High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a newer and sweeter form of corn syrup. Like ordinary corn syrup, it is made from corn starch using enzymes. The process of developing HFCS was discovered by Japanese researchers in the 1970s.


By increasing the proportion of fructose, a syrup is produced which is more comparable to an ordinary sugar (sucrose) syrup in its ratio of fructose to glucose and in its sweetness. This makes it useful to manufacturers as a possible substitute for ordinary sugar (sucrose) in soft drinks and other consumer goods.


Through processing, the fructose content can be increased to 55%, yielding a product that has the same sweetness as sucrose, or higher. Common commercial grades of high fructose corn syrup include fructose contents of 42%, 55% (used in soft drinks and equivalent to caster sugar), or 90%.





High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is produced by processing corn starch to yield glucose, and then processing the glucose to produce a high percentage of fructose. First, cornstarch is treated with alpha-amylase to produce shorter chains of sugars called polysaccharides. Next, an enzyme called glucoamylase breaks the sugar chains down even further to yield the simple sugar glucose.


The third enzyme, glucose-isomerase, converts glucose to a mixture of about 42 percent fructose and 50-52 percent glucose with some other sugars mixed in. While alpha-amylase and glucoamylase are added directly to the slurry, glucose-isomerase is packed into columns and the sugar mixture is then passed over it. This 42-43% fructose glucose mixture is then subjected to a liquid chromatography step where the fructose is enriched to approximately 90%. The 90% fructose is than back-blended with 42% fructose to achieve a 55% fructose final product. Numerous ion-exchange and evaporation steps are also part of the overall process.



Comparison to other sugars


Sucrose (table sugar) is a disaccharide composed of one unit each of fructose and glucose linked together. Sucrose is 50% fructose, so HFCS may have a higher or lower fructose content than sucrose, with a corresponding change in sweetness. Sucrose is broken down during digestion into fructose and glucose through hydrolysis by the enzyme sucrase.


Honey is another product that is a mixture of different types of sugars, water, and small amounts of other compounds. Honey typically has a fructose/glucose ratio similar to HFCS, as well as containing some sucrose and other sugars.


According to some, the usage of HFCS in soft drinks in America degrades the taste, as compared with those made with cane sugar in most other countries.




US sweetener consumption, 1966-2004

(cane and beet sugar are both pure sucrose)





High fructose corn syrup is cited by some nutritionists as a leading cause of obesity and is linked to diabetes.[1] The average American consumed 62.6 pounds (28.4 kilograms) of high fructose corn syrup in 2001, most of which came from soft drinks.


Some nutritionists and natural food advocates believe that consumption of high fructose corn syrup should be avoided due to its possible links with obesity and diabetes. Also cited as reasons to avoid HFCS are that it is highly refined, that it might be produced from genetically modified corn, that various molds found on corn might leave harmful byproducts in the final product, or that corn products in general should be avoided. [2], [3] Other nutritionists say that HFCS is no more or less harmful than other forms of sugar and that all sugars should be consumed sparingly.


The over-indulgence in sugar of any form appears to be a dangerous contributor (via raised caloric intake) to the onset of obesity and type-2 (adult-onset) diabetes. Fructose in particular has been implicated, and by association HFCS, but it may be the case that confusion has arisen between the effects of consuming pure fructose as compared to pure glucose, versus the effects of consuming mixtures of the two sugars from different sources.



Fructose vs. glucose


Fructose produces lower levels of the hormones leptin and insulin than glucose. Raising leptin and insulin levels trigger the feeling of "fullness" while eating. The level of the hormone ghrelin remains higher with consumption of fructose than it does with glucose. Ghrelin appears to control the feeling of "hunger". This double change in normal production of these hormones results in a slower decrease in appetite and a tendency to consume more than if glucose were to be used. Thus more is consumed to get the same "full" and "satiated" feeling and the total caloric intake is greater. Additionally, the level of blood triglycerides shows a rapid and prolonged elevation after consuming fructose as opposed to glucose. JCEM 2/24/2004


The delayed decrease of the hormone ghrelin has been shown in obese subjects but not in normal weight subjects. This means that chronic consuption of fructose may actually be preconditioning the metabolism of a normal weight individual to behave like an obese individual's metabolism. JCEM 11/2/2004


High triglyceride levels are believed to be linked to clogging of the arteries and may increase the risk of heart attack or stroke. They may even be more important for determining the risk of heart disease than cholesterol.



Sweetener consumption patterns in the United States


The accompanying graph shows the consumption of sweeteners per capita in the United States since 1966. Since HFCS and sucrose (cane and beet sugars) provide almost identical proportions of fructose and glucose, no metabolic changes would be expected from substituting one for the other. However, it is apparent from this graph that overall sweetener consumption, and in particular glucose-fructose mixtures, has increased since the introduction of HFCS. Thus, the proportion of fructose as a component of overall sweetener intake in the United States has increased since the early 1980s. This would be true whether the added sweetener was HFCS, table sugar, or any other glucose-fructose mixture.



Pop Culture


In The Boondocks (television series) Episode 15 "The Passion of Ruckus", Huey refers to high-fructose corn syrup as "the white man's poison" and advises Jazmine to "read about it."
















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