HFCS: the good, the bad, and the sinfully sweet

Mar 30 2009 Published by under Health Care/Medicine

Since I started grad school in physiology, I get a lot of questions from friends and family about the science that goes on in their daily lives. It's part of the reason why I decided to start blogging in the first place, to finally give people well-researched, thought-out, and long (yeah, they're usually very long) answers to their questions. I can't answer all questions, obviously, but when it comes to something I can research on Pubmed, the world is my oyster!
One of the questions I've gotten most often goes something like this: "What is high fructose corn syrup and why is it evil", or "I know high fructose corn syrup is evil, but why?" It's taken Sci a lot of time to think about answering these questions. It's not because I can't access the information, but rather because I know that, whatever I end up telling people, I'm going to get a response like "OMG! You are in the pocket of teh evil cornz industries!" or "You just hate corn! You are a horrible evil cornz haters!" The reality is that Sci is neither of these things.
But, despite possible repercussions on Sci's relationship with corn, I want to answer the question. Especially because the New York Times is bringing back the corn syrup debate. And so today, Sci will attempt to talk about High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). In an effort to check this out I did a big literature search. I was careful to choose articles from researchers that didn't receive company money as well as those that did. Citation list will be at the end.

First of all, what IS HFCS?
Actually, HFCS is actually kind of a misnomer. But we'll start with the basics. As you might know, there are two main kinds of monosaccharide sugars that we utilize in our diets: glucose and fructose.
Glucose, via wikipedia.
Fructose, via wikipedia.
Combine glucose and fructose together, and you get the awesome, the dynamic: SUCROSE, otherwise known as common table sugar.
Sucrose, via wikipedia. See the pretty little linkage?
Since sucrose is a 50/50 joining of glucose and fructose, it's exactly 50% of both.
So what is HFCS, and how does it compare?
HFCS is basically a corn syrup which has been exposed to enzymes which increase its fructose content. It's then mixed with 100% glucose. The glucose and fructose bond. BUT, there's more fructose than there is glucose, and so there's some extra free fructose floating around. The final results is something pretty similar to sucrose. Only not. There are two kinds of HFCS in major dietary usage:
HFCS-42: 42% fructose and 53% glucose. With some extra stuff. This has some unbound glucose instread of fructose. Used mostly to sweeten baked goods and other sweets.
HFCS-55: 55% fructose and 42% glucose. With some extras. This has unbound fructose instead of glucose, and is the big sweetener in soft drinks.
The net result is not THAT different from sucrose. And you can see that "High Fructose corn syrup" is a bit of a misnomer. Sure, it's highER than sucrose, but it's not what I pictured. When I pictured HFCS, I was thinking of something that was 90% fructose or something. Instead, the fructose levels are just a little higher than table sugar. But does that higher dose of fructose make a huge difference?
How sweet is sweet?
Many people worry about HFCS because they worry that it is sweeter than sugar. This means that we like it more, and thus will drink more of it. Actually, though, we just like our world as sweet as we can get it. Sucrose and HFCS are pretty much the same by weight in terms of sweetness (HFCS may in fact be 1% less sweet). So the problem is not so much which one we're putting in, it's how much of it we're using. And how much ARE we using?

