When I think about junk food, I think of the many fruit juices with added sugar, preservatives and flavorings; then I think of high fructose corn syrup or HFCS. High fructose corn syrup is a cheap artficial sweetener, about 20% cheaper than the price of table sugar. Other names for HFCS are: isoglucose, corn syrup, and glucose-fructose syrup.
Commercial Foods with High Fructose Corn Syrup
HFCS is a common sweetener in a number of commercial food items in the supermarket: It can be found in colas, biscuits, breads, sweets, mayonnaise, salad dressings, canned food, processed foods etc. Besides these, some restaurants use HFCS, but generally will not inform customers. This and other sugar substitutes (such as aspartame) has increased in popularity while regular table sugar (sucrose or dextrose) has decreased.
Why is High Fructose Corn Syrup So Common
It is the lower price of corn syrup and other substitutes that have pushed (sucrose or dextrose) sugar consumption to its low. Also the American quota on sugar imports has also affected the sugar producers. Therefore, some sugar growers are resorting to growing instead wheat and corn, and particularly as corn is a highly subsidized crop (one the most highly subsidized along with soybean). Interestingly, as farmers prefer to grow these two staples, the price of fruits and vegetables continue to increase as its production decrease; this is a reflection of the mechanics of supply and demand. Needless to say, the overall consumption of sugar continue to increase.
The History of High Fructose Corn Syrup
The likely theory of HFCS is that we are not as satiated by it (even though it is a fructose), but it may encourage an increase consumption in HFCS. Why is this so?
HFCS was developed in the 1971 by food scientists in Japan. It is a by-product of corn that has gone through the wet milling process (especially from its purified starch). HFCS is a sweetener from corn and six times sweeter than sugar. For this reason, manufacturers see it as a great means to reduce calories while maintaining sweetness. Its properties has a number of advantages: it keeps food from drying, it makes food less vulnerable to freezer burns, it has a longer shelf life, and it preserves taste.
Composition and Effects
There are two types of sugars: simple sugars and complex sugars. the simple sugars include table sugar (sucrose), fruit sugar (fructose), milk sugar (lactose), and corn syrup, honey, molasses. Complex sugars include whole grains, oats, barley, fruits, vegetables. HFCS is a complex sugar, it has a content typically: 42% fructose, 51% glucose, 5% maltose, and 2% other oligosaccharides. This sweetener has approximately 3 Kcal per gram, and converts easier to body fat than other types of sugar (which contains 4 kcal per gram).
HFCS is unlike sucrose or dextrose and therefore enables a different metabolic effect. HFCS is shunted to the liver to become a building block for triglycerides. HFCS has been known to play a key role in the epidemic of obesity and increase the risk of heart diseases. For children, it may cause problems such as restlessness and stomach distress. It also increases the chance for infants to develop ear infections, ADHD and allergies.
The Effects of High Fructose Corn Syrup
Simple sugar is rapidly used by the body and so requires an overproduction of hormones to control it. Therefore, there is generally a steep increase and decrease of blood sugar. On the other hand, complex sugars are released into the bloodstream slowly over a few hours therefore the hormonal sytem can control the body’s blood sugar levels. There are a series of studies that link HFCS consumption with obestity and diabetes, and insulin resistance. In other words they interfere with the body’s metabolism. Another problem with HFCS is the mercury it contains.
New studies have found mercury in up to 1/2 of foods containing HFCS. Mercury is toxic, and the foods that contain HFCS become additional sources of toxicity in the human body. Mercury contamination was found commonly in dairy products, dressings and condiments that contained HFCS. Mercury is especially more harmful for children and babies as there is proof that mercury can cause brain damage. It is therefore not unreasonable for the general public to demand an immediate change in food policies and the food industry.
However, the best type of sweeteners are the juices of the fruit. Choose the fruit juice that uses its own juices as sweeteners or choose fruits juices rather than fruit flavored drinks. Finally, it is best to make it a habit to read labels. Read carefully!
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