Corn Syrup, High Fructose Corn Syrup, and Your Body – Beating Sugar Addiction

corn syrup is made by adding water and enzymes to corn starch

What’s the difference between corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup? Does it matter to your health?

What is Corn Syrup?

Corn syrup is made by breaking down corn starch molecules.  Starches are a bit more complex than simple sugars, as they are chains of glucose molecules.  Simple sugars like sucrose are single molecules of glucose and fructose bonded together.

So, starches are considered a bit more complex than simple sugars.

To make corn syrup, corn starch is mixed with water and enzymes that break these chains.  You are left with 100% glucose molecules.

Our bodies contain enzymes that do the same job as the above process  – breaking down starch chains into simple molecules.

What Is High Fructose Corn Syrup?

High Fructose Corn Syrup is made by taking that corn syrup and further processing it by adding another enzyme that converts some of the glucose molecules into fructose molecules.  This composition is a closer match to natural sugar in terms of sweetness.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, HFCS products vary in the ratios of glucose to fructose. The most common proportions are 42 and 55, referring to the percentage of fructose in the syrup.

By contrast, natural sugar (sucrose) and honey contain about a 1 to 1 ratio of glucose to fructose.  Natural sugar is a single molecule, formed by the chemical bonding of one glucose and one fructose molecule.  Our digestive systems break down the bond when we eat.

Here is some information provided by the FDA:

  • HFCS contains water. [natural sugar cane and beet sugar do not]
  • In sucrose, [natural cane or beet sugar] a chemical bond joins the glucose and fructose. Once one eats, stomach acid and gut enzymes rapidly break down this chemical bond.
  • In HFCS, no chemical bond joins the glucose and fructose.

(High Fructose Corn Syrup Questions and Answers, FDA)

These differences don’t suggest that HFCS is better or worse than other sweeteners.

So, What Does This All Mean to Me?

Now, you and I have just learned that HFCS is a doubly processed sweetener.  It is easier to use, and cheaper, than sugar. (That’s true for many reasons, including political agendas.)

Its utility in processed foods, and its economic advantages, are why you’ll find HFCS on so many products’ ingredients lists.

What health consequences does this product have for us?

On our sugar journey, we’ve learned that our livers have a limited ability to deal with fructose.¹  We’ve further learned that people really didn’t consume as much fructose as they do today, because processed foods (including natural cane and beet sugar) were less available.

“Prior to the development of the worldwide sugar industry, dietary fructose was limited to only a few items. Milk, meats, and most vegetables, the staples of many early diets, have no fructose, and only 5–10% fructose by weight is found in fruits such as grapes, apples, and blueberries. … From 1970 to 2000, there was a 25% increase in “added sugars” in the U.S.[23] After being classified as generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1976,[24] HFCS began to replace sucrose as the main sweetener of soft drinks in the United States. At the same time, rates of obesity rose. That correlation, in combination with laboratory research and epidemiological studies that suggested a link between consuming large amounts of fructose and changes to various proxy health measures, including elevated blood triglycerides, size and type of low-density lipoproteins, uric acid levels, and weight, raised concerns about health effects of HFCS itself.[17]

Wikipedia, High Fructose Corn Syrup

Is It Safe?

There is debate as to whether it is HFCS consumption, or just an increased consumption of added sugar in general, that has led to “lifestyle” diseases of today, including obesity.

We can all come to our own conclusions.

What we do know for certain is that, as our consumption of sweeteners has increased, so have the metabolic diseases in our population.

If you, like me, are convinced that the more processed foods we eat, the worse our health outcomes, you will want to avoid HFCS in the foods you eat.

That’s all we really need to know, isn’t it?

¹https://ajoann.com/2018/10/10/beat-your-sugar-addiction-comparing-sugar-content-day-2-of-30-more-days-of-health-and-contentment/

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This post is not intended to offer medical advice. Check with your doctor before beginning any diet or exercise plan.

 

 

 

 

 

2 comments

  1. HFCS is on my no list.

    1. Yes, now I see why!

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