HFCS in your daily life

HFCS is everywhere. Since about the 1970's, it has had a drastic increase in popularity in the US. Right now, it's about even with sugar consumption, when we eat sweet stuff, about 50% of that is sugar and 50% is HFCS. It's grown in popularity because it's just so...cheap. As you may be able to imagine, the US is not the best place for growing sugar, and given the sweet tooth of America, we had to import a LOT. So sugar, we can't grow so well. But corn, corn we can GROW! HFCS making also takes a lot of technology, but technology we have in spades. Not only that, HFCS has the added advantage of being made entirely in syrup form. Sugar has to be dissolved into things before it can be used, while HFCS is already there and just has to be diluted. It's useful and it's cheap, of course companies jumped on it.
But is it good for you? Is it bad for you? How much of a difference does that extra shot of fructose make?
Most of the studies that I've found that focus on the effects of HFCS and sugar focus on the effects of fructose, as opposed to the combined effects of HFCS and sugar. This is actually kind of a problem. It means that people get all up in arms about fructose, and then they hear "high fructose corn syrup", put two and two together, and the next thing we know, we're hearing about how HFCS, and only HFCS, is going to destroy your children, steal your car, and have an affair with your wife. But it's not just HFCS. Remember that fructose is in regular sugar, too, and the amounts aren't so different.
But the fact is, fructose gets a bad rap. And it's not undeserved. To get really basic with it, your body knows very well how to absorb glucose. And it absorbs fructose in the same way. But there are fundamental differences between these two molecules, and so the results can be a bit different.
As you might know, glucose consumption (when you eat sugars or carbohydrates in any form, which basically means when you eat food) increases levels of insulin being produced in the pancreas. This is because glucose can't actually get into the cells of the body on its own. Instead, it stimulates production of insulin, which causes glucose transporters to head to cell membranes, so the cells can take into the glucose circulating in the bloodstream.
The production of insulin also has several actions elsewhere in the body. Higher levels of insulin circulating to fatty tissues will increase production of leptin, a hormone that in turn will decrease levels of ghrelin coming from the hypothalamus. Ghrelin is a hormone that helps to regulate appetite, and decreasing it will decrease feelings of hunger and increase feelings of satiety.
So that's how the body absorbs glucose. Fructose is very similar. But. In high levels fructose doesn't stimulate as much insulin or leptin. When leptin levels are low, ghrelin levels will stay HIGH, and you won't get the feelings of satiety that you usually get with consumption of glucose. This means that if you eat fructose, you'll be a bit more likely to keep eating.
People have taken this information about fructose and run with it. If you're likely to keep eating, you're more likely to maintain a positive energy balance. If you don't use that energy, it goes to fat, and then OMG fructose is entirely responsible for the obesity epidemic in America!!!!
This really isn't necessarily true. Fructose DOES produce these problems, but only when fructose is not tempered with something like, say, glucose. And fructose is ALWAYS served with glucose. This is partially because of metabolism, and partially because of sweetness. It's also because pure fructose alone causes "severe gastrointestinal distress". You don't WANT to be eating pure fructose, and you almost never do. So you have to keep in mind that when you're looking at sugar or at HFCS, you're looking at fructose, but you are also looking at glucose, in almost equal measure.
So is HFCS evil?
I would say that fructose alone isn't good for you. But I wouldn't say that HFCS is evil. Sucrose has almost as much fructose as HFCS. Not only that, I haven't found a single study comparing HFCS to sucrose that has found any difference in how much people consume or their health stats afterward. The increase in HFCS has correlated with an increase in obesity in the US, but correlation is not causation. We've also had an increase in the number of people leading sedentary lifestyles, the number of people who own cars and drive everywhere, and the number of McDonald's chain restaurants. Correlation is not causation, and though the jury is still out on high amounts of HFCS, it doesn't look like it's much worse than anything else we're doing.
The big problem, I would say, is that there's just so much out there that's just so sinfully sweet. Everything we eat is sweetened, whether it be with sugar or with HFCS, and we're eating and drinking far more sweetened stuff than any group of people has ever done before. Sugar and HFCS can account for up to 24% if your daily calories. That's a LOT of sugar. And sugar, or its HFCS equivalent, is almost all the processed foods you pick up at the store. It comes down to the same old story. It's not what you're eating. It's how much. It's not whether it's sugar or HFCS. If it's listed as one of the top three ingredients on the back of the package, and it's not sugar or candy, you may want to consider putting it down.
1) Melanson KJ et al. "High-fructose corn syrup, energy intake, and appetite regulation." Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Dec;88(6):1738S-1744S. Review.
2) Vos MB et al. "Dietary fructose consumption among US children and adults: the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey." Medscape J Med. 2008 Jul 9;10(7):160.
3) White, JS. "Straight talk about high-fructose corn syrup: what it is and what it ain't. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Dec;88(6):1716S-1721S. Review.
4) Stanhope KL, Havel PJ. "Endocrine and metabolic effects of consuming beverages sweetened with fructose, glucose, sucrose, or high-fructose corn syrup." Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Dec;88(6):1733S-1737S.
5) Bray, GA. "Fructose: should we worry?" Int J Ob, 2008 32, S127-S131.

50 responses so far

  • komouse says:

    A correction: Ghrelin doesn't come from the hypothalamus. It is secreted from the gut, circulates in the blood, and acts on receptors in the hypothalamus. Leptin inhibits ghrelin's ability to promote feeding in the hypothalamus.

  • NaiveIntellectual says:

    A question that comes to mind then, since Glucose is what the body is most familiar with, would it be most advisable to replace sucrose with glucose as a sweetener then? Maybe if not from a business perspective, but a purely dietary one.
    Im very familiar with sucrose, but is there pure glucose in abundance anywhere or that can be created as such? or is there something hampering this from happening.
    Now because Fructose is bad as you were showing, but just curious. My knowledge of the sugars stopped around Chemistry and Bio 2 in college.

