No one would defend soft drinks as healthful or good for you. But recent research about high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and artificial sweeteners suggest soft drinks may be even worse for us than we thought. Especially because soft drinks likely contain either HFCS or sugar substitutes. The truth is soft drinks may do a lot more good for the big beverage companies that make them than the people who drink them.

High Fructose Corn Syrup and GMO Corn

Can anyone remember life before high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) was in almost every "sweet" food? The consumption of high fructose corn syrup has grown 1,000 percent since its introduction in soft drinks in 1984. Food producers much prefer HFCS to beet or cane sugar because it can be pumped into trucks and tanks unlike its solid, bulky counterparts. They also like HFCS because it is immune to sugar's wild price swings from unstable political regions and trade barriers and can be produced in the US. HFCS also provides benefits in processed foods like moisture retention and crystallization resistance (which allows "moist" baked goods), flavor enhancement, and, in ice cream protection against "freezing point depression."

What's to not like?

But HFCS also metabolizes differently from sugar in the body and is so linked to obesity and diabetes, that public health groups recommend regulation including the former mayor of New York City Mayor Bloomberg . (It also tastes different from soft drinks made with real sugar.) HFCS stimulates production of triglycerides (a type of fat found in the blood), increases fat deposition in the liver and causes permanent metabolic changes, say some. Other researchers say American obesity is not so much linked to HFCS as the bioengineered (GMO) corn it and countless other products are now made from.

Sugar Substitutes

Artificial sweeteners have always been billed as a way to cut calories and lose weight. But recent research shows they may do just the opposite. When researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center studied 474 people who drank two or more artificially-sweetened soft drinks a day they found the people gained five times as much as those not drinking diet drinks.

Thanks for nothing!

There are three reasons artificial sweeteners may do more harm than good. One is that some of the sweeteners - which tend to be chemicals like acesulfame potassium and aspartame - may slow metabolism, speculate researchers. Secondly, artificial sweeteners separate "food seeking behavior" from the "reward" of real nutrients and can set up sweets addictions because the reward is never received. They literally "train" people to crave sweets. Finally the presence of artificial sweeteners in a product doesn't automatically mean natural sweeteners aren't present too. Some food manufacturers use both. Read the label.

Dr. Marion Nestle, a professor in nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University and leading food expert, told me she isn't aware of any convincing evidence that proves that artificial sweeteners help people to lose weight. One artificial sweetener, Splenda has similarities to endocrine disrupting pesticides".