High fructose corn syrup, a popular sweetener used in most fast foods and bottled beverages get a bad rap these days. It has been linked to a number of diseases including obesity, type 2 diabetes and liver damage. But how much is true about these claims? Should high fructose corn syrup be totally eliminated from our diet? Before we reach any conclusion, let us take a look at what high fructose corn syrup is made of and consider its pros and cons.
What is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS)?
HFCS is a fructose-glucose liquid sweetener mainly used as an alternative to common table sugar or sucrose. It was first introduced to the food and beverage industry in 1979 and was soon widely embraced by food formulators a replacement for sucrose. Composition- and metabolism-wise, it was no different from other fructose-glucose sweeteners such as sucrose, fruit juice concentrates and honey. However, it is better than sucrose when it comes to stability, functionality and ease of use.
List of Pros of High Fructose Corn Syrup
1. Cheaper than real sugar.
One of the reasons HFCS became widely popular among food and beverage companies is that it is cheaper compared to natural sweeteners like cane and beet sugar. According to the Corn Refiners Association, the cost-saving benefit of this alternative sweeter has a passed on a savings of more $3.8 billion to American consumers over the past decade.
2. Longer life.
As mentioned, HFCS is more stable compared to table sugar. This means that food stays longer, making it safe to consumer for prolonged period.
Aside from the fact that it is cheap, HFCS is also sweeter than regular sugar. This means that food and beverage manufacturers can save up on their sugar consumption, reducing their cost further.
We know from our science class that sugar is a good preservative. And HFCS, because it is sweeter than table sugar, is now more and more used as a preservative.
List of Cons of High Fructose Corn Syrup
1. Weight gain.
A 2010 study published in Princeton University’s “Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior” journal showed that rats which consumed HFCS gained more weight and body fat than those rats which consumed table sugar. It also found that the rats have higher blood triglyceride levels, which contribute to diabetes and heart disease.
2. Less hunger-satisfying.
Studies show that only a small amount of HFCS sugar is used to make food sweeter. This means that those who eat food with high fructose corn syrup eat a lot but satisfy their hunger for a short period of time, causing them to look for food again.
3. Metabolic risk.
Unlike glucose that is metabolized in ALL cells (providing the cells an extra source of energy), HFCS metabolizes ONLY in the liver and at a rapid rate. What does this mean? Too much of this additive in your diet can flood your metabolic pathways, resulting to increased triglyceride synthesis and fat storage in your liver. This can lead to obesity and cardiovascular disease. In addition, loading up your liver with too much fructose can lead to uric acid production, a risk factor for gout in some individuals.
4. Insulin resistance.
Studies show that the high amount of fructose coming to the liver can lead to metabolic disturbances resulting to insulin resistance, a symptom of type 2 diabetes.
These days, it can be hard to find processed foods and beverages without high fructose corn syrup, so the best thing anyone can do is limit their consumption of the said foods and eat more natural foods.