America is hooked on sugar. We now consume on average approximately 150 pounds per person annually! But…is it really sugar or some other sneaky ingredient? Chances are its mostly high fructose corn syrup. Is this good or bad? You probably hear about high-fructose corn syrup all the time. But do you actually know what the ingredient is, or how it affects your health? Contained in this article are the facts about high fructose corn syrup.
What is high fructose corn syrup
High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is an artificial sweetener that is manufactured from corn starch. As with other sugars, it can cause obesity, metabolic syndrome and tooth decay, whenever a person consumes it in large quantities. The sweetener is made from processed corn starch. Starches are made of long chains of linked sugars, and HFCS is produced by breaking down the starch into syrup made of the sugar glucose. Manufacturers then add enzymes to the substance to convert a portion of the glucose into fructose, which tastes much sweeter. Its sweetness is sharper than regular sugar. It is also cheaper to produce.
HFCS is similar to table sugar in its ratio of fructose to glucose, and both sweeteners contain four calories per gram. Although the syrup may not be any worse than regular sugar, both contribute to health concerns like weight gain and diabetes.
Is high fructose corn syrup safe
Health experts continue to debate whether or not high fructose corn syrup is worse than other sugars. Many natural and organic health advocates argue that HFCS is more dangerous than other sugars. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) explain that HFCS is not more dangerous than other sugars, but research on the topic is ongoing.
HFCS is not necessary for a healthful diet. In fact, avoiding it may help a person maintain a healthful weight.
HFCS is a common sweetener in fruit-flavored drinks and sodas. As the use of high-fructose corn syrup has increased, so have obesity and related health problems increased to a level of concern. Numerous experts wonder if there’s a connection.
HFCS is chemically equivalent to table sugar. Table sugar (sucrose, from sugar cane or sugar beets) is made of fructose (also contained in fruit and honey) and glucose (the simplest sugar, used for energy by the body). High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), conversely, is derived from cornstarch, which consists of a chain of only glucose molecules. To create HFCS, enzymes are added to cornstarch to convert much of the glucose to fructose.
As mentioned earlier, food manufacturers favor high fructose corn syrup because it’s more cost effective than sucrose. The most familiar forms contain either 42 percent fructose (mainly used in processed foods) or 55 percent fructose (mainly used in soft drinks). So, sucrose—which is about 50 % fructose—is actually higher in fructose than some HFCS.
Controversy exists, however, about whether the body handles high-fructose corn syrup differently than table sugar. While both glucose and fructose are “simple sugars” that provide 4 calories per gram, they are processed differently.
Glucose is metabolized by several organs (including the liver, muscles, brain, and fat tissue) and has a direct effect on blood sugar and insulin levels.
Fructose is metabolized primarily by the liver, and though it does not have a significant effect on blood sugar or insulin levels, it can have a more immediate effect on triglycerides (fats in the blood). Both human and animal studies show that when fructose is consumed in excess it can lead not only to higher triglycerides but also to a fatty liver, decreased insulin sensitivity, and increased levels of uric acid (which causes gout).
The distinction in the way the body handles the dual sugars has led to the thought that HFCS is a great deal worse for you than regular sugar. However, a number of studies have clearly shown that HFCS and sucrose have indistinguishable metabolic effects and therefore the same health consequences. That is, neither sugar is good quality for you.
At this point in time, there’s insufficient evidence to say that high-fructose corn syrup is any less healthy than other types of sweeteners.
Therefore, be advised, too much added sugar of all kinds; not only high-fructose corn syrup, can contribute unwanted calories that are linked to health problems, such as type 2 diabetes, weight gain, high triglyceride levels and metabolic syndrome. All of which boost your risk of heart disease.
The Dietary Strategy for Americans recommend holding back on added sugar, limiting it to no more than 10 percent of total daily calories. The Heart Association recommends that the majority of women consume no more than 100 calories a day of added sugar from any sweetener, and that most men get no more than 150 calories a day of added sugar. That’s about six teaspoons of added sugar for women and nine teaspoons for men.
Sugar is good—tastes good. But too much of a good thing, is a bad thing!
The best approach is to cut back on added sugar, regardless of the type.
The big problem
Cutting back on added sugar is easier than it sounds. It’s fairly easy to do the obvious: cut back on sweetened drinks, put less sugar in your tea or coffee, and eat less sweetened snacks. The big problem with high fructose corn syrup is: it’s very insidious! It’s contained in things that aren’t really considered sweet. Items like ketchup, salad dressings, BBQ sauce, and other condiments. Crackers, mixed snack packages, and other cracker-like
products use this sweetener to increase flavor. A variety of prepackaged meals, including some pizzas contain this sneaky ingredient.
