The Truth About High Fructose Corn Syrup
Dr. Liz Applegate, UC Davis Lecturer and nutrition expert, recently discussed high fructose corn syrup in the January 2009 edition of Runner’s World magazine. High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is produced by milling corn to produce corn starch. The starch is then processed to a corn syrup which is almost entirely glucose. Enzymes are then added which change the glucose into fructose. The finished product, HFCS, is used extensively in soda and sweet drinks as well as processed foods.
In her column “Fridge Wisdom”, Dr. Applegate refutes the negative issues surrounding high fructose corn syrup:
High fructose corn syrup is a mixture of glucose and fructose and has virtually the same composition as regular table sugar, or sucrose. Some controversial reports have suggested a link between HFCS and obesity and diabetes, but research does not show that HFCS is metabolized any differently than table sugar; nor do studies show conclusively that it causes obesity or diabetes.
Dr. Applegate concludes her column by stating that much like table sugar, high fructose corn syrup contains zero nutritional value and contains only empty calories. As such, she recommends moderation when consuming HFCS in your diet.
There is much controversy surrounding HFCS. Critics argue that farmers (with government subsidies) are producing cheap corn which leads to cheap sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup. The argument continues that the inclusion of these cheap sweeteners in drinks and processed foods ultimately leads to obesity and diabetes, especially in the United States.
Dr. Ruth Litchfield, Iowa State University Professor and Extension Nutrition Specialist, appears to agree with the assessment by Dr. Applegate. In the Fall 2008 Iowa State University magazine, Stories, Dr. Litchfield writes:
Obesity is a multifaceted problem that can’t be attributed to just one dietary component. Overweight/obesity is an imbalance of energy in (diet) versus energy out (physical activity). Corn syrup has been used in the food industry since the 1970s due to its versatility and low cost. It provides the same number of calories per gram as table or cane sugar. The increase in corn syrup intake has been mirrored by a decrease in cane sugar consumption. However, it is the increase in total sweetener intake over the past 30 years, not one specific kind, that has led to excessive calorie consumption and weight gain.
I am glad to see two very well-known and respected nutritionists shed some light on the high fructose corn syrup debate.