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Is High-fructose Corn Syrup Mad Science? – Jughandle’s Fat Farm

High-Fructose Corn Syrup, Aka: HFCS.  Is the Devil, Right?

I’m a huge opponent of high-fructose corn syrup otherwise known as HFCS.  That said, I will do my best to remain neutral and explain why.  This topic is not black and white.  There are many shades of gray.

A Little Chemistry

Our body uses glucose and Fructose (monosaccharides) as its energy sources and both are “simple sugars”.  The most important monosaccharide is glucose because it is already at the state where the body’s enzymes can initiate metabolism and doesn’t need to be processed further.  Most other more complex sugars and carbohydrates need to be processed in order to be turned into glucose by the body.  Glucose is also our “blood” sugar.  The body’s pancreas produces insulin in response to elevated levels of glucose in the blood as well as the energy regulating hormone leptin. Not so with fructose.

Fructose is a natural sugar found in fruits and vegetables.  It is also added to foods and beverages to sweeten them.  The problem lies in the metabolic pathway fructose has in the body.  Fructose is not the preferred energy source for muscles or the brain as is glucose and tends to be treated more like fat in the body than sugar.  Fructose can only be metabolized by the liver and is more fat-producing than glucose.  More importantly, fructose does not cause insulin to be released or leptin to be produced.

Because Fructose isn’t the body’s primary energy source it builds up in the body and is stored in the liver as triglycerides (fat) while the body’s insulin response is only to the glucose.

chemistry

Chemistry

The History Of HFCS vs Sucrose

High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a fructose-glucose liquid alternative sweetener to sucrose (table sugar), and was first introduced to the food and beverage industry for mass use in the 1970s.  HFCS is not meaningfully different in composition or metabolism from other fructose-glucose sweeteners like sucrose, honey, and fruit juice concentrates.

Sucrose is 50% glucose and 50% fructose.  There are basically two types of commonly used HFCS, HFCS-42 and HFCS-55.  42 is only 42% fructose and 55 is 55% fructose.

Food formulators quickly moved to HFCS as a replacement for sucrose, and its use grew between the mid-1970s and mid-1990s. Its sweetness is comparable with that of sucrose, it has improved stability and functionality, and is much easier to use because it is already a liquid.

Even though the use of HFCS today is roughly equal to sucrose use in the United States, the world’s preferred sweetener is sucrose: greater than 90% of the  sweetener used worldwide is sucrose.

Table Sugar

Sucrose

The Good

HFCS is less expensive to produce than sucrose.  Sucrose comes from countries that are somewhat unstable and the basic crop price can fluctuate wildly.  When sugarcane is processed into sucrose it is a solid gradual that must be dissolved in water to the proper concentration before it can be used.  HFCS is produced as a liquid, ready to use and is more easily transported.

Even though the product is called High-Fructose corn syrup, it has only slightly more (55%) or slightly less (42%) fructose than does sucrose which has 50% fructose.  The Corn Refiners Association has petitioned the United States Food and Drug Administration to change the name simply to “corn sugar”.  So far they have been denied.

The Bad And Ugly

I’m not going to hit you with a bunch of numbers.  All I need to say is that obesity in America is at an all time high.

Why

As I see it there are many reasons why, pick a few of these.

  • Food is easier to get
  • It is “cool” to over eat, there are even eating contests
  • Serving sizes are much larger
  • Everything has sugar or sweetener in it
  • Prepared or fast-food is now more common and easy to get when time is short
  • There are many more places to get food than ever before
  • Deserts, candy and sweet foods that were once considered a treat are now readily available at any time.
  • There are many more “snack” foods flooding the market
  • School children are NOT required to exercise for the most part
  • TV and Computers have taken over play time where playing outside and physical games once dominated
  • The general public is not sufficiently educated as related to nutrition and diet

Conclusions and Recommendations from the Farm

For the first time in modern history the average life expectancy has dropped in the US.  The reasons given mostly revolved around obesity and heart disease.  

My research has lead me to conclude that high-fructose corn syrup is no worse for us than ordinary table sugar.   The problem is that we are consuming many times the sugar than is healthy.

The chart above shows that in 1822, the average American ate the amount of sugar found in one of today’s 12-ounce sodas every 5 days. Now, we eat that much every 7 hours.  We are now eating roughly 100 pounds of sugar apiece each year.

Since you are reading my rants on the Fat Farm you are doing the best thing you can to improve your health. Educate yourself.  As always don’t believe a thing I say.  Research, trust but verify.  Put in the time and do the work.  Ask questions. – jughandle

 

CNN Obesity among all US adults reaches all-time high

More about SUGAR

As we’ve discussed before, sugar is the bane of our existence.  Can’t live with it, can’t live with out it.  Since almost everything either has sugar in it or breaks down in our body (carbohydrates) to form sugar, we should avoid excess sugar intake when ever we can.  I am providing the following information about sugar as a FYI blog.  This information comes from Prevention.com and a recent article written by Mandy Oaklander called “10 Sneaky Names for Sugar“.  All of the following images are from the same article.  If you only read one, read the first one.  It is enlightening. – jughandle

 

1. Sucrose

What’s the anatomy of a sugar? Let’s start with table sugar, one of the most common. The scientific name is sucrose: That’s half glucose (starch) and half fructose (sweetness). You might also know it by “cane sugar,” which is 100% sucrose.

