High Fructose Corn Syrup – I may have been wrong.
by Professor Jay
I have always assumed that there is no difference between consuming high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and sucrose (a.k.a. table sugar, cane sugar). Let me explain why. Sucrose (table sugar) is made up of a glucose and fructose linked together. So sucrose is 50% glucose and 50% fructose. Also, glucose and fructose are made of the exact same atoms; that is C6H12O6(6 Carbons, 12 Hydrogens, and 6 Oxygens.) The only difference is how the atoms are arranged.
High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is also a mixture of glucose and fructose, but with the ratio being 55% fructose and 42% glucose, and 3% other sugars. Honey has a similar ratio of fructose to glucose, as well. So I, as well as many others, could not see the difference that a little extra fructose could have on metabolism; especially with the claim that it is contributing to the obesity epidemic. Remember, fructose is found in fruit. It’s nature’s sweetener.
How is HFCS made?
HFCS, as the name implies, is made from corn starch. Corn starch is made of glucose molecules linked together. Enzymes are used to first break the corn starch down to glucose. Then an enzyme is added that converts part of the glucose to fructose. Remember, glucose and fructose are identical except for their shape. One of the added enzymes simply rearranges glucose to the fructose shape. This series of reactions ultimately produces the desired 55% fructose concentration of HFCS.
I concluded that HFCS was a problem in the American diet simply because it was added as inexpensive “filler” to almost all processed foods (it’s hard to find a food label that doesn’t contain some version of the words high fructose corn syrup, i.e. it’s in everything). I thought the problem was simply a matter of an increase of empty calories to an individual’s diet, regardless if it was HFCS or sucrose (table sugar). No way did I ever figure that the way fructose was metabolized by the body may be contributing to the obesity epidemic, as well as health problems.
Then I read this.
A recent study out of Princeton University that was published in Pharmacology, Biochemistry, and Behavior showed that rats with access to HFCS gained significantly more weight than rats with equal access to sucrose. This was true even though both groups consumed the same amount of calories, and even fewer calories from HFCS were consumed than from sucrose. The fact that two groups of rats consumed the same number of calories, but the group that consumed HFCS gained significantly more weight than the other group is very concerning – and puzzling.
Although, I certainly would never draw a final conclusion from one study, this has really grabbed my attention. The authors of the study also proposed some legitimate mechanisms of how fructose may be causing the weight gain and health problems.
Bottom Line: I definitely need to look into this more. Keep your eyes open regarding HFCS.