So the multi-national food conglomerates and their advertising firms want you to believe that High Fructose Corn Syrup is natural because it “comes from corn”, and is fine “in moderation”?
Well, let’s take a closer look at how it’s made so you can make an educated decision!
Converting corn starch into corn syrup
- Corn starch is converted into ordinary corn syrup through a process called acid hydrolysis. In this process, the wet starch is mixed with a weak solution of hydrochloric acid and is heated under pressure. The hydrochloric acid and heat break down the starch molecules and convert them into a sugar. The hydrolysis can be interrupted at different key points to produce corn syrups of varying sweetness. The longer the process is allowed to proceed, the sweeter the resulti?g syrup.
- This syrup is then filtered or otherwise clarified to remove any objectionable flavor or color. It is further refined and evaporated to reduce the amount of water.
- To produce a corn syrup powder, also called corn syrup solids, the liquid corn syrup is passed through a drum or spray dryer to remove 97% of the water. This produces a crystalline corn syrup powder.
Converting corn syrup into high fructose corn syrup
- Ordinary corn syrup contains dextrose sugar which is about three-quarters as sweet as the sucrose sugar in cane or beet sugar. In many sweetener applications this is an advantage because it does not overpower the other flavors in the food. However, in some applications, such as soft drinks, a sweeter taste is desired. To improve the sweetness of ordinary corn syrup, it undergoes a further process called enzyme conversion. In this process, the dextrose sugars in the syrup are converted into sweeter fructose sugars by the action of an enzyme in a series of steps under carefully controlled temperatures, pressures, and acidity. This produces a high fructose corn syrup with a 42% fructose content. It is used in canned fruits and condiments.
- To produce corn syrups with a fructose level above 50%, the 42% fructose syrup is passed through a series of fractionation columns, which separate and hold the fructose content. The separated portion is about 80-90% fructose and is flushed from the columns with deionized water. A portion of this is retained and sold for use in “light” foods where only a small amount of liquid sweetener is needed. The remainder is blended with other 42% fructose syrup to produce a 55% fructose syrup, which is used in soft drinks, ice cream, and frozen desserts.
- Powdered high fructose corn syrups can be produced by evaporating the water from the syrup and then encapsulating the powder grains to prevent them from reabsorbing moisture. Pure fructose crystals may be obtained by further processing the 80-90% fructose syrup. It is used in cake mixes and other food products where a highly concentrated, dry sweetener is desired.
Today, corn syrups are an “important part” of many products. In 1996, there were 28 corn-refining plants in the United States that processed a total of about 72 billion lbs (33 billion kg) of corn. Of that amount, about 25 billion lbs (11.4 billion kg) were converted into corn syrups and other corn sweeteners. These corn-based products supplied more than 55% of the nutritive sweetener market in the United States.
Fifty-five percent! And this is something the Corn Refiners Association seems proud of. Americans currently consume about 25% of their total calories from sugar, and about half of that in the form of fructose. So, what’s so bad about that you say? Here’s a little lesson about precisely how dangerous it really is.
Leptin: the reason why obesity and obesity related deaths are on the rise
- To sum up a complex process very simply, the hormones your fat cells produce impact how much you eat and how much fat you burn.
- One of these hormones is leptin, and leptin sends signals that reduce hunger, increase fat burning and reduce fat storage. That is, if your cells are communicating properly and can “hear” this message.
- If you are eating a diet that is high in sugar — this is the same type of diet that will also increase inflammation in your body — as the sugar gets metabolized in fat cells, fat releases surges in leptin.
- Over time, if your body is exposed to too much leptin, it will become resistant to the leptin (just as your body can become resistant to insulin).
- When you become leptin-resistant, your body can no longer hear the messages telling it to stop eating and burn fat — so it remains hungry and stores more fat.
- Leptin-resistance also causes an increase in visceral fat, sending you on a vicious cycle of hunger, fat storage and an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome (a group of symptoms including diabetes, pre-diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol that increases the risk of heart disease) and more.
Leptin, the hormone responsible for satiety (feeling satisfied), simply isn’t working. And it’s all because of massive surge in sugar intake spearheaded by the yearly conversion of over 25,000,000,000 (twenty-five billion) pounds of corn into corn syrup. Corn syrup is now found in every type of processed, pre-packaged food you can think of. In fact, the use of High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) in the U.S. diet increased by a whopping 10,673% (that’s more than 100x) between 1970 and 2005, according to a report by the USDA.
(And, by the way, this is just part of the High Fructose Corn Syrup story. There’s a lot more to come…)