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Soda Advocates Respond

HFCS is sweeter than most other caloric sweeteners like sucrose, found in table sugar, and Bray and Popkin contend that the added sweetness may actually stimulate the appetite rather than sating it. But while HFCS is used to sweeten some cereals and other processed foods, Bray says he believes HFCS-sweetened beverages, not foods, are causing Americans to consume more calories.

"We are focusing on beverages because the data we have suggest that non-beverage products sweetened with HFCS don't seem to have the same impact as beverages," he says.

Not surprisingly, soft drink industry insiders are highly critical of the conclusions, saying there is little evidence to support the claim that the extra sweetness of soft drinks and fruit drinks containing HFCS increases caloric intake.

"Suggesting that people are somehow fatter today because soft drinks and food and dairy products are sweetened with HFCS instead of sucrose, or table sugar, is totally ridiculous," National Soft Drink Association Vice President of Scientific and Technical Affairs Richard Adamson, PhD, says in a statement. "People are heavier today because they are taking in more calories and not getting enough exercise."

University of California, Davis nutrition researcher Peter Havel, PhD, studies the impact of various sugars on body weight, and says he will soon publish a paper concluding that HFCS and sucrose may be more likely to cause obesity that the sweetener glucose, which is no longer used much commercially.

"There does appear to be some difference in the caloric sweeteners," he tells WebMD. "But in my opinion, the increased consumption of fat, the increased consumption of all sugars, and inactivity are all to blame for the obesity epidemic."

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