Posted on June 13, 2012 at 4:30 PM by Iowa Corn
This is part of series of articles called, What’s All the Hype? The goal of this series is to answer questions about food and how it is raised and grown. If you have a topic that you have questions about, please leave it in the comments section.
Recently a group of students from Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina visited Iowa Corn, during a three week class to learn more about Iowa agriculture (you can visit their blog here). The group came with many questions and some of them centered on High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS).
Many people know HFCS has gotten a bad rap over the past few years. A common misconception is that HFCS is “high” in fructose. It really isn’t, like beet sugar and cane sugar HFCS is composed of nearly equal amounts of glucose and fructose. It is classified as high in fructose only because it has more fructose than normal corn syrup, which is made of glucose.
How is High Fructose Corn Syrup made?
Did you know that both sugar that comes from the sugar cane plant and HFCS have to be processed into a form that can be used to sweeten our foods?
To make HFCS, corn is first harvested and sent to the wet mill. Next, corn is crushed in a mill and then run through screens in order to separate the corn starch from other parts of the kernel. After being separated, natural enzymes are added to the liquid, which converts some of the sugars in the liquid from glucose to fructose. The resulting liquid is typically 42 percent fructose and 58 percent glucose. From there, the liquid is passed through activated carbon and filtered. The final product is called HFCS-42, and is used to sweeten many baked goods. (Source: http://sweetscam.com/how-its-made/).
Ok, then how is Sugar made?
The cane sugar that we get at the grocery store also goes through a process to be able to be used. First, stalks are harvested from the field and sent to the refinery. At the refinery, the cane is chopped or shredded before it is crushed in large roller mills to release raw sugar cane juice. From there, calcium hydroxide is added to the juice and carbon dioxide is bubbled through the mixture. Next, the juice travels to a filter where it is treated with activated carbon. After being filtered, the juice is sent through an evaporator to remove water, causing the juice to thicken. The juice is then sent to a boiler where it is heated in a vacuum and fine "seed crystals" are added to aid in the formation of sugar crystals. To separate the sugar crystals from the mother liquor, they are put into a centrifuge. The final product is raw sugar, which is ready to be refined into white sugar. The refining process begins with affination, where the raw sugar crystals are melted into a syrup, dissolving the remaining molasses. Then the sugar is washed. From there, the sugar is clarified and decolored--either with phosphoric acid and calcium hydroxide or with calcium dioxide. Finally, the solution is boiled one last time to concentrate it into white granulated sugar crystals. (Source: http://sweetscam.com/how-its-made/).
Why do companies use High Fructose Corn Syrup?
Companies use HFCS for multiple reasons. First, HFCS is in liquid form and cane sugar is in a powder form. A liquid form is much easier and safer to use in a manufacturing setting. Using HFCS also increases products shelf life and reduces the cost of production for many manufacturers.
How healthy is High Fructose Corn Syrup?
I wouldn’t say that consuming any sweetener (cane sugar, fruit juice, agave nectar, honey, etc.) in large quantities is healthy. It is important to consume all sweeteners in moderation for a healthy diet. All sweeteners contain about 4 calories per gram and are metabolized by the body the same.
Best Food Facts says: Science tells us that there is little difference between HFCS and any other caloric sweetener. It adds calories in the same way that sugar, honey, fruit juice concentrate or agave nectar adds calories. In fact, they all contribute to the same number of calories per gram.
All sweeteners are similar in the amount of fructose that they contain too. This graph from SweetSurprise.com shows how they all stack up:
So just like sucrose (aka table sugar) your body has to work to convert almost the fructose to glucose to be able to use it as an energy source.
Of Course You Would Say That HFCS Is Just Like Sugar
I realize that there is a lot of information out there saying HFCS is bad for you. However, all of the science that I have collected indicates your body treats HFCS just like sugar, and it is perfectly safe as long as you consume it in moderation.
Eating Well Magazine researched this topic saying that even Barry Popkin, Ph.D., a nutrition professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who previously suggested, a possible HFCS-obesity link, stresses that the real obesity problem doesn’t lie just with HFCS. Rather, it’s the fact that sugars from all sources have become so prevalent in our food supply, especially in our beverages. “They all have the same caloric effects as sugar,” he explains. “I don’t care whether something contains concentrated fruit juice, brown sugar, honey or HFCS. The only better sweetener option is ‘none of the above.’”
Dr. Ruth MacDonald, Department Head of Food Science and Human Nutrition at Iowa State University, also explains HFCS on this video:
In an effort to improve our overall health, it is important to reduce ALL sugars in our diet. And in the end, it’s calories in, calories out!
For More Information on High Fructose Corn Syrup