High Fructose Corn Syrup

High fructose corn syrup, or HFCS, is a syrup made up of varying proportions of glucose and fructose. 

The most common is 55% fructose and 42% glucose. In Europe is is sometimes referred to as Isoglucose or Glucose Fructose Syrup.

It is produced from corn starch. Over the past 30 years in the USA it has replaced sugar as the main sweetener in soft drinks. In Japan it represents approx 25% of the sugar market and in the EU it is hardly used at all. Because of subsidies and tariffs it is approx half the price of sugar in the USA, though the real cost of producing it is probably similar to sugar.

It was once thought of as a better alternative to sugar. Recent studies, however, have shown it to be far more detrimental to health than ordinary sugar. In fact HFCS has now become somewhat of a dirty word, and it is likely that it will be gradually phased out as consumer resistance becomes greater. (This has already happened with hydrogenated fats and trans fats)

It is a syrup and consequently no use as a table top sweetener. However in the food industry it has a multitude of uses and  advantages over other sweeteners.
1. It is a very economic sweetener, about half the price of sugar.
2. It tastes just like sugar.
3. It browns when heated and can provide color in baked foods.
4. It feeds yeast and assists with baking and rising of bread.
5. It thickens and stabilizes processed food.
6. It prolongs shelf life.

For the consumer, none. For the producer of sodas, processed foods etc it is cheaper than sugar. It helps keep foods moist and chewy and prolongs shelf life.

Here's one expert that says HFCS is similar to ordinary sugar.

However not all agree....

And he does recommend to use neither!

Supporters of high fructose corn syrup claim that it is similar to sugar and that the body cannot tell the difference. But this is not the case for several important reasons:

1. Ordinary sugar is made up of glucose and fructose linked by a bond called a glycosidic linkage. During digestion it is broken down into its component parts in a process called hydrolysis by the enzyme sucrase. This process is not required with HFCS as the sugars are already free and unbound. This seems to effect the way the body reacts to it.

2. Sugar is 50% glucose and 50% fructose. This means that every potentially harmful molecule of fructose is paired with a molecule of glucose. This seems to somewhat negate the harmful effects of fructose. Glucose has been shown to reduce appetite while fructose increases it. Most high fructose corn syrup added to drinks and foods in the US is HFCS 55. It contains 55% fructose, 42% glucose and 3% other sugars. This means the two sugars are out of balance and leaves 13% fructose unpaired with glucose. This is significant, any amount of fructose in this form is too much.

3. High fructose corn syrup has been shown to contain mercury. This is because of sloppy methods of manufacture. How much? Enough, for an average consumer of this product, to exceed the recommended guideline of 5.5 micrograms (EPA) per day. Tests carried out on products sweetened with HFCS showed measurable amounts of mercury in one third sampled. You don't want any mercury in your diet!!

4. HFCS is made from genetically modified corn. It is not permitted for consumption in the EU. If it is not good enough for Europeans how can it be okay for Americans?

Fructose consumption does not cause an insulin response, as other types of sugars do. This may have a profound effect on appetite and may lead to overeating. Tests carried out by Princeton researchers on rodents showed a very significant difference between the addition of HFCS when compared to ordinary sugar in the diet. The rats fed the HFCS seemed to develop an insatiable appetite and grew fat on their regular food. (They ate more of it). This did not happen with ordinary sugar.

Fructose consumption has also been linked to high levels of triglycerides in the blood. This is a type of blood fat and is associated with coronary heart disease.

And the rates of obesity and metabolic syndrome in the USA have soared in the last 30 years since the introduction of HFCS. The super size portions now popular at the fast food chains may be a direct result of increased appetite caused by the consumption of HFCS.

It is produced from corn starch that has been subjected to an enzymatic process to convert glucose into fructose.

Sold As:
Not sold on it's own, it is added to products such as soft drinks and cookies etc. In the UK it is called Glucose Fructose Syrup.

Interesting facts:
High fructose corn syrup was invented in the 1950s but first produced commercially in the 1970s. When it first hit the market its producers must have believed they had chosen a good name for their product, fructose was popular back then. Not any more! Now, no doubt, they very much regret that choice. Recently, The Corn Refiners Association have applied for permission to change the name to 'corn sugar' on food labels. Don't be too surprised if they get approval to do this, but don't be fooled either, it will be the same harmful product. Avoid it.

Does not require approval.

Conclusions and Summary:
Avoid high fructose corn syrup. It has been linked to a host of problems including obesity, metabolic syndrome, deposits of fat on the belly, gout, high blood pressure and heart disease. Enough said. You don't need it in your diet. Like hydrogenated fats consumer resistance will eventually consign HFCS to the history books. This has already begun, and some soda manufacturers are returning to sugar and proudly advertising the fact.

Name Calories / Gram Sweetness Index Glycemic Index Calories / Spoon-Equiv
High Fructose Corn Syrup 4 1.2 58 13

Taste: -------- Good
Aftertaste: ---- No.
Concerns: ----- Yes.

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