  • Donna B. says:

    I think we need taste tests here, or satiety tests. Sucrose sweetened Coca-Cola tastes different and "satisfies" differently than the HFCS drinks.
    Unless I'm getting less than accurate info from labels and the internet - 1 cup of corn syrup has between 925 and 960 calories. (Difference is result on the internet and result from my own calc of label on bottle in my cabinet.)
    The internet says one cup of sugar has 770 calories.
    Wait... I'll be back because I've got to determine how much water to add to that cup of sugar to make a "suitable" syrup for cooking.

  • Jason Dick says:

    Sci, but is it clear whether or not there is a satiety difference for the relatively small difference in fructose vs. glucose in HFCS? Or has the satiety difference only been shown with pure glucose vs. pure fructose?
    I wouldn't expect that it would take much of a satiety imbalance at all to make for a rather significant difference in weight. After all, if your caloric intake per day is only 1% higher, then you're still gaining weight.

  • Donna B. says:

    The syrup I'm making is one cup to use to sweeten 6-8 beaten egg whites to make a majestic meringue on a cream pie.
    If I'm using sugar, I use one cup (for two pies) and add enough water until it boils "clear". I just tested that, actually measuring for a change, and that's 4 tablespoons of water in one cup of sugar yielding 1 cup of syrup - 770 calories.
    I have used, when in a hurry, one cup of corn syrup thinking that was an equivalent and found that the meringue was thinner and did not taste as sweet. Now that I know that the poorer result has 190 more calories, I won't be doing that again!
    So... I hate to disagree with you, but maybe HFCS is contributing to obesity because it takes more calories of HFCS to satisfy our sweet tooth.
    I remember, as a child, being completely satisfied with an 8 (or was it 6?) oz bottle of Coca-Cola or Dr. Pepper. Even more satisfying was Grapette. There was a burn, a sting... as those drinks swirled past your throat that is no longer there. Now, they leave a sort of treacly coating that is - to me - rather unpleasant.

  • Simon says:

    Donna B., not all corn syrup is HFCS. Regular corn syrup apparently differs in sweetness depending on the degree to which the starch is broken down, and contains primarily glucose, according to Wikipedia. As for the cola, presumably serving size and habit also affect satiety.

  • ebohlman says:

    NaiveIntellectual: the problem with what you propose is that glucose by itself is considerably less sweet than sucrose, HFCS, or any similar combination of glucose and fructose. Therefore, you'd have to use a lot more of it to get the same amount of sweetness. In something like soft drinks, that would result in an obnoxiously syrupy consistency, but, more importantly, you'd be consuming a lot more calories to get the same amount of sweetness. That increased consumption would more than swamp out any differences in obesogenic potential.
    A good part of the reason that ingredients like HFCS are more common now in products that aren't "sweets" is that manufacturers reduced the fat content of those products in order to be able to label them "low fat" and they needed something else to keep them palatable. It just goes to show how demonizing or lionizing particular food ingredients has unintended effects.
    Note that one of the reasons HFCS is so widely used in the US, and little used elsewhere, is that American agricultural policy provides price supports for sugar growers, supports which make sucrose much more expensive in the US than it is elsewhere.

  • Joshua says:

    This article misses the most important issue, which has nothing to do with dietary concerns regarding HFCS intake and that is the contaminants introduced by the manufacturing process. Too much of just about anything can be deadly or deleterious, this is not the main issue when it comes to intake, it is the potential exposure to those contaminants and the resulting health risks.

  • Scicurious says:

    komouse: yeah, I knew that. I'm sorry, I'll edit that.
    ebohlman: thanks for answering Naiveintellectual's question, it's true that glucose just isn't as sweet, you need the fructose to get the flavor.
    Donna: that's a good point, but I believe that the kind of HFCS used makes a difference. The papers I read all implied that HFCS and sucrose had the same amount of calories (though they didn't explicitly state it).
    Joshua: I'm afraid none of the papers I looked at implied anything about contaminants. All the studies I looked at were concerned about fructose or HFCS vs sucrose in measures of health risk. What contaminants are you referring to and do you have any papers I could look at?

  • Irene Adler says:

    I love this kind of review-of-the-literature-style blogging. I bookmark the URLs when you write entries like this, so that I can forward them to friends when they start having uninformed arguments about the topics you've discussed 😉
    Thanks for writing! Keep it up, please!

