Did you know that high-fructose corn syrup or HFCS is one of the most widely used sweeteners added in the food industry? You can find it everywhere ranging from packaged beverages such as juices and yoghurts to packaged foods such as breakfast cereals, bread, and biscuits.
With its deliberate use in the food products, it is highly important that we understand what exactly is HFCS and how it affects your health? And, the bad news is – HFCS is the main cause behind conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and even some cancers.
Kinds of High Fructose Corn Syrup
HFCS is often compared to granulated sugar due to its proportion of fructose to glucose and calorie content. There are some varieties of HFCS and they are numbered according to the percentage of fructose they contain.
HFCS 42 is used to sweeten beverages, processed foods, cereals, and baked goods. In soft drinks HFCS 55 is mainly used and but HFCS 65 is used in soft drinks distributed by Coca-Cola Freestyle machines.
The manufacturing process of High Fructose Corn Syrup
High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is also known as glucose-fructose, iso-glucose and glucose-fructose syrup. It is a sweetener prepared from cornstarch. Starches are a long chain molecules of linked sugars. After breaking these molecules, sugar glucose syrup is made.
- To make High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) manufactures mill the corn to get starch.
- Out of this starch, a sugar glucose syrup is made.
- Manufacturers add some enzymes to it to convert the glucose into fructose which is sweeter than cane sugar and is called HFCS.
Common foods in which HFCS is present
Manufacturers use fructose to prepare table sugar (sucrose) and high-fructose corn syrup. It is used in many processed foods and beverages to enhance sweetness.
- Soda, candy, and candy bars are rich in sugar content. HFCS is the main ingredient of these products.
- Yogurt is always referred to as a healthy snack. But the truth is that different brands of yoghurt, low-fat and fat-free yoghurts, contain HFCS and unknowingly we consume HFCS.
- Like other drinks, the packed juice is the biggest sources of HFCS which is taken by most of the children. Though we take it to get antioxidants and nutrients, it has high concentrations of HFCS as the sweetener.
- Jams and jellies contain sugar, but the store-bought products are sweetened by HFCS.
- We use sauces and condiments to enhance the taste, flavour and texture of the food. But many of them contain HFCS.
- In breakfast, we prefer to take cereals as it is healthy and convenient. But most of the packed cereals are rich in HFCS.
- Ice Cream is one of the most liked desserts. To sweeten ice cream, many brands use HFCS.
- Besides these, different nutrition bars, frozen junk foods, salad dressings contain HFCS which we consume unknowingly.
Difference between Glucose and Fructose metabolic pathways
Glucose is the primary fuel for our body. It is easily metabolized, transported, and utilized by our body cells, brain, and skeletal muscles. In moderation, dietary glucose does not overload the liver, but fuels the body in the right way.
On the other hand Fructose is solely metabolized by the liver. It is used by the liver to make fat molecules as triglycerides or glycogen as stored carbohydrates. On regular consumption of HFCS laden foods, liver gets overloaded. It cannot handle such high loads of fructose so fast and straight way converts it into stored fats.
Health problems associated with High Fructose Corn Syrup
HFCS increases risk of Metabolic Disorders
Research shows that after HFCS can be addictive. Once something with HFCS is eaten, it increases the desire to consume more sweet foods, hence increasing the risk of weight gain and metabolic disorders.
HFCS increases the risk of Fatty Liver
High-fructose corn syrup overloads our digestive system with simple sugars. Since liver cannot handle the sugar load, HFCS is metabolized and transformed into fat.
With the increase in accumulation of fat in the liver, the risk of fatty liver disease increases multifold.
HFCS promotes Inflammation, Cancer, and Tumors
- HFCS causes inflammation, unnatural growth, and cancer.
- Due to inflammation, the amount of uric acid increases in the urine and it can trigger gout, an inflammatory disease.
- High insulin injection for sugar can also lead to tumour growth. Some studies also reveal that excess intake of HFCS increases the risk of cancer.
- Excess fructose in the body enhances the advanced glycation end products (AGEs) which harm the cells of your body and impair immune system.
Why is HFCS added to foods?
High fructose corn syrup is not a naturally occurring substance rather it is an industrial food product.
- It is cheaper than cane sugar and cost effective for industrial production of food items.
- HFCS added products are sweeter than products made with cane sugar.
- Manufacturing advantages of High fructose corn syrup over sugar make it is easier to handle during manufacturing process.
- Therefore manufacturers use it widely in sodas, soft drinks, deserts etc.