Brown Rice Syrup Vs. Sugar

There has been a lot of hype in the last few years about the many health benefits of using brown rice syrup instead of sugar. However, research proves that the two are more or less the same and equally bad for diabetics as well as people who are trying to reduce their sugar intake.
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Comparison between brown rice syrup and sugar
Did You Know?
Brown rice syrup is said to contain maltose (45%), glucose (3%), and maltotriose (50%).
White crystallized table sugar is basically sucrose, an organic compound that is derived from sugarcane or sugar beets. This carbohydrate contains fructose and glucose, which together form sucrose molecules. Brown rice syrup or rice malt, on the other hand, is a natural sweetener that is prepared by fermenting cooked rice/rice starch with enzymes that break down its starch, and it is further cooked until the liquid sweetener attains molasses-like consistency.

This syrup is claimed to be gluten-free and wheat-free; however, unless specifically mentioned on the label, the product is assumed to contain gluten. This Buzzle article compares brown rice syrup and sugar to find out its differences and whether all the health claims made about this syrup are truly worth believing or not.

Nutritional Value

2 Tablespoons Organic Sweet Dreams Brown Rice Syrup Vs. Table Sugar
Calories 150
Sugars 22 g
Carbohydrates 36 g
Sodium 70 mg
Total Fat 0 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 0 mg
Dietary Fiber 0 g
Protein 0 g
Vitamin A 0 %
Vitamin C 0 %
Calcium 2 %
Iron 0 %
Calories 96
Sugars 25.2 g
Carbohydrates 25.2 g
Sodium 0 mg
Protein 0 g
Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 0 mg
Dietary Fiber 0 g
Vitamin A 0 %
Vitamin C 0 %
Calcium 0 %
Iron 0 %

Comparisons

On comparing, 2 tablespoons of brown rice syrup have more calories than table sugar. While brown rice syrup contains 150 calories, sugar contains only 96. The sugars present in table sugar is 25.2 g as compared to 22 g in brown rice syrup; however, the latter also contains more carbohydrates at 36 g as compared to 25.2 g in sugar. The only areas where brown rice syrup seems to have something more to offer than sugar is in its sodium (70 mg) and calcium (2%) content.

Health Benefit Claims of Brown Rice Syrup

It is a natural sweetener that contains carbohydrates just like table sugar. The only difference being that brown rice malt is a polysaccharide as compared to monosaccharides and disaccharides found in sugar, which rapidly get digested and absorbed by the body. Additionally, unlike processed white sugar, brown sugar syrup is a nutritive sweetener that offers more nutrients as compared to sugar.

Consisting of complex carbohydrates such as polysaccharide, brown sugar syrup takes longer to digest and sustains energy or blood sugar levels for longer, thereby, preventing the energy-crashing effect experienced after consuming sugar/fructose. It is also widely believed that brown rice syrup reduces the level of cholesterol and keeps heart problems at bay for longer. Therefore, although this syrup will raise the blood sugar levels, it rarely causes the energy-plummeting feeling caused by sugar and other sweeteners.

Refuting These Claims

Another claim that favors the use of this syrup is that its high content of maltodextrins causes slower digestion, thereby, preventing sugar levels from spiking after consumption. However, a report published by Kailee Farnum, a Dietetic Intern from the University of Washington Department on Whole Food: Brown Rice Syrup states that:

"There are also claims that because this sweetener is made with brown rice it retains some B vitamins and minerals; it is unclear if this is true. There is no USDA analysis of this syrup and these nutrients are not listed on the label. It is uncertain whether or not these nutrients are removed during the straining process or destroyed during cooking, but it is unlikely that they are present in clinically relevant amounts."

This report also states that a study was conducted to test the blood glucose response after the ingestion of brown sugar syrup, wherein it took 37.5 minutes to notice a blood glucose rise in the subject, as compared to the 40.5 minutes taken after consuming plain glucose. This syrup takes approximately the same time to digest as table sugar and is no better than the other, thereby, showing no significant delay in digestion by brown sugar syrup as compared to glucose. Thus, the health claims of this syrup seem to be irrelevant.

Sucrose

Although prominent rice syrup producers, Lundberg, claim that brown rice syrup is approximately half as sweet as normal sugar, they also claim that one teaspoon of rice syrup should be considered to have an equivalent amount of sucrose as a teaspoon of white sugar.

Safe for Diabetics?

Brown rice syrup is comparatively less sweeter to taste than sugar. This has led many sources to claim that this sweetener is suitable and safe for people with diabetes. However, no established diabetic foundation has published anything to claim brown sugar syrup as a safe sweetener for diabetics. Therefore, this syrup must be included and treated as a regular sweetener such as sugar, molasses, corn syrup, maple syrup, or honey.

Recently, the FDA has also been investigating claims of trace amounts of arsenic being found in rice and rice products such as brown rice syrup; however, the samples evaluated by them had very low levels of inorganic arsenic, which were unlikely to cause any short- or long-term health problems.
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Published: April 28, 2014
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