  • Colin says:

    One thing that Joshua may be referencing to is mercury. Specifically the use of the Caster-Kellner process to create NaOH for HFCS production.

  • justawriter says:

    I am constantly amused (or horrified) by "nutrition" articles in the popular press that are little more than woo. Recently I have been seeing advertorials for "agave nectar" as a "natural" "alternative" to them old debbils HFCS and "refined white sugar". I got a chuckle when I looked up how the stuff was made and found out that it was hydrolyzed inulin (an indigestible polysaccaride) made by the same basic process as HFCS. The punchline is that, if one takes the woo position that it is the F that makes HFCS evil, that the "natural alternative" agave nectar is up to 90 percent fructose!

  • Erin says:

    This is awesome. So those commercials with the two picnicking lovers discussing high fructose corn syrup are not totally irresponsible and misleading after all...

  • Donna B. says:

    Thanks everybody for setting me straight on the difference between the corn syrup I buy in the grocery store and HFCS. I thought they were the same thing!
    I've learned something anyway about calories and my cooking. I already knew that substituting corn syrup for the homemade sugar/water syrup in the old family recipes made them taste less sweet. Dumb me thought that meant less calories. Now I know that's not true, so my future pies and cakes will have fewer calories and better taste and texture.

  • Left_Wing_Fox says:

    One thing I noticed is that in Canada, we don't use the same label, so instread of "High Fructose Corn Syrup" the ingredient lists read "Sugar: Glucose/Fructose". It fools a number of people into thinking that soft drinks in canada use "Sugar" instead of "HFCS"

  • Cynthia 1770 says:

    My google alert for HFCS picked up your post. I found your article quite comprehensive; however I disagree on the similarity between HFCS and sucrose. Take the variant HFCS-55. While its composition, 55%fructose:45%glucose appears to be just "5% different" than the composition of sucrose (50:50), a difference emerges when you do the math. Since every ratio can be expressed as a quotient and therefore calculated, 55/45=1.22. That means in every can of soda there is, compared to glucose, 22% extra fructose. In my opinion that is a significant difference. You have highlighted the metabolic dangers of excess fructose. A fine summary is Dr. Dana Flavin's in LifeExtension.com.
    The CRA hawks that HFCS is essentially similar to sugar, sucrose, nutritionally and metabolically (sweetsurprise.com) This is patently deceptive. I am sure the HFCS chemists at Cargill are aware of these numbers; they DESIGNED the ratio. Yes, the debate today is "Is HFCS really bad?" VS "is it so cheap that we are awash in the stuff?". Coca-cola made the switch to HFCS-55 in 1984 and we have been guzzling and getting fatter and sicker ever since. I'd bet the farm that it's the excess fructose that is causing epidemics in obesity, metabolic syndrome, type II diabetes, as well as increased rates of cardiovascular disease. Ditch HFCS, especially HFCS-55. To your health

  • Scicurious says:

    Left_Wing_Fox: actually, it's called "glucose/fructose" in canada, and "isoglucose" in other countries. Names vary.
    Cynthia: I don't think that 22% fructose is really that much difference. The studies I read on high fructose diets used a LOT of fructose, and it wasn't tempered with glucose at all. In fact, the effects of fructose by itself disappeared the instant you added as little as 10% glucose. Since all forms of HFCS have at least 10% glucose, I don't think the results are due to fructose alone. I would say part of the problem is that people eat a lot more fast food and drink a LOT more soda than they did even in 1984. HFCS has come into the food industry in a big way, but I don't know that we can separate that from our increase in caloric intake and the increase in general consumption of all sugar forms.
    Sure, ditch the HFCS, whether it be HFCS-55 or any other form. But ditch the huge levels of sugar along with it. Neither are doing anyone any good.
    Colinl: do you have a paper reference for that? I'd like to see that.

  • Donna B. says:

    I was fat before 1984 and stopped drinking sodas when they stopped making Grapette. (And no, I don't believe the Sam's version is going to taste the same. For one, it's not in a glass bottle!)
    My pet theory is that diet drinks became popular about the same time the obesity epidemic started taking off. Could the idea that it's sugar free have led to an actual increase in calorie intake? Add fat-free to that and some people might think they're not consuming very many calories.
    I also wonder if metabolic syndrome and it's associated diseases are part of the problem.
    Is there research on this someone could point me too?

  • HgMan says:

    I wonder if we're missing the forest for the spores (we're way past trees). HFCS is not just a nutritional problem. More to the point, it's barely a nutritional problem in relation to its social and environmental impacts. I'm thinking about land use issues, mono-cropping, and animal feed and how these affect people and places.
    Interesting post and conversation, but it's so devoid of any substantive context that I don't know what we're supposed to do with any of this.