Would you believe Peanut butter! Although it might seem to be a savory indulgence, it is actually very sweet. Many peanut butter brands add sugar,
and some even add HFCS. It’s best to go for the all- natural version. The same is true of some other nut butters, like almond butter and cashew.
Granola and nutrition bars: Granola bars, protein bars, and other supposedly good for your health snacks often use sweeteners to improve the taste. HFCS is one of the most popular sweeteners in these products. Again, the consumer product companies favor it because it’s less costly.
Even some sweetened breads and wheat, including some pastas, contain HFCS.
I try to live by the adage: moderation is the key. It’s truly the excesses that cause us problems. The big problem is, with an ingredient that is contained in so many everyday products. It’s next to impossible to avoid it altogether.
So what is the answer
People who want to limit their high fructose corn syrup intake may feel frustrated by the abundance of food that contains it. People who cannot eliminate it from their diet can still reap health benefits by reducing its consumption. This can be accomplished by limiting soda intake and eating fewer processed snacks and foods.
CHECK THE LABELS – reading the product labels are required reading these days.
Manufacturers are required to list ingredients in order from highest to lowest in quantity. This means that the first few ingredients on a label are present in the largest quantities. Therefore, high fructose corn syrup is by and large visible on a product’s label.
So, for those who want to minimize their HFCS intake should avoid any foods that list high fructose corn syrup among the first few ingredients.
One option is to purchase healthy snacks from a wellness company that specializes in items with natural ingredients and are low on sugar. For information on one of the best on-line wellness companies, contact us via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Because high fructose corn syrup is not the only sugar that can cause health problems, it is important to also look for other sugars. Sugar goes by a minimum of sixty-one names on nutrition labels, including:
- barley malt
- rice syrup
The bottom line
If you’re concerned about your health, to stay healthy, cut down on any and all added sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup included. This can be achieved by limiting soda intake and eating fewer processed snacks.
The Heart Association (AHA) recommends that men consume no more than one hundred fifty calories of added sugar per day. This is equivalent to 9 teaspoons, or 36 grams (g). Women should restrict their intake of added sugar to no more than 100 calories per day, which is equivalent to 6 teaspoons, or 25 g.
Since Americans on average consume about 150 pounds (yes, pounds!) of added sugar annually, there’s unquestionably some room to scale back when it comes to the sugary stuff.
One thing I have to repeat— don’t forget that added sugar isn’t just the spoonful you add to your morning cup of coffee. Sweeteners are often hiding in soft drinks, sauces, and even salad dressings and condiments.
By the way— don’t worry about fruit. The fructose in fruit is accompanied by healthful nutrients and antioxidants, in addition to fiber, which slows the absorption of fructose. It is balanced by God Himself! In addition, you would have to eat several servings of fruit to get as much fructose as in a can of soda. But limit fruit juices to no more than one cup a day as some contain nearly as much fructose as soda.
Please feel free to leave any comment, question or concern below.
4 thoughts on “The Facts about High Fructose Corn Syrup”
Luckily for us here in Australia, we do not have a lot of foods that include HFCS within them. In fact I looked this subject up as I noticed it on a bottle of American made BBQ sauce recently. And I actually thought that it could be ok as I do know that Fructose, when found naturally in fruit etc. is not as bad for you – and in fact, needed in small doses as part of a balanced diet.
I then realised just how highy processed and bad this product is. The reason we don;t use a lot of HFCS here is that we are one of the largest producers of sugar cane in the world – hence use a LOT of refined white sugar in our foods here. It is just as bad and we do talk about reducing sugar in our diets, as you do with HFCS.
I think the fact is, that as you mention, much of the sugar is ‘hidden’ in products via different names. But at the end of the day, sugar is sugar and for our health, really needs to be monitored.
thanks for your post
Hi Paul – you summed it up perfectly – sugar is sugar. The body just process HFCS differently through the liver. These sweeteners are in so many products we can’t eliminate only moderate.
Thanks for commenting
This is an abundance of information about high fructose corn syrup. I suddenly don’t feel as bad about it as I used to. I understand sugar in general is what we should be avoiding. I am glad to hear about fruit and it’s natural fructose being alright to consume. Even though fruit has naturally occurring fructose, do you think too much of that could be a problem?
Hi Michelle – Yes, too much of anything is a problem. As I like to say: too much of a good thing, is a bad thing. It’s best to try to do all things in moderation. Balance is the key to life and that’s one of the things we human beings find difficult to maintain.
Thanks for visiting and commenting!