Select Committee on GRAS Substances (SCOGS) Opinion: Sucrose

The GRAS Substances (SCOGS) Database allows access to opinions and conclusions from 115 SCOGS reports published between 1972-1980 on the safety of over 370 Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) food substances. The GRAS ingredient reviews were conducted by the Select Committee in response to a 1969 White House directive by President Richard M. Nixon.


  • SCOGS-Report Number: 69*
  • Type Of Conclusion: 2
  • ID Code: 57-50-1
  • Year: 1976
  • 21 CFR Section: 184.1854

SCOGS Opinion:

Sucrose is the standard of naturally occurring sweetness, joining other nutrients usually carbohydrate in nature, that comprise a group of palatable foodstuffs known to be relatively efficient sources of energy, simple in composition and rapidly metabolizable for utilization and storage. Sucrose has been used routinely since antiquity to improve the palatability of food preparations.

By all conventional tests, sucrose is a substance of extremely low acute toxicity. Consumption of sucrose in large amounts or at frequent intervals contributes to the development of dental caries. Over consumption of sucrose probably contributes to obesity and possibly results in dietary imbalances and in modification of lipid metabolism which potentiates coronary heart disease. Tenuous relationships between sucrose ingestion and diabetes mellitus and other diseases also have been suggested. The possibility that sucrose may be involved in such deleterious effects continues to stir controversy, as is evident by the size of the scientific and popular literature on sugars in the human diet and the appearance of new research findings and concepts. Consequently, broad generalizations based upon the inconclusive evidence now available must be made and viewed with caution.

One of the important facts is that sucrose is both a significant natural constituent of food and a major additive to foods and beverages. It is commonly used as such by the consumer and added by food processors as a component of various foods. While per capita consumption of sucrose has changed little in the United States over the past 50 years, it is also true that about 70 percent of the per capita intake is now contributed by processed foods. This situation makes it difficult to exercise individual choice in the selection of a low sucrose diet.

Unlike most other foods, sucrose furnishes virtually only energy. While sucrose makes a substantial contribution to dietary caloric needs, in excessive amounts its effect on the intake of other nutrients may result in nutritional imbalances and, at least marginal, dietary deficiencies. Since over 15 percent of the per capita caloric intake of the population in the United States is from sucrose, it is likely that some individuals may eat enough to exclude adequate amounts of other foods that furnish required nutrients.

Findings linking ingestion of sucrose with diabetes are essentially circumstantial. There is no plausible evidence that sucrose, except as it is a non-specific source of excessive calories, is related to the disease. In those experiments in which impaired glucose tolerance was measured, highly distorted dietary patterns and excessive sucrose intakes were required.

The experimental evidence associating sucrose with cardiovascular disease is also less than clear. It seems likely that the observed hyperlipidemic effects of high levels of sucrose in the diet of animals and man are due primarily to its relatively rapid rate of hydrolysis and absorption and that any differences between the metabolism of its hydrolytic products, glucose and fructose, are of questionable significance. There is no evidence that ingestion of sucrose in the concentrations that occur in the average diet causes significant elevations in blood cholesterol or other lipids. Furthermore, it would appear that the primary dietary factors involved in cardiovascular disease are the nature and amount of fat in the diet. Thus, the role of sucrose in cardiovascular disease appears to be secondary although it may represent a potentiating factor in its etiology.

Of all the carbohydrates tested, sucrose is among the most cariogenic. Individuals who assiduously avoid consumption of sucrose because of an inborn error of metabolism - fructose intolerance - generally have little or no dental caries. However, dental caries can and do occur in people who have never used sugar or processed foods. Various factors affect the cariogenicity of sucrose and other foods. These include frequency and duration of exposure, age of the subject, and stickiness of the sugar or materials with which it is consumed. Honey and figs, for example, are highly cariogenic and pregelatinized starches also are conducive to the development of dental caries. The significant effects of between-meal eating on the frequency and severity of dental caries has been demonstrated. Protection against dental caries is facilitated by limitation of the frequency of consumption of sucrose and other cariogenic foods. Informing the consumer of the sugar content of foods by appropriate labeling could lead to judicious selection of sweetened foods. Choices could be made easier with a greater selection of less sugared foods in the market place.

In light of all of the foregoing, the Select Committee concludes that:

1. Reasonable evidence exists that sucrose is a contributor to the formation of dental caries when used at the levels that are now current and in the manner now practiced.

2. Other than the contribution made to dental caries, there is no clear evidence in the available information on sucrose that demonstrates a hazard to the public when used at the levels that are now current and in the manner now practiced. However, it is not possible to determine without additional data, whether an increase in sugar consumption - that would result if there were a significant increase in the total of sucrose, corn sugar, corn syrup, and invert sugar, added to foods - would constitute a dietary hazard.

Health aspects of corn sugar (dextrose), corn syrup, and invert sugar are evaluated in a report of the Select Committee.

*Complete reports containing details of the safety studies that formed the basis of the opinions and conclusions and are available from the National Technical Information Service (NTIS), 5285 Port Royal Road, Springfield, VA 22161 (703) 605-6000.

Page Last Updated: 10/16/2015
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