Food Topics Health Trends

Sugar by Sipping of a Down:  Information on High Fructose Corn Syrup

What is this HFCS stuff, and how is it impacting health?

High Fructose Corn Syrup, or HFCS, is a syrup made from corn.  It also has a lot of fructose in it.  Now that we have broken down what the name means, what are some other facts about it?

Well, it is a sweetener that is slightly sweeter than table sugar (or sucrose, for science people).  The food manufacturing industry uses different concentrations of fructose for different products, most commonly 42% in foods, and 55% in drinks.  Most commonly HFCS is found in sodas, since acidic drinks change the flavor of sucrose.  HFCS is also relatively price stable in the US, due to corn subsidies.

With regards to health though, there is some conflicting evidence.  Some evidence shows that HFCS from things like sodas inhibit hormones in the body, leading to more eating, and thus more weight gain.  Others cite the fact that fructose is metabolized differently in the liver, leading to more fat tissue development.  Glucose is also readily used by the body for metabolic processes, whereas fructose cannot be used right away for energy.

However, other evidence shows that HFCS is not the culprit, as the concentrations of fructose from HFCS is not that different than sucrose (sucrose is 50% fructose).  There is no calorie difference between sucrose and fructose; each are only 4 Calories per gram.  The main problem sited by proponents of HFCS is the overconsumption of ALL sugars leading to weight gain, not just HFCS.  HFCS needs technology to make.  You cannot mash the fuck out of some corn and get HFCS.  In countries where there is low HFCS consumption, due to environmental or governmental or whatnot factors, there are still high obesity rates.  For example, Japan and South Korea has a moderately high HFCS consumption, but lower obesity rates.  Argentina and Mexico has high obesity rates, and low HFCS consumption.

So, with regards to obesity, who is to blame?  Is it consumers for eating too much, or is it companies for providing too much bad stuff?  I chose not to take a side on this, until more definitive answers come out.  In the meantime, though, you probably should drink less soda, and eat less sugar.  Eat fruits and vegetables if you can.

So, what do you guys think about HFCS?  How much soda or sugary drinks do you consume, and why?

By The Nutrition Punk

I am a dietitian living in Portland, Oregon. I write about a variety of nutrition and heath topics, with the goal of improving people's understanding of food and nutrition so they may be empowered against all the misinformation that is out there.

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