By: Nikki Nies
We all need a little suga in our lives, right? Yes, we do! However, the amount of sugar we should have is dependent on the type of sugar. Over the past few years, High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) has received a bad wrap, however as a nutrition fact label junkie, I still see products listing HFCS as a main ingredient.
I decided to delve more into the controversy regarding HFCS. It’s one of those taboos ingredients you hear are bad for you, but I’ll admit I don’t know why specifically. I thought this would be a great time to fully understand the severity of using HFCS in everyday food products.
HFCS is a common sweetener that has been linked to the rise in obesity rates in the U.S. There are two compositions of HFCS—HFCS-42 and HFCS-55.
“HFCS-42 = 42% fructose + 58% glucose
HFCS-55 = 55% fructose + 45% glucose
Table sugar = 50% fructose and 50% glucose”
The composition of HFCS is similar to table sugar, with each containing 4 calories per gram. However, the main difference is how the glucose and fructose are combined. In regards to table sugar, the fructose and glucose are chemically bonded together, so the body first has to digest the sugar to break the bonds before the glucose and fructose can be absorbed in the bloodstream. Comparatively, the glucose and fructose in HFCS is blended together, not chemically bonded, so the body doesn’t have to digest the sugar in the bloodstream. This difference has caused speculation that HFCS more greatly impact the blood glucose levels than table sugar.
After much research, I haven’t found any collective information that HFCS has any harmful effects on hormones (i.e. insulin, ghrelin), changes blood glucose levels and/or short term energy intake.
- Economic advantage over sugar—less expensive
- Makes food better—i.e. bread, spaghetti sauce
- Makes soft textures
- Keeps food fresh
- Provides crunch texture in breakfast bars
- Has blending capabilities
- Low freezing point—easier thawing method
- Resists crystallization after baking
- As a reducing sugar, provides superior browning and flavor
Obviously, food companies believe the benefits outweigh the costs. Although, HFCS may have gotten an undeservedly bad wrap, the American Heart Association suggests limiting the amount of sugar people consume on a regular basis. The average American, two years and older consumes more than 300 calories from sugar (equivalent to 19 teaspoons of sweetener, 75 grams) and artificial sweeteners. It’s crazy that about 1/5 of many people’s diet is devoted to sugar intake even though there’s no nutritional value.
It’s recommended women should limit intake of 100 calories a day from added sugar (approximately 6 teaspoons) from any source, and that most men get no more than 150 calories a day from added sugar (approximately 9 teaspoons).
So, I guess the hype of HFCS is dully wrong. Of course, consumption of high sugared food and beverages is not being advised, but it is not any worse for consumers than table sugar. Before this research, I shied away from HFCS because I just took what the media said about the sugar, however, I’ve learned from this experience of doing my own research and fact checking. I understand why it’d be assumed HFCS is predominantly high in fructose, hence the name, but the name doesn’t accurately describe the composition of HFCS. Unfortunately, the name itself doesn’t do the sugar any favors. Consequences of too much sugar includes higher risks of Type II diabetes mellitus, metabolic syndrome, high triglyceride levels, weight gain, etc.
A great challenge is to keep a food diary for the next week and see where your high levels of sugar intake are coming from. What changes are you willing to make?