High fructose corn syrup, found in sodas, cereals and baked goods, has become a food bad guy for its link to obesity and diabetes but it might not only be food the sticky stuff is lurking in. Some common cough and cold syrups use high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) as their sweeteners, the most popular offenders including Vicks, Delsym and Robitussin brands.
Cough and cold syrup makers could use other sweeteners like sucrose but HFCS is inexpensive to manufacture. High fructose corn syrup is a chemically made sugar that primarily contains fructose (fifty-five percent,) glucose (fourty-five percent) and water. The good news is that the companies clearly list HFCS as an inactive ingredient on their labeling, which means it will have no effect on suppressing a cough, for example.
“One teaspoonful of pure HFCS has 3.8 grams of carbohydrates and is about 15 calories,” Mary Hartley, RD, our registered dietician, states, “but 1 teaspoonful of cough syrup is not one-hundred percent HFCS.” The amount HFCS that is in cough syrups compared to the rest of the ingredients is not something that is clearly labeled on their packaging. When I tried to contact a representative from Vick’s about how much of the sweetener was in their product, the rep told me the information was proprietary and legally they may not be allowed to release the information.
Cough syrups relieve symptoms faster, but there are other options for those suffering a cold or flu if the HFCS levels concern you. Robitussin markets sugar free preparations of their cough syrups which are great for diabetics but do contain artificial sweeteners. Some tablet and softgel options include Mucinex and Mucinex DM. Products containing dextromethorphan would be helpful with suppressing a cough, while guaifenesin would help cough up any mucus that may be hard to expell.
I definitely think we need more transparency in this area to find out exactly what is in our over-the-counter medications and whether it is truly helping us to feel better or in the long run make us worse.