High Fructose Corn Syrup
The high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a caloric liquid sweetener utilized today in most food industries (White 1717). It is made up of fructose and glucose. The production of the sweetener is quite cheap, and most food processing companies perceive it as an easy way of making their products cheap. HFCS is a type of sugar obtained from corn. In terms of composition, it is almost similar to sucrose which contains approximately 50 percent fructose and 50 percent sucrose (Stanhope & Havel 1735). However, it has a higher level of fructose hence the name “High Fructose”. HFCS and sucrose have almost the same caloric content and equal sweetness. However, HFCS is the most preferred sweetener in food industries in the United States and beyond.
According to Rippe and Angelopoulos (240), HFCS serves as an alternative to sucrose and other sweeteners. It is mainly found in beverages, milk products, breakfast cereals, lunch meat, bread, crackers, candy, granola bars, canned fruits among others. The production process of HFCS involves breaking down of starch into glucose particles through enzymatic action and isomerization of the glucose to fructose (Duffey & Popkin 1723). According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in America, the HFCS is a safe food additive used in the manufacture of beverages and food products. The sweetener contains 42% and 55% fructose and is therefore classified in HFSC 42 and HFSC 55. While HFCS 55 is mainly utilized in the manufacture of soft drinks like soda, HFCS 42 is mostly utilized in the manufacture of breakfast cereals and processed foods.
Following the rise of obesity cases in America, many medical practitioners and scientists have made attempts to point out the cause and the solution for the epidemic. Some media reports have linked high fructose corn syrup with obesity. This has raised many questions about the sweetener and most consumers have started taking caution of consuming HFSC with some of them demanding it should be excluded from the category of food regardless of the fact that FDA has confirmed it is a safe sweetener. Nonetheless, most press reports are simply hypothesis without any scientific evidence to support it.
In terms of composition and caloric content, the HFCS is nearly similar to other sweeteners like honey and sucrose. According to Forshee et al (561), its connection with obesity risk in America is weak. Its contribution to obesity or any other health issue is not any different from other sweeteners. For this reason, there is no evidence that it is the main cause of obesity. However, consuming high amounts of HFCS may lead to various health issues including weight gain, diabetes, liver cirrhosis, obesity among others (Tappy et al 1042). The metabolism of fructose leads to deposition of fatty acids. High consumption of HFCS based foods or beverages would mean increased fructose metabolism thus increased fatty acids deposition into the liver (Angelopoulos et al 1243). This would lead to liver cirrhosis which is fatal. The high consumption rate of HFCS increases the amount of cholesterol. Cholesterol blocks the internal arterial walls, and this may cause heart disease. This is because blocked arteries prevent the heart from functioning well. This may also result in heart failure thus causing death. Moreover, Melanson et al (1743) posit that the HFCS does not produce leptin hormone which is responsible for sending signals to the brain for it to respond by stimulating the body to stop eating. This makes everyone consuming HFCS rich food prone to consuming a lot of food thus causing obesity.
Considering the higher fructose content in (HFCS) than other sweeteners, it is more linked to health issues than other sweeteners. Most health practitioners recommend fructose for their diabetic patients. This should not be the case because each body cell is able to metabolize glucose, but the metabolism of fructose can only take place in the liver. A study by Goran, Ulijaszek, and Ventura (60) shows that HFCS can cause diabetes especially due to the high amount of free-floating fructose contained in it. This sweetener does not have any nutritional value apart from calories and sugar.
Research by Stanhope et al (1600) shows that excessive consumption of HFCS in human increases the accumulation of visceral fat, decreases the sensitivity of insulin, and leads to impaired regulation of triglycerides and cholesterol. All these factors may lead to the development of heart disease as well as type-2 diabetes. Increased consumption of HFCS is also associated with high blood pressure.
A study by Bocarsly et al (104) on the link between High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) on obesity on rats show high triglyceride levels, body fat, and body weight. The results are the same for both sucrose and HFCS and therefore it cannot be concluded that HFCS is the sole contributing factor in obesity. However, increased consumption of HFCS will definitely lead to weight gain and obesity (Bray 540). But there are other factors that lead to such health issues, high fructose corn syrup cannot be blamed.
Considering the fact that the high fructose corn syrup is used in most beverages and foods, moderation is not really an option. However, there are other alternatives that can be used to minimize the intake of fructose and other sugars in human bodies. Food production industries should consider using natural sweeteners for their products instead of high fructose corn syrup. The best alternative for HFCS is sweeteners with low-calorie content and natural flavors. Some healthy alternatives may include Brown Rice Syrup which is obtained from ground and cooked brown rice. Grinding and cooking are meant to convert the starch in the brown rice to maltose. Date sugar which is obtained of natural dates that are ground and dehydrated. Agave Nectar can also be a better alternative for HFCS. It is obtained from agave cactus juice.
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Bocarsly, Miriam E., et al. “High-fructose corn syrup causes characteristics of obesity in rats: increased body weight, body fat and triglyceride levels.” Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior 97.1 (2010): 101-106.
Bray, George A., Samara Joy Nielsen, and Barry M. Popkin. “Consumption of high-fructose corn syrup in beverages may play a role in the epidemic of obesity.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 79.4 (2004): 537-543.
Duffey, Kiyah J., and Barry M. Popkin. “High-fructose corn syrup: is this what’s for dinner?” The American journal of clinical nutrition 88.6 (2008): 1722S-1732S.
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Rippe, James M., and Theodore J. Angelopoulos. “Sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup, and fructose, their metabolism and potential health effects: what do we really know?” (2013): 236-245.
Stanhope, Kimber L., and Peter J. Havel. “Endocrine and metabolic effects of consuming beverages sweetened with fructose, glucose, sucrose, or high-fructose corn syrup.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 88.6 (2008): 1733S-1737S.
Stanhope, Kimber L., et al. “Consumption of fructose and high fructose corn syrup increase postprandial triglycerides, LDL-cholesterol, and apolipoprotein-B in young men and women.” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 96.10 (2011): E1596-E1605.
Tappy, Luc, et al. “Fructose and metabolic diseases: new findings, new questions.” Nutrition 26.11-12 (2010): 1044-1049.
White, John S. “Straight talk about high-fructose corn syrup: what it is and what it ain’t.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 88.6 (2008): 1716S-1721S.