High fructose corn syrup

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High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is an sweetener that is made from corn syrups by enzymatically converting some of corn syrup's glucose into a sweeter tasting carbohydrate called fructose. The resulting syrup is comprised of 42 or 55 percent fructose, the remained being mostly glucose and some other sugars.[1] High fructose corn syrup is used in many foods and has a sweetness roughly comparable to sucrose (common table sugar), but is cheaper and easier to transport than sucrose. High fructose corn syrup is not an "artificial sweetener" like saccharin (i.e. Sweet&LowTM), meaning that it does possess a significant caloric value and is metabolized by the human body similar to common table sugar.

Controversy

Arguments for

Because high fructose corn syrup is slightly less sweet tasting than table sugar, slightly more high fructose corn syrup must be used in food preparation to attain the same level of sweetness that sucrose would otherwise yield. Thus, foods prepared using high fructose corn syrup rather than sucrose tend to have more dietary calories and are considered "less healthy" based on this fact alone (see obesity). However, liberal advocate groups have spun this mild concern over the dietary value of high fructose corn syrup into a campaign that paints high fructose corn syrup more as a toxin than as a food, which is wholly unsubstantiated biochemically and medically. The toxicity level (i.e. the LD50) of high fructose corn syrup is equivalent to that of common table sugar. Media hype over the negative health implications of high fructose corn syrup has driven manufacturers to petition the FDA to allow the renaming of high fructose corn syrup as "corn sugar". The tagline used by manufacturers in recent "corn sugar" ads aiming to highlight the safety and wholesomeness of high fructose corn syrup is that "sugar is sugar", implying the lack of any difference between high fructose corn syrup and table sugar. While this implication is factually inaccurate (see above), the central point is valid - that high fructose corn syrup is safe and eating high fructose corn syrup is as healthy as consuming a similar amount of table sugar. In these ads, manufactures do point out that both high fructose corn syrup and table sugar should both be consumed in moderation.

Arguments against

There have been some growing concerns over this sweetener as research continues. As it turns out, HFCS is not recognized by the human body as sugar, but is processed differently. It is also suspected to cause Type-2 diabetes. [2] Studies have also shown that HFCS can cause scarring to the liver. [3] Yet another concern is that some High Fructose Corn Syrup contains mercury. [4] Yet one more reason some avoid this product is because the majority of corn products from the U.S. are genetically modified.[5]

So why do companies still use High Fructose Corn Syrup? For one thing, it is inexpensive--HFCS is cheaper to use than cane sugar. For another reason, HFCS is somewhat addictive. [6] The evidence continues to pile up, and so do the protests against this substance. In some countries, it is illegal to sell products containing it. In Mexico, for example, soda is made with pure cane sugar. (This is also why some say that foreign Coke® tastes better than domestically purchased Coke®.)

References

  1. What is HFCS?, HFCSfacts.com
  2. Hyman, Mark. "The Not-So-Sweet Truth About High Fructose Corn Syrup." The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 13 May 2011. Web. 15 Dec. 2015. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-mark-hyman/high-fructose-corn-syrup-dangers_b_861913.html>.
  3. Duke University Medical Center. High fructose corn syrup linked to liver scarring, research suggests. ScienceDaily. 23 Mar. 2010.
  4. Dufault R, LeBlanc B, Schnoll R, Cornett C, Schweitzer L, Wallinga D, Hightower J, Patrick L, Lukiw WJ. Mercury from chlor-alkali plants: measured concentrations in food product sugar. Environ Health. 2009 Jan 26;8:2. doi: 10.1186/1476-069X-8-2.
  5. "About Genetically Modified Crops in the US." Nestle USA. Web. 15 Dec. 2015. <http://www.nestleusa.com/nutrition/about-our-foods-and-beverages/about-genetically-modified-crops-in-the-us>.
  6. "Addiction to Unhealthy Foods Could Help Explain the Global Obesity Epidemic." EurekAlert! Canadian Association for Neuroscience, 22 May 2013. Web. 15 Dec. 2015. <http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2013-05/cafn-atu051613.php>.