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The Real Deal with High Fructose Corn Syrup

It seems like most anything you pick up in the grocery store has high fructose corn syrup as an ingredient. This sets off a lot of alarm bells for a lot of people, but you may still remain mystified. What, exactly, is the deal with high fructose corn syrup anyway? Well read on to find out what high fructose corn syrup is and what it isn’t!

What is High Fructose Corn Syrup?          

High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a sweetener used to sweeten foods and drinks. It is especially prevalent in processed and store-bought foods. It is made by an enzymatic process from gluten syrup that is made from corn.

HFCS is a relatively new food ingredient. It was first made in Japan in the late 1960’s and then came to America and entered the food supply in the early 70’s. Food manufacturers like HFCS because it is as sweet as table sugar, blends well with foods, helps to lengthen the shelf life of products it is contained in and is less expensive than other sweeteners. You can find it in sodas, salad dressings, ketchup, jams, sauces, ice cream and even bread.

Two Types of HFCS

There are two types of HFCS found in foods on the market today. The first is HFCS-55 and it’s mostly used in soft drinks. It is 55% fructose and 45% glucose. The second is HFCS-42. It is mainly used in canned fruit in syrup, ice cream, desserts and baked goods. It is 42% fructose and 58% glucose.

Sugar vs HFCS

Sucrose, which is table sugar, and HFCS are both made up of two simple sugars: fructose and glucose. The ratio of glucose to fructose in sugar and HFCS is basically the same, which is a 50/50 mix. They also have the same number of calories per gram, which is 4.

The difference between the two happens on a minute level. See, in sugar the fructose and glucose are bonded together chemically, so your body has to digest the sugar in order to break it down and break the bonds between the fructose and the glucose before it will be released into the bloodstream. With HFCS, the fructose and glucose are blended together, so it doesn’t have to be digested and broken down before entering your blood stream. This leads many people to theorize that HFCS has a greater impact on your blood glucose levels than regular sugar.

Research has shown, however, that there’s no real significant difference between the two types of sugar when it comes to your body’s production of insulin and the hunger hormone ghrelin. There has been no difference found in appetite regulation, feelings of fullness and short-term energy.

The Bottom Line

The body digests any kind of sugar very rapidly. Both table sugar and HFCS enter the blood stream very fast. This explains why the impacts of the two are virtually the same. The real problem is how much sugar you are eating every day. So you should learn to read labels and avoid both sugar and HFCS when you can, and always pay attention to how much you eat on a daily basis for the best health outcome! 

Used under Creative Commons Licensing courtesy of NY State IPM Program at Cornell University

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