Is Honey a Healthier Sweetener than High-Fructose Corn Syrup or White Sugar?

There is a small army of bloggers and nutrition writers constantly pushing consumers to avoid high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) because they think it’s less healthy or can lead to more weight gain than other sweeteners like sugar from cane or honey. But a recent study once again confirms that there is no difference in health effects between honey and other sweeteners.

Honey has enjoyed a health-aura because it’s “natural.” (What could be more natural than a sweetener produced by bees?) Yet research conducted by scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) (and funded in part by the honey industry) shows there’s no evidence honey is a more nutritious option.

The study, published in the Journal of Nutrition, compared blood sugar, insulin, body weight, cholesterol, and blood pressure in 55 study participants after they were given daily doses of honey, cane sugar, and high-fructose corn syrup for two week periods. Researchers observed no real changes in any markers other than blood fat, which rose with doses of each sweetener.

The results are unsurprising—honey, HFCS, and cane sugar are chemically very similar, with similar propositions of fructose and glucose. (Cane sugar is sucrose) As we frequently emphasize,  just because something is labeled, “natural,” doesn’t mean it’s any healthier.