Most people generally care about their health. Living a long healthy life, having fewer doctor’s visits, and reducing the risk of major preventable diseases are things anyone would want. However, we sometimes undermine our health without realizing it.
Could that be the case when we consume foods containing high-fructose corn syrup?
First, what is high-fructose corn syrup?
High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), also known as glucose-fructose, is a sweetener made from corn starch. Scientifically speaking, all starches are made of chains of linked sugars. In 1957, a couple of scientists discovered the enzyme, glucose isomerase, which breaks linked sugars into sugar glucose, a syrup 2. The enzyme also turns the glucose into fructose by rearranging its composition. Due to an increase in the cost of cane and beet sugars, HFCS entered the American food industry in 1970 as a more cost-effective alternative 1.
What are the benefits of high-fructose corn syrup?
HFCS has quite a few benefits that make it a popular ingredient found in a lot of processed foods:
- It adds volume.
- It softens food’s texture.
- It’s more cost effective than sugar.
- Unlike sugar, it doesn’t crystallize.
- It’s much sweeter than sugar.
- It’s more addictive than sugar.
Interestingly, the benefits of high-fructose corn syrup are most beneficial for mass food production. However, when it comes to food, what’s good for mass production should make you second guess if it’s good for you, as an individual.
What are its disadvantages?
There is a lot of debate on whether HFCS is bad for you. Notably, critics of HFCS cite that large amounts of fructose can be too much for the liver to metabolize, so it becomes fat.
Yet, some reports suggest that the same can be said about all added sugars, period. When digested, HFCS and table sugar both break down into fructose and glucose, they are both technically “processed” foods, and they are both technically “natural” as no artificial flavors or synthetic color is added to either. Finally, table sugar and HFCS (at least the most commonly used form of 55% fructose 12) both have similar effects on our liver metabolism.
This post is not to argue for or against the production or consumption of high-fructose corn syrup.
You be the judge.
However, it’s important to be aware of the foods we put into our bodies. Therefore, it is important to be aware of what high-fructose corn syrup is; because it is something many of us consume on a regular basis– especially when we aren’t paying attention to it.
HFCS is utilized by 22% of processed food manufacturers, 41% of the beverage industry, and 14% of cereal and bakery producers 5.
If you want to limit your intake of HFCS because its more addictive than table sugar or something about enzyme produced fructose makes you uncomfortable, go on ahead. If something about it seems “unnatural” to you or if you want to see what happens when you do limit it in your diet, go on ahead.
However, being more mindful of what you eat is, perhaps, the lesson here. Because regardless of where we stand in the HFCS debate, one thing we can all agree on is this: as with just about anything, too much can be a problem.