Here’s the bad news. While glucose can be metabolized by all your organs, fructose is metabolized almost solely by your liver, writes Robert Lustig, MD, professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco, in his forthcoming book Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease. In other words, fructose taxes your liver. And it’s in every caloric sweetener, from white sugar, to cane sugar, to beet sugar, to agave nectar. It also pops up on food labels by itself.

Published October 2012, Prevention

Updated October 2012

2. Evaporated Cane Juice

Sounds healthier, right? Don’t believe the babble. Evaporated cane juice is little more than a dressed-up name for straight-up sugar.

In October 2009, the FDA issued a guidance statement about the term. “FDA’s current policy is that sweeteners derived from sugar cane syrup should not be declared as ‘evaporated cane juice’ because that term falsely suggests that the sweeteners are juice,” the guidance says. But in reality, evaporated cane juice isn’t even a liquid.

The FDA recommendations aren’t binding. Still, the yogurt company Chobani is under legal fire for its simultaneous use of “evaporated cane juice” and its claim of “no sugar added” products, reports Food Navigator. The lawsuit, brought by a California woman, accuses the company of violating federal law.

Published October 2012, Prevention

Updated October 2012

3. Agave Nectar

Another “health” food favorite, agave nectar is touted as a natural sugar and is widely used in natural baked goods. But agave nectar is higher in fructose than cane sugar. In fact, says Andrew Weil, MD, founder and director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona, agave is 85% fructose. “Agave’s probably one of the worst,” Dr. Weil says. Not only is it not healthier for you, but it also doesn’t even contain more antioxidants or minerals than other types.  However, it does have a lower glycemic load than other sweeteners, so it causes a less drastic spike in blood sugar. And the stuff is so sweet that you’ll probably use less of it.

Published October 2012, Prevention

Updated October 2012

4. Fruit Juice Concentrate

No matter how healthy your juice looks, chances are good that added fruit juice concentrate is in there. Check labels of juice, flavored yogurt and any other processed food for grape, apple or any other kind of fruit juice concentrate: It’s all too often there. Also look for it in snack bars, applesauce, and other fruity edibles. Concentrate is formed when the water is removed from fruit juice. What’s left? We’ll give you one guess. Yup, sugar.

Published October 2012, Prevention

Updated October 2012

5. 100% Fruit Juice

But what about an organic, natural, no-sugar-added, 100% fruit juice? No concentrate, no problems, right? Sorry to ruin your breakfast, but you might as well go ahead and skip this OJ and have a Snickers.

Whole fruit is good for you, says Dr. Lustig, because it contains lots of fiber. In juice form, which is devoid of fiber, sugar’s sugar—even if you juice it yourself, straight from fresh fruit. “It’s all the same,” Lustig writes of sugar’s many names and forms in his forthcoming book, Fat Chance. “The vehicle is irrelevant; it’s the payload that matters.” By this definition, your 100% orange juice is worse for you than soda: The former contains 5.8 teaspoons of sugar per cup, while soda contains 5.4.

Published October 2012, Prevention

Updated October 2012

6. High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)

Study after study has shown that high fructose corn syrup, made from processed (and usually genetically modified) cornstarch, is technically no different from sucrose. But some research shows that HFCS generates a higher blood fructose level, which could have negative metabolic consequences. High fructose corn syrup has been linked to obesity and diabetes. In 2010, corn refiners petitioned the FDA for permission to start calling HFCS “corn sugar.” They were turned down.

Published October 2012, Prevention

Updated October 2012

7. The -Oses

Watch out for anything –ose, lest you sugar overdose. You’ve met sucrose, glucose, and fructose, but did you know galactose, maltose, dextrose, and lactose? They’re all sugars—some of which occur naturally but can be processed in a lab, too—that can be added to processed foods. Eater beware.

Published October 2012, Prevention

Updated October 2012

8. Blackstrap Molasses

If you were alive in the 1880s, then congratulations! Not only are you at least 132 years old, but you remember when blackstrap molasses was the No. 1 sweetener in the United States. This natural sweetener is sugar too, but, like most things in the olden days, it was better for you. This viscous syrup contains vitamin B6, manganese, calcium, copper, and selenium. And just one tablespoon of molasses has about 4 times the iron as a 3-ounce white chicken breast, according to the American Diatetic Association’s Complete Food & Nutrition Guide. Check out the other antioxidant-rich sugars, including maple syrup, here.

Published October 2012, Prevention

Updated October 2012

9. Organic Brown Rice Syrup

With a name like that, you’ve got to deserve your health halo, right? Not according to a recent Dartmouth College study published in Environmental Health Perspectives. Brown rice sugar is shilled to the natural food market as a “healthier” alternative to high fructose corn syrup. Not only is it still sugar, but it may also be contaminated with arsenic. The study found high levels of arsenic, which is linked to cancer and chronic diseases, in processed foods sweetened with organic brown rice syrup. We’re talking energy bars, cereal bars, and even baby formula. (To protect yourself, you’ll want to take a look at our list of 10 Ways to Avoid Arsenic In Your Food.)

Published October 2012, Prevention

Updated October 2012

10. …and so many more

Barley malt, golden syrup, diastatic malt, diastase, treacle, panocha, sorghum syrup—we couldn’t get to all of you, but that doesn’t mean you’re not lurking in our processed foods, too.

Besides scouring ingredients lists, the key to monitoring your sugar is determining just how much each serving contains. How? Check the nutrition label for total grams of sugar, and divide that by four (each teaspoon of sugar is equal to 4 grams.) That’s how many teaspoons of sugar are really in your cookie, your ketchup, and your no-sugar-added fruit juice.

Published October 2012, Prevention

Updated January 10, 2018