Consumption of Honey, Sucrose, and High-Fructose Corn Syrup Produces Similar Metabolic Effects in Glucose-Tolerant and -Intolerant Individuals

J Nutr. 2015 Oct;145(10):2265-72. doi: 10.3945/jn.115.218016. Epub 2015 Sep 2.


Background: Public health recommendations call for a reduction in added sugars; however, controversy exists over whether all nutritive sweeteners produce similar metabolic effects.

Objective: The objective was to compare the effects of the chronic consumption of 3 nutritive sweeteners [honey, sucrose, and high-fructose corn syrup containing 55% fructose (HFCS55)] on circulating glucose, insulin, lipids, and inflammatory markers; body weight; and blood pressure in individuals with normal glucose tolerance (GT) and those with impaired glucose tolerance (IGT).

Methods: In a crossover design, participants consumed daily, in random order, 50 g carbohydrate from assigned sweeteners for 2 wk with a 2- to 4-wk washout period between treatments. Participants included 28 GT and 27 IGT volunteers with a mean age of 38.9 ± 3.6 y and 52.1 ± 2.7 y, respectively, and a body mass index (in kg/m(2)) of 26 ± 0.8 and 31.5 ± 1.0, respectively. Body weight, blood pressure (BP), serum inflammatory markers, lipids, fasting glucose and insulin, and oral-glucose-tolerance tests (OGTTs) were completed pre- and post-treatment. The OGTT incremental areas under the curve (iAUCs) for glucose and insulin were determined and homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR) scores were calculated.

Results: Body weight and serum glucose, insulin, inflammatory markers, and total and LDL-cholesterol concentrations were significantly higher in the IGT group than in the GT group at baseline. Glucose, insulin, HOMA-IR, and the OGTT iAUC for glucose or insulin did not differ by treatment, but all responses were significantly higher in the IGT group compared with the GT group. Body weight was unchanged by treatment. Systolic BP was unchanged, whereas diastolic BP was significantly lower in response to sugar intake across all treatments. An increase in high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP) was observed in the IGT group in response to all sugars. No treatment effect was observed for interleukin 6. HDL cholesterol did not differ as a result of status or treatment. Triglyceride (TG) concentrations increased significantly from pre- to post-treatment in response to all sugars tested.

Conclusions: Daily intake of 50 g carbohydrate from honey, sucrose, or HFCS55 for 14 d resulted in similar effects on measures of glycemia, lipid metabolism, and inflammation. All 3 increased TG concentrations in both GT and IGT individuals and elevated glycemic and inflammatory responses in the latter. This trial was registered at as NCT01371266.

Keywords: glycemia; high-fructose corn syrup; honey; sucrose; triglycerides.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Body Mass Index
  • C-Reactive Protein / agonists*
  • C-Reactive Protein / analysis
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Dietary Sucrose / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Glucose Intolerance / complications
  • Glucose Intolerance / epidemiology
  • Glucose Intolerance / immunology
  • Glucose Intolerance / metabolism*
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup / adverse effects*
  • Honey / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Hypertriglyceridemia / etiology
  • Hypertriglyceridemia / prevention & control
  • Insulin Resistance*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • North Dakota / epidemiology
  • Nutritive Sweeteners / adverse effects*
  • Nutritive Sweeteners / therapeutic use
  • Obesity / complications
  • Overweight / complications
  • Patient Dropouts
  • Risk Factors
  • Triglycerides / agonists
  • Triglycerides / blood


  • Biomarkers
  • Dietary Sucrose
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Nutritive Sweeteners
  • Triglycerides
  • C-Reactive Protein

Associated data