  • Marj says:

    While scientific data is certainly enlightening, it is enlightening only in a scientific way. What I mean is, it only narrowly addresses the dilema that is HFCS. As HgMan points out, there are environmental considerations, economic considerations and health considerations that go beyond the effects on metabolism of glucose, fructose, sucrose and HFCS.
    Subsidized corn production results means that foods containing HFCS are the cheapest. If "sugary" foods act to satisfy hunger while not really providing substantial nutritive value we are essentially undernourishing ourselves with these products. Increased consumption of a single food group leads to reduction in others. Furthermore, much of the commodity corn that produces the HFCS contains GMOs which may contain allergens that produce low level biological reactions that viewed narrowly seem harmless, but when combined with other processes may be responsible for chronic conditions.
    Science is very effective at narrowing the factors in order to test results, but cannot be the sole method used for determining the health effects of a substance in isolation from its total dietary, economic and environmental impact. Unfortunately, science, whether good or bad, is frequently used in isolation to make a case either for or against a substance while we remain utterly uninformed about the true nature of the situation.

  • Cynthia1770 says:

    Hi Scicurious,
    But the question is why are we drinking 64 oz Big Gulps?
    Is it so cheap that we are awash in the stuff, or is it that
    the ratio of fructose:glucose in the industrial sweetener
    just doesn't sate our appetite. Two years ago I was in France and ordered a Coke. I was served a 6 1/2 oz bottle.
    At first I thought, how quaint, until I found that with that small bottle I was refreshed and satisfied. We keep drinking and eating the stuff with HFCS because the extra fructose does not elicit satiety signals in the brain. There is a recent review by M.Daniel Lane from John Hopkins University "Effect of glucose and fructose on food intake via malonyl-CoA signaling in the brain" (abstract available). Sure, sugar should be used sparingly, but I am convinced that if HFCS were removed from out diets, we would all become healthier.

  • pickabone says:

    For what it's worth:
    An old roommate of mine used to have a roll of "Daily-C" vitamin chewables on him at all times, which he got at the corner market across the street. Once, the market had mistakenly ordered Glucose chewables instead, which looked very much like the Daily-C, even the packaging. Not noticing the difference, my roommate bought these glucose supplements. I tried one, and it was almost indescribably satisfying in its sweetness.

  • Scicurious says:

    But the question is why are we drinking 64 oz Big Gulps?
    Is it so cheap that we are awash in the stuff, or is it that
    the ratio of fructose:glucose in the industrial sweetener
    just doesn't sate our appetite.

    I would say we're drinking the 64 oz Big Gulps because we can get them. In Europe, until very recently, they didn't even sell them that big. I think it's part of the US idea that more is better, no matter what it is, and if more is also cheaper (the bigger sizes are almost always more for your money), isn't that even better than before? I think it's just as much about portion size as it is about what's in it.

  • Dave Ruddell says:

    Donna B, if the corn syrup that you are using is just plain old corn syrup, it's not HFCS. It's almost entirely glucose. Remember, what makes it HIGH fructose corn syrup is that it's higher in fructose content than regular corn syrup, which is essentially pure glucose.

  • rtb says:

    I must disagree with Marj, if not science then what? Voodoo? Research is a process and if our understanding today is imperfect, it will undoubtably improve over time. Limiting the scope and simplifying the variables is not the end result, but only the beginning.
    I will admit I do believe the current scare over HFCS is misguided and the real problem is that we are awash in calories and more sedentary than ever. But personally, I am all for the HFCS scare if it means that major soda manufacturers will return to using sucrose in their formulas. For years I have thought to myself that sodas prior to the "New Coke/Coke Classic" marketing debacle tasted better, because this was also the time that soda companies shifted from using sucrose to HFCS. Then recently I was eating at the Jason's Deli restaurant chain which was advertising it's campaign to remove HFCS from their menu. They had replaced the normal Dr. Pepper with a sucrose-formulated version produced by a bottler in Dublin, TX. The difference was astounding! Unfortunately they replaced it with the regular Dr. Pepper a few weeks later. If hyping up the scare can put the sucrose back in commodity sodas, bring on the hype!

  • Carlie says:

    So that kind of answers the satiety question, but does it have different effects on blood sugar levels overall? If it's an equivalent amount of HFCS v. glucose, which is worse for blood sugar, or are they the same?

  • Robert S. says:

    Oh, and that industrial connections site you linked to says its sold in ISO standard tanks. So 5,500 gallons or so.

  • llewelly says:

    Oh, and that industrial connections site you linked to says its sold in ISO standard tanks. So 5,500 gallons or so.

    Woot! Stock up the 2012 bunker right now!

  • Katkinkate says:

    Posted by: NaiveIntellectual "A question that comes to mind then, since Glucose is what the body is most familiar with, would it be most advisable to replace sucrose with glucose as a sweetener then? Maybe if not from a business perspective, but a purely dietary one."
    I tried that myself for a short while just last year. There is one big drawback that I discovered first time I used glucose syrup in my coffee instead of sucrose. The glucose is nowhere near as sweet and I had to use a lot more to get the same sweetness. Apparently the fructose half of the sucrose molecule is significantly sweeter than the glucose. This is when I decided it might be best to just get used to less sugar in my coffee/cereal/baked goods rather than trying to maintain a high sweet taste with a substitute (I refuse to use the chemical sweeteners). After all, you can't expect to have everything I suppose.
    I've had some success with it too. If you cut out as much sugar/sweetened foods as possible for a week, you will be surprised just how sweet a little bit of sugar tastes. I've heard it takes about 3 weeks to replace taste buds on your tongue, so if you could stay very low sugar for that long, all the new taste buds will have a very high sensitivity to sweet and you could have lovely sweet foods with a lot less actual sugar.

  • Hank Roberts says:

    Have you looked at the reports of difference in male and female metabolism?
    Just grabbing a few from a quick search of Scholar, the amount of fructose or excess of it seems the issue:
    Diabetes Care 31:1254-1256, 2008
    DOI: 10.2337/dc07-2001
    British Journal of Nutrition (2008), 100 : 393-399 Cambridge University Press doi:10.1017/S000711450789547X

  • Hank Roberts says:

    PS, reading the "cited by" papers listed with those I noted earlier, this one is paywalled; if you're in a position to have a look, what do you think?
    J. R. Vasselli
    Fructose-induced leptin resistance: discovery of an unsuspected form of the phenomenon and its significance. Focus on "Fructose-induced leptin resistance exacerbates weight gain in response to subsequent high-fat feeding," by Shapiro et al.
    Am J Physiol Regulatory Integrative Comp Physiol, November 1, 2008; 295(5): R1365 - R1369.

  • Valerie says:

    Thanks for the scientific explanation.
    The thing is, you're comparing HFCS to table sugar, and I see your argument that they are basically the same. In terms of what we eat, this means that processed foods containing table sugar are no better or worse than processed foods containing HFCS. (In some sense HFCS might even be slightly better if it's more local.) That's certainly good to know as marketers are now using regular sugar as a selling point.
    But a better comparison would be between processed foods containing HFCS or refined sugar to whole foods that naturally contain sugar. Now, I don't know the breakdown of the glucose vs fructose in most fruits, but what I do know is that fruits contain nutrients and fiber that sodas and twinkies certainly don't. The fiber in particular can make a much more significant difference in feelings of satiety.
    So what's evil is not HCFS on it's own, but what's lacking in the foods that typically contain it.

  • Toaster says:

    komouse and Sci:
    Ghrelin is produced by the fundus of the stomach and it acts upon the arcuate nucleus in the hypothalamus. It is associated with feeling hungry, increased stomach motility, the secretion of gastric juices, and release of growth hormone. Its receptor is GHS-R on the cell surface.
    Leptin is produced by adipose tissue and it acts upon the hypothalamus to induce feelings of satiety as blood sugar content increases after a meal. It also functions as a general sensor of total adipose tissue. It is produced by the ob gene and has several different receptors, one of which is solubilized (the Ob-Rb, if I remember correctly) and binds secreted leptin. The soluble receptor is preferentially trafficked across the blood brain barrier into the hypothalamus. Skinny people have more leptin-bound to Ob-Rb in their blood stream than obese, although both have similar circulating levels of Ob-Rb.
    Leptin does not act against ghrelin directly.
    It is true that correlation of increased HFCS and obesity rates does not mean causation, so I'd like to play The Devil's Advocate and pose an alternative hypothesis: Increased levels of beef consumption, and increased use of rbGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone) in beef production and rbPRL (recombinant bovine prolactin) in dairy production, have caused the obesity epidemic.
    I'll admit I just read abstracts.
    I don't eat beef and consume very little dairy (lactose intolerant, because otherwise I'd be all up in that shit), and I'm both skinny as a bean pole and I don't have boobies. But the latter could very well be because I'm male.

  • David Harmon says:

    I'm with "rtb" that the HFCS versions of sodas don't taste as good. They have a common off-taste, and a stickier consistency. A while back I had occasion to try corn liquor, and I instantly recognized both the taste and that stickiness (but it's worse in the liquor). (Yuck!)

  • I believe that there IS a "natural cure" for every disease known to man, but that's a strange concept to most of the media indoctrinated people in this culture. I have proof though... not just opinion. Check out the site for more.

  • Jethro says:

    Stop eating honey then, Cynthia, because its glucose/fructose ratio is approximately the same as HFCS-55. That's why the Chinese use HFCS-55 to make artificial honey.
    As far as the whole, "Coke switched to HFCS in 1984 and we have gotten fatter" tripe, Europeans haven't switched and they are seeing the same rise in obesity, just delayed from the US. We saw a similar delay when the US reaped the advantages of good post-war nutrition and Americans seemed taller than everyone for awhile.
    As far as mercury goes, the highest recorded value of the tests on HFCS products was what, .6 microgram per kilogram of product? That fits in the range of mercury found in breastmilk due to dental amalgam. That's less than the limit on bottled water, 2 micrograms per kilogram. Also interesting about that study was that it had no control. They didn't bother to test products containing sucrose, or the same products made in Europe, most like using glucose syrup.

  • Josh says:

    Though it's been mentioned a couple of times here, my problem with HFCS is the systemic distortion of agricultural and nutritional policy.
    Oh, and ketchup shouldn't be sweet!

  • Clem says:

    I don't think the sugar vs HFCS issue is about nutrition or taste at all, it's about economics. Most of Americans' food is processed and packaged. Companies are therefore responsible for the ingredients they put in the food. HFCS is cheap, so they use it. It's so cheap, they can afford to OVERuse it to replace the flavors lost during processing. So I just assume that any food with HFCS in it has too much sweetener and is overprocessed, not because I know the quantity, but because I know economics.

  • Donal says:

    I did notice an HFCS-90 in the list of commercial sweeteners here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fructose Do you have information indicating that the HFCS-42 and HFCS-55 are far more common?

  • Little miss Sarah says:

    0.0 oh my gawd. You guys have so much time on your hands! Im doing a power point for english 11 and I stumbled across this page and Im kind of shocked that your all so in a huff about HFCS and table sugar. Its common sence that whats natural is better for our bodies then stuff thats been messed with in a lab. Our bodies were made to handle things we can easly get ahold of and that our right at our finger tips. Mixing molicules and crap like that isnt natural. Its the greed thats making people fat and unhealthy. Of corse brands are going to buy the cheaper stuff even if its bad for the consumer. The thing is now that its easy to make HFCS is replacing normal sugar. We all know this and no matter what we do it wont change. The best steps to take are to inform the people around you and take care of your selves and family.

  • Robert says:

    Little miss Sarah@40:
    1) Arsenic is natural as is rattlesnake venom. Natural is not always better.
    2) Keep working on that English stuff; you'll get better at it and people will be less likely to dismiss you out-of-hand.
    3) Your keyboard almost certainly has keys with these little symbols that aren't letters or numbers. Try them.

  • Brad says:

    Little miss Sarah is just a kid Robert so show her how to act like an adult and shut the hell up. Your getting off topic.

  • BlazingDragon says:

    The relative sweetness of sugars...
    There is a huge difference between glucose and fructose, with table sugar and HFCS in between those two extremes. The problem with HFCS isn't that it's not "natural," it's that it's insanely cheap because the US gives massive subsidies to grow corn every year. Because it tastes "good" and makes food taste "better," it's been put in everything you can think of (and many you wouldn't think have HCFS in them). Thus the US government is subsidizing the increasing consumption of sugars, which means extra calories.
    It also means that one has increased levels of insulin (to deal with the extra sugar), and insulin has many 2nd-messenger functions, including increasing the probability that a given excess calorie (from any dietary source) will be stored as fat, rather than burned off for heat and increasing the synthesis of cholesterol in the liver (about 80% of the cholesterol in your body comes from simple dietary fat, converted in the liver).
    It's not that HFCS is somehow "bad" and table sugar is somehow "good," but that we eat so damned much of it. We need to stop making HFCS so cheap, so the economics of putting so much of it in food change. But this steps on farm-state subsidies, which is one of the many 800-pound gorillas in federal politics. I don't see a solution to this problem except to keep studying the damage that these excess calories do with good science. Once the evidence gets overwhelming, the politicians will overcome their fear of taking on the 800-pound gorilla of corn subsidies.
    Rambling on about the "dangers" of HFCS vs. table sugar just makes one look like a crank and makes one easy to dismiss by a politician who has an 800-pound gorilla threatening to smash them flat in the next election/primary. If there is anything more than a small difference between HFCS and table sugar, it would have shown up in studies already. Even if there is some small effect, it is completely overwhelmed by the negative health effects of eating a lot more total "sugars."

  • BigSky says:

    Nice post on Fructose but one other angle on the larger story is what happens with a molecule of glucose and a molecule of fructose once they reach the mitochondria in the cell (post insulin-mediated cellular uptake).
    Each is fed into the tricarboxylic acid cycle (TCA cycle) or Krebs cycle but the difference is that glucose is first isomerized to fructose in a process that uses two ATP then they both move through the cycle to produce ATP (since they're the same molecule at this point). Ingestion of fructose directly leads to a net energy gain of 2 ATP (~10%) over what you'd get if you substituted glucose instead.
    From an athletic standpoint, drinking fructose is favorable... maybe not so much from a sedentary position on the couch.
    In the diet and health debates it might help to show people what 42 grams of sucrose looks like so they'd have some idea of how much they are ingesting. I showed my kids what 42 g looks like in a 50 ml tube... and then asked them if they thought they could eat that much sugar on a bowl of cereal. No way, but you drink a can of soda and that's what you get.

  • Joe says:

    This just came up elsewhere http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?t=143612 so I looked-up this thread again. The American Dietary Association is a good source of info: http://www.eatright.org/cps/rde/xchg/ada/hs.xsl/nutrition_19399_ENU_HTML.htm "Bottom Line: High fructose corn syrup may be used as a sweetener in processed foods and beverages and is nutritionally equivalent to sucrose. Both sweeteners contain the same number of calories (4 per gram) and consist of about equal parts of fructose and glucose. Once absorbed into the blood stream, the two sweeteners are indistinguishable." You can search the ADA site for more on the topic.
    My understanding that cost was the driving force in the use of HFCS. In addition to being cheap, it takes less to provide the same sweetness as sucrose.
    BTW, while this doesn't change the gist of your report, I rather doubt that combining glucose and fructose (HFCS) in aqueous solution results in the formation of sucrose. Are you sure about that?

  • Jack_Jacobs says:

    Hi everybody.
    Isolating its molecular activity and HFCS's similarity to sugar to determine its effects on the body stops short of other pertinent discussion points. One of the other problems is that where you find HFCS you also *don't* find "real" things, like actual fruit juice. If it were just a case of making your cranberry juice sweeter by adding HFCS it would be substantially less pernicious. But as it happens, "Cranberry Juice" has frequently been mined of any of its nutritionally advantageous bulk and is reassembled with HFCS. I always think of busy single moms who are probably not working within a limitless budget, trying to promote healthy kids by encouraging them to drink juice instead of soda; but flip the bottle over and you find that it basically *is* soda. So I guess one could glibly say, "buy organic"... but at the price variance I'd say that's an unrealistic thing to imagine people really getting behind.
    I appreciate this blog and the tone of the comments are heartening.

  • FairyFloss says:

    Well done to BlazingDragon, who has essentially got to the heart of this matter - great summary of the issues. It seems that getting sidetracked on HFCS v. Sucrose, is missing the trees for the forest, big time - it's all sugar and sugar consumption is way too high, coupled with sedentary lifestyles and lack of whole, unprocessed foods.

  • Rick says:

    It is highly likely your article misses the entire point, which is the process in which HFCS is processed. The caustic soda baths , the Mercury!Rest my case.

  • Cameron Payne says:

    An hour ago, some Princeton researchers posted an article
    "Princeton researchers find that high-fructose corn syrup prompts considerably more weight gain". http://www.princeton.edu/main/news/archive/S26/91/22K07/
    The paper can be found at ScienceDirect http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6T0N-4YGHGM1-1&_user=10&_coverDate=02%2F26%2F2010&_alid=1262519976&_rdoc=1&_fmt=high&_orig=search&_cdi=4867&_sort=d&_docanchor=&view=c&_ct=19&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=f78669957f151cdbcaa2395c1445a400
    This is the smoking gun deathknell for HFCS. Wait till Michelle Obama finds out. Go get 'em, Michelle. This is your chance to save America's children.

  • mdubs says:

    got to go

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