High-fructose corn syrup (High-fructose corn syrup), also known as glucose–fructose, isoglucose and glucose–fructose syrup, is a sweetener made from corn starch.
As in the production of conventional corn syrup, the starch is broken down into glucose by enzymes.
To make High-fructose corn syrup, the corn syrup is further processed by D-xylose isomerase to convert some of its glucose into fructose.
High-fructose corn syrup was first marketed in the early 1970s by the Clinton Corn Processing Company, together with the Japanese Agency of Industrial Science and Technology, where the enzyme was discovered in 1965.
As a sweetener, High-fructose corn syrup is often compared to granulated sugar, but manufacturing advantages of High-fructose corn syrup over sugar include that it is easier to handle and cheaper.
"High-fructose corn syrup 42" and "High-fructose corn syrup 55" refer to dry weight fructose compositions of 42% and 55% respectively, the rest being glucose.
High-fructose corn syrup 42 is mainly used for processed foods and breakfast cereals, whereas High-fructose corn syrup 55 is used mostly for production of soft drinks.
The United States Food and Drug Administration states that it is not aware of evidence showing that High-fructose corn syrup is less safe than traditional sweeteners such as sucrose and honey.
Uses and exports of High-fructose corn syrup from American producers have grown steadily during the early 21st century.
In the U.S., High-fructose corn syrup is among the sweeteners that mostly replaced sucrose (table sugar) in the food industry.
Factors contributing to the rise of High-fructose corn syrup include production quotas of domestic sugar, import tariffs on foreign sugar, and subsidies of U.S. corn, raising the price of sucrose and lowering that of High-fructose corn syrup, making it cheapest for many sweetener applications.
In spite of having a 10% greater fructose content, the relative sweetness of High-fructose corn syrup 55, used most commonly in soft drinks, is comparable to that of sucrose.
High-fructose corn syrup (and/or standard corn syrup) is the primary ingredient in most brands of commercial "pancake syrup", as a less expensive substitute for maple syrup.
Because of its similar sugar profile and lower price, High-fructose corn syrup is often added to adulterate honey.
Assays to detect adulteration with High-fructose corn syrup use differential scanning calorimetry and other advanced testing methods.
In the contemporary process, corn is milled to extract corn starch and an "acid-enzyme" process is used, in which the corn-starch solution is acidified to begin breaking up the existing carbohydrates. High-temperature enzymes are added to further metabolize the starch and convert the resulting sugars to fructose.
The first enzyme added is alpha-amylase, which breaks the long chains down into shorter sugar chains – oligosaccharides. Glucoamylase is mixed in and converts them to glucose.
The resulting solution is filtered to remove protein, then using activated carbon, and then demineralized using ion-exchange resins.
The purified solution is then run over immobilized xylose isomerase, which turns the sugars to ~50–52% glucose with some unconverted oligosaccharides and 42% fructose (High-fructose corn syrup 42), and again demineralized and again purified using activated carbon.
Some is processed into High-fructose corn syrup 90 by liquid chromatography, and then mixed with High-fructose corn syrup 42 to form High-fructose corn syrup 55.
The enzymes used in the process are made by microbial fermentation.
Composition and varieties
High-fructose corn syrup is 24% water, the rest being mainly fructose and glucose with 0–5% unprocessed glucose oligomers.
The most common forms of High-fructose corn syrup used for food and beverage manufacturing contain fructose in either 42% ("High-fructose corn syrup 42") or 55% ("High-fructose corn syrup 55") by dry weight, as described in the US Code of Federal Regulations (21 CFR 184.1866).
High-fructose corn syrup 42 (approx. 42% fructose if water were ignored) is used in beverages, processed foods, cereals, and baked goods.
High-fructose corn syrup 55 is mostly used in soft drinks.
High-fructose corn syrup 70 is used in filling jellies
Most countries, including Mexico, use sucrose, or table sugar, in soft drinks.
In the U.S., soft drinks, such as Coca-Cola, are typically made with High-fructose corn syrup 55.
High-fructose corn syrup has a sweeter taste than glucose.
Some Americans seek out drinks such as Mexican Coca-Cola in ethnic groceries because they prefer the taste over that of High-fructose corn syrup-sweetened Coca-Cola.
Kosher Coca-Cola, sold in the U.S. around the Jewish holiday of Passover, also uses sucrose rather than High-fructose corn syrup and is highly sought after by people who prefer the original taste.
Main article: Colony collapse disorder
In apiculture in the United States, High-fructose corn syrup is a honey substitute for some managed honey bee colonies during times when nectar is in low supply.
However, when High-fructose corn syrup is heated to about 45 °C (113 °F), hydroxymethylfurfural, which is toxic to bees, can form from the breakdown of fructose.
Although some researchers cite honey substitution with High-fructose corn syrup as one factor among many for colony collapse disorder, there is no evidence that High-fructose corn syrup is the only cause.
Compared to hive honey, both High-fructose corn syrup and sucrose caused signs of malnutrition in bees fed with them, apparent in the expression of genes involved in protein metabolism and other processes affecting honey bee health.
Main article: Public relations of high-fructose corn syrup
There are various public relations concerns with High-fructose corn syrup, including how High-fructose corn syrup products are advertised and labeled as "natural".
As a consequence, several companies reverted to manufacturing with sucrose (table sugar) from products that had previously been made with High-fructose corn syrup.
In 2010, the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) applied to allow High-fructose corn syrup to be renamed "corn sugar", but that petition was rejected by the United States Food and Drug Administration in 2012.
In August 2016 in a move to please consumers with health concerns, McDonald's announced they would be replacing all High-fructose corn syrup in their buns with sucrose (table sugar) and would cut out preservatives and other artificial additives from their menu items.
Marion Gross, senior vice president of McDonald's stated, "We know that they [consumers] don't feel good about high-fructose corn syrup so we're giving them what they're looking for instead."
Over the early 21st century, other companies such as Yoplait, Gatorade, and Hershey's also phased out High-fructose corn syrup, replacing it with conventional sugar because consumers perceived sugar to be healthier.
Companies such as PepsiCo and Heinz have also released products that use sugar in lieu of High-fructose corn syrup, although they still sell High-fructose corn syrup-sweetened products.
Commercial production of corn syrup began in 1964.
In the late 1950s, scientists at Clinton Corn Processing Company of Clinton, Iowa, tried to turn glucose from corn starch into fructose, but the process was not scalable.
In 1965–1970 Yoshiyuki Takasaki, at the Japanese National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) developed a heat-stable xylose isomerase enzyme from yeast.
In 1967, the Clinton Corn Processing Company obtained an exclusive license to manufacture glucose isomerase derived from Streptomyces bacteria and began shipping an early version of High-fructose corn syrup in February 1967.
In 1983, the FDA approved High-fructose corn syrup as Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS), and that decision was reaffirmed in 1996.
Prior to the development of the worldwide sugar industry, dietary fructose was limited to only a few items.
Milk, meats, and most vegetables, the staples of many early diets, have no fructose, and only 5–10% fructose by weight is found in fruits such as grapes, apples, and blueberries.
Most traditional dried fruits, however, contain about 50% fructose.
From 1970 to 2000, there was a 25% increase in "added sugars" in the U.S.
When recognized as a cheaper, more versatile sweetener, High-fructose corn syrup replaced sucrose as the main sweetener of soft drinks in the United States.
Since 1789, the U.S. sugar industry has had trade protection in the form of tariffs on foreign-produced sugar, while subsidies to corn growers cheapen the primary ingredient in High-fructose corn syrup, corn.
Accordingly, industrial users looking for cheaper sugar replacements rapidly adopted High-fructose corn syrup in the 1970s
Starch consists of chains of glucose, which is a sugar. Breaking corn starch down into individual glucose molecules forms corn syrup.
To create High-fructose corn syrup, manufacturers add enzymes to corn syrup that convert some of the glucose to fructose.
Fructose is the type of sugar present in fruit and is very sweet.
The amount of fructose in High-fructose corn syrup varies, but the most common varieties contain either 42% or 55%.
As with High-fructose corn syrup, table sugar, or sucrose, also consists of glucose and fructose.
Many foods contain High-fructose corn syrup, so this list is by no means exhaustive.
The most common sources of this ingredient include:
Soda: Almost all sodas contain High-fructose corn syrup, often in very large quantities.
Sweetened juices: Some fruit juices, including those that manufacturers market to children, contain High-fructose corn syrup.
Processed desserts: Packaged sweets, including candy, prepackaged cookies, muffins, and other desserts, often include High-fructose corn syrup.
Packaged fruits: Some applesauce, cranberry sauce, dried fruit snacks, and other fruit-based snacks contain High-fructose corn syrup as a sweetener.
Crackers: Some crackers, mixed snack packages, and other cracker-like products use High-fructose corn syrup to increase sweetness.
Condiments and salad dressings: Many condiments, even salty ones such as ketchup, use High-fructose corn syrup as a sweetener. Check the labels of salad dressings, ketchup, barbecue sauce, and other condiments.
Prepackaged meals: A variety of prepackaged meals, including some pizzas, contain High-fructose corn syrup.
Granola and nutrition bars: Granola bars, protein bars, and other purportedly healthful snacks often use sweeteners to improve the taste. High-fructose corn syrup is one of the most popular sweeteners in these products.
Peanut and other nut butters: Peanut butter might seem to be a savory treat, but it is actually very sweet. Many peanut butter manufacturers add sugar, and some add High-fructose corn syrup. The same is true of some other nut butters, such as cashew and almond butter.
Some bread and wheat: Some sweetened breads and wheats, including some pastas, contain High-fructose corn syrup.
High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is actually a group of corn or potato syrups.
They have been processed by enzymes to increase the fructose content; then they are mixed with pure corn syrup (100 percent glucose).
High-fructose corn syrup does not contain any artificial or synthetic ingredients or color additives, and it meets the FDA’s requirements for the term natural.
High-fructose corn syrup is relatively inexpensive.
High-fructose corn syrup, table sugar (sucrose), honey, and several fruit juices all contain the same type of simple sugars. Sucrose and High-fructose corn syrup contain nearly the same one-to-one ratio of fructose and glucose.
Sucrose is 50 percent fructose and 50 percent glucose;
High-fructose corn syrup is 42 to 55 percent fructose, with the remaining sugars from glucose and other sugars.
The type of High-fructose corn syrup that is most commonly used in soft drinks is 55 percent fructose and 45 percent glucose (High-fructose corn syrup-55).
High-fructose corn syrup-42 is less sweet and is used in many fruit-flavored noncarbonated beverages and in baked goods.
High-fructose corn syrup has the same number of calories per teaspoon as table sugar (4 calories per gram) and is equal in sweetness to table sugar.
In addition to its sweetening properties, High-fructose corn syrup helps to keep foods fresh, lowers the freezing point, retains moisture in bran cereals and breakfast bars, enhances fruit and spice flavors, promotes surface browning, and provides fermentability.
The amount of High-fructose corn syrup in fruit juice and soda has been implicated as a contributing factor in obesity and diabetes, but this correlation remains to be proven.
Both sucrose and High-fructose corn syrup appear to be metabolized the same way in the body.
Pure fructose can stimulate the liver to produce triglycerides and induce insulin resistance, risk factors in diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Studies that compare High-fructose corn syrup to sucrose conclude that they essentially have the same physiological effects, with little or no evidence that High-fructose corn syrup is different from sucrose in its effects on appetite or the metabolic processes that are involved in fat storage.
An expert panel concluded that the current evidence is insufficient to implicate High-fructose corn syrup as a causal factor in overweight and obesity in the United States.
Like many other sweeteners and dietary substances, High-fructose corn syrup should be used in moderation along with a well-balanced diet, if at all.
This is another area of nutrition worth watching, as fruit drink and soft drink consