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Study Could Bolster Soda Warning Bill

Keck School of Medicine researchers this week released a study published in Nutrition magazine that found higher-than-expected levels of fructose in soda and other sweetened beverages.

Popular drinks sweetened with high fructose corn syrup contained 50% more fructose than glucose, according to the study. Fructose can be more problematic than glucose, according to Michael Goran, director of Childhood Obesity Research Center at Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California.

“The human body isn’t designed to process this form of sugar at such high levels,” Goran said. “Unlike glucose, which serves as fuel for the body, fructose is processed almost entirely in the liver where it is converted to fat, which increases risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease and liver disease.”

Goran added that some of the soda labels are misleading — one drink labeled as being made with sucrose, he said, was actually shown through laboratory analysis to contain about 50% fructose. That suggests some of these beverages might contain high-fructose corn syrup, Goran said, contrary to the list of ingredients on the label.

“Given that Americans drink 45 gallons of soda a year, it’s important for us to have a more accurate understanding of what we’re actually drinking,” Goran said, “including specific label information on the types of sugars.”

The study released this week is available in an online preprint edition and will be in the print edition of Nutrition tomorrow.

It could have policy implications for a bill working its way through the California Legislature. SB 1000 by Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel) passed a Senate floor vote and is now headed to the Assembly. It would require health-risk warning labels be placed on soda and other sugary drinks.

According to Goran, Americans consume more high-fructose corn syrup per capita than any other nation. Much of the three-fold increase over 30 years in diabetes cases can be linked to sodas, sports drinks and energy drinks, he said.

Keck researchers found:

  • Beverages made with high-fructose corn syrup have a sugar profile different than sucrose, in which amounts of fructose and glucose are equivalent;
  • Beverages made with high-fructose corn syrup have an average sugar composition of 60% fructose and 40% glucose; and
  • In some juices made from fruit, fructose concentration accounted for 67% of sugars.

“We found that what ends up being consumed in these beverages is neither natural sugar nor high-fructose corn syrup, but instead a fructose-intense concoction that could have even greater health implications,” Goran said.

For more on legislation related to sugar-sweetened beverages, see today’s Insight.

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