What is High Fructose Corn Syrup?
First produced on Japan in the late 1960s and fervently adopted by the US in early 1970s, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a sweetener used in the foods and beverages industry, especially with processed and packaged foods. It is basically derived from corn but needs an special chemical process (enzymatic process) on glucose syrup derived from corn kernels.
Why made HFCS’ acceptance and proliferation so rampant?
Given the huge government subsidy on corn, the invention of HFCS was a boon to the food manufactures as it fulfilled some key criterias:
- Equally sweet as table sugar,
- Easily blends with foods,
- Increases the shelf life of processed foods, and
- Less expensive than other sweeteners.
Given the value proposition it made a whole lot of business sense for HFCS to get into a variety of food products including soft drinks, salad dressings, ketchup, jams, sauces, ice cream and even bread.
Types of high fructose corn syrup:
- HFCS-55 (Fructose: 55% and Glucose 45%) – A major ingredient in soft drinks.
- HFCS-42 (Fructose: 42% and Glucose 58%) – A major ingredient in canned fruits in syrup, ice cream, desserts, and baked goods.
How is it different than Sugar:
Though both canned or table sugar and HFCS have the same fructose and glucose content and also match each other in calories but the difference lies in its chemical composition. Fructose and glucose in table sugar are chemically bonded together, and the body must first digest sugar to break these bonds before the body can absorb the fructose and glucose into the bloodstream.
In contrast, the fructose and glucose found in HFCS are merely blended together, which means it doesn’t need to be digested before it is metabolized and absorbed into the bloodstream, creating a greater impact on blood glucose levels than regular sugar.
Health Issues from HFCS:
- It is not biologically “natural” like cane sugar.
- Contains contaminants including Mercury.
- It is a nutrient-poor and disease-producing food product.
- It is easily absorbed by the body and overloads the liver function raising risk of Fatty Liver Disease and Diabetes.
- Derived from Genetically Modified Corn which creates its own set of risks like allergies and other chronic ailments.
Clinical Studies on HFCS:
- Studies published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Consumption of high-fructose corn syrup in beverages may play a role in the epidemic of obesity.
- A sweet problem: Princeton researchers find that high-fructose corn syrup prompts considerably more weight gain.
Check this video by Dr. Mark (part 1 of a 4 part series) where he dwells into these harmful effects in much more detail: