quotas will be lifted. As the HFCS price is much more stable than cane or beet sugar, partly owing to US government subsidies for corn production, its use in soft drinks is likely to increase after the production quotas are lifted, as reported recently in Food News.

It’s been known for some time that the fructose in HFCS per calorie has a bigger impact on weight gain than the same calorific quantity of sugar. This may be because we metabolise it differently — it isn’t digested in the gut, but goes straight to the liver.

The dietary impact of sugar and HFCS is now a matter of concern at a global level, as indicated by this recently published paper by the Global Burden of Diseases Nutrition and Chronic Disease Expert Group.

Sugar consumption is inevitably of increasing concern to medics and cardiovascular clinicians here in the UK. This concern resulted in the Government and the Food Standards Agency* in 2008 asking the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) to clarify the relationship between carbohydrates and health. On 17th July 2015, they published their findings here.

Public Health England followed their recommendations with these headlines about sugars:

  1. Adults and children should get no more than 5%, down from the previous 10% of the energy intake from ‘free’ sugars — this is equivalent to 5-7 teaspoons of sugar a day.
  2. Sugar-sweetened beverages should be drunk as infrequently as possible by both adults and children.

Another way of looking at the PHE recommendations is this: The GDA (average guideline daily amounts) for calories is 2000kcal. As 100g sugar provides ~400kcal of energy and the recommended intake from sugars is 5%, then we shouldn’t consume more than 25g of free suagrs per day, providing us with 100kcal of energy.

A single small can of Coca-Cola provides 139kcal, 7% of our daily energy requirement, and all from free sugars.

There is also some indication that sugar is addictive. Without doubt, it creates physical dependancy; i.e. the more you consume, the more you crave it, a familiar sensation to us all.

* Public Health England have now taken over the FSA’s role on nutrition.

[Featured image is by Lorena.]

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