Many soft drinks, as well as products like fruit beverages and baked goods, contain the sweetener high-fructose corn syrup.
It's a thick liquid made from corn starch, and it's grown increasingly popular over the last 30 years, in part because it tastes as sweet as refined sugar, but it's cheaper to manufacture. It's also easier to blend into beverages than refined sugar, and it helps baked goods retain moisture longer.
Why should you care what's used to sweeten your drinks and foods? Some make much of the fact that our increase in high-fructose corn syrup consumption coincides with the increase in obesity in the United States. In the two decades after 1970, when high-fructose corn syrup became a regular part of our diets, its consumption increased by more than 1000%. At the same time, our waistlines increased.
Is the sweetener to blame? Well, what also correlates with the rise in obesity is the rise in our daily caloric intake. Restaurant portion sizes have doubled and, in some instances, tripled in this time. While high-fructose corn syrup has certainly contributed to this increased caloric intake, it certainly doesn't account for all of them.
Furthermore, many nutritionists say that refined sugar is no better than high-fructose corn syrup, and that we should reduce consumption of all added sugars. They're high in calories and empty of nutrients. Consider that one tablespoon of sugar carries the same amount of calories as a full cup of blueberries. Thus, the World Health Organization recommends that we limit our intake of added sugars to no more than 10% of our daily calories, which amounts to one 16.9 ounce bottle of soda.