When I started reading headlines this morning that heralded a change in Coca-Cola‘s sweeteners, I was pumped. Then I read that it just means they’re going to use high-fructose corn syrup in even more of their soda. This means the Mexican Coke that so many of us love–because it’s made with cane sugar–might start tasting a lot more like American Coke. And it’s not just bad news for flavor; it’s also kind of frightening, given that high-fructose corn syrup has been tied with higher incidence of obesity and even hamper your ability to learn and remember information.
Michael Ferrari, director of global agricultural commodity risk management at Coca Cola, told Dow Jones Newswires that the move is economical:
In most Coca-Cola products, there’s a clear directional shift toward the use of high-fructose corn syrup, which is cheaper than sugar.
The move towards high-fructose corn syrup might not be great news for sugar cane farmers, Ferrari says Coca-Cola is making plans to expand their contract farming agreements (by which the company commits to buying a set amount of things like sugar, coffee, or tea, at pre-set prices directly from farmers, in exchange for the farmers providing crops cultivated exactly how and when the company would like).
But agricultural factors aside, this isn’t the best news for a company that’s been under fire for its contribution to obesity and related illnesses. Many argue that high fructose corn syrup is really worse than sugar (and have even taken the issue to court), but evidence suggests that HFCS metabolizes differently and may have health impacts reaching beyond just our waistlines. One study published in Spring of this year even found that corn syrup hurts your brain–possibly because of its effect on insulin levels.
At the end of the day, sipping a daily can of Coke isn’t your best move, whether it’s sweetened with cane sugar, high fructose corn syrup, or aspartame. But likewise, switching to more processed ingredients is never a great idea.
Photo: Erik Pitti