Also called, glucose-fructose or isoglucose
High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a liquid sweetener made from cornstarch (maize starch). It is made up of different proportions of glucose and fructose, depending on its intended use.
The first stage of production of HFCS involves hydrolysis or breakdown of the cornstarch, using water and enzymes to produce corn syrup which is composed of over 90% liquid glucose. The main ingredient in corn syrup is glucose and that is why it’s also called glucose syrup.
The next stage involves the conversion of a large proportion of the glucose in the corn syrup, into fructose, using enzymes. The final result of this conversion is the syrup called High fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which has a high proportion of free fructose. The main ingredients in HFCS are glucose and fructose and they are not bound together like the case of sucrose (table sugar).
The most common formulations of HFCS are:
- HFCS-42 has 42% free fructose and about 53% free glucose and 3% other sugars. It is mostly used in processed foods, beverages, cereals, and baked goods.
- HFCS-55 has 55% free fructose and about 41% free glucose and 4% other sugars. It’s primarily used in soft drinks.
- HFCS-90 has 90% free fructose. HFCS-90 is mainly mixed with HFCS 42 to make HFCS-55.
How is HFCS different?
HFCS is sweeter than table sugar and corn syrup (glucose syrup) because it contains free molecules of fructose and glucose (which are not bound together like the case of sucrose). Also, fructose is the sweetest of all monosaccharide sugars.
Compared to corn syrup, which is made up of glucose, HFCS has high proportion of fructose especially, the HFCS-55, which is used in soft drinks like Coca cola, Pepsi, Mountain dew etc.
Use of HFCS
HFCS is used worldwide as a liquid sweetener because it is easier to handle than table sugar, and since the price of the raw material, corn (maize), is more stable in the US due to government subsidies, it has simply replaced sucrose (table sugar) as the commercial sweetener, especially in the US.
In general HFCS is popular with food manufacturers because its cheaper than cane or beet sugar (sucrose).
In other countries for example, Japan, HFCS is manufactured mostly from imported US corn and the output is regulated by the government. For the period from 2007 to 2012 HFCS had a 27-30% share of the Japanese sweetener market.
High-fructose corn syrup is found in most foods that have added sugars, especially in processed foods like soft drinks, canned fruits, boxed desserts, flavoured yogurts, baked goods, breakfast cereals and condiments, like ketchup, jams and jellies.
High Fructose Corn Syrup and your Health
There has been a lot of debate on the safety of HFCS and whether it results in obesity but the general consensus is as follows: our bodies use HFCS and other sugars the same way, so if you eat a lot of foods with added sugar, whether it’s HFCS, white sugar, brown sugar or honey, you can gain weight. It’s also acknowledged that HFCS is found in many foods that are high in calories, and this can cause weight gain
In general you should limit foods with added sugar because they will most likely contain HFCS. These include Soft drinks, sweetened fruit beverages, sugary cereals, frozen dinners, flavoured yogurts, white bread, boxed desserts, baked good like muffins, cakes, sweetened dried fruits, frozen fruits, etc, and condiments.
Take time and read food labels so that you know exactly what you’re consuming!
HFCS can cause bloating and gas. This is because large amounts of HFCS feed the natural bacteria in our intestines, which produce gas. To reduce gas, avoid consuming large amounts of HFCS by choosing water and 100% fruit juice instead of soft drinks and sweetened fruit beverages.
In Canada, HFCS is labeled “glucose-fructose” in the ingredient list and it contributes to the total amount of sugar in the Nutrition Facts panel.