High Fructose Corn Syrup

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What is high fructose corn syrup?

High fructose corn syrup is a common sweetener and preservative made by changing the sugar (glucose) in cornstarch to fructose — another form of sugar. The end product is a combination of fructose and glucose that extends the shelf life of processed foods and is cheaper to use than table sugar. High fructose corn syrup has become a popular ingredient in many sodas, fruit-flavored drinks and other processed foods.

Facts about HFCS

  • Fructose-glucose sweeteners are metabolized through the same pathways regardless of their dietary source.
  • Not only is high fructose corn syrup used as a sweetener, it may also play a key role in maintaining the integrity of food and beverage products. For instance, it enhances fruit and spice flavors in foods such as yogurt and spaghetti sauces, it gives chewy breakfast bars their soft texture, and it also prolongs freshness by maintaining a consistent moisture content.

Myths about HFCS

Myth: High fructose corn syrup, fructose and corn syrup are the same. 
Reality: High fructose corn syrup and corn syrup are different products with distinctly different functions. Corn syrup, which is mainly glucose, is used as a non-sweet thickener. High fructose corn syrup, on the other hand, is made of almost equal portions of fructose and glucose and is used as a sweetener. Fructose is a naturally occurring sweetener found in fruits and honey.

Myth: High fructose corn syrup is not natural. 
Reality: High fructose corn syrup is made from corn, a natural grain product. High fructose corn syrup contains no artificial or synthetic ingredients or color additives and meets the Food and Drug Administration’s requirements for use of the term “natural”.

Myth: Consumption of high fructose corn syrup is to blame for obesity and causes diabetes. 
Reality: There is no scientific evidence to suggest that high fructose corn syrup is uniquely responsible for people becoming obese. Obesity results from an imbalance of calories consumed and calories burned. U.S. Department of Agriculture data shows that per capita consumption of high fructose corn syrup is actually on the decline, yet obesity and diabetes rates continue to rise. In fact, obesity rates are rising around the world, including in Mexico, Australia and Europe, even though the use of high fructose corn syrup outside of the United States is limited.

Myth: Sugar is healthier than high fructose corn syrup. 
Reality: High fructose corn syrup is nearly identical in composition to table sugar both contain approximately 50% glucose and 50% fructose. Sugar and high fructose corn syrup both contain four calories per gram. The human body cannot tell the difference between high fructose corn syrup and sugar because they are nearly compositionally equivalent.

Reference: Seniors and Food Safety. Nutrition Education for March 2010. Produced by Meals On Wheels, Inc. of Tarrant County by Ta’Reell Tillman, a nutrition intern for Sherry Simon, R.D./L.D.

For questions regarding nutritional information, please contact Sherry Simon, R.D./L.D., Director of Nutrition Services for Meals on Wheels, Inc. Tarrant Country at (817) 336-0912 or email: ssimon@mealsonwheels.org Website: www.mealsonweels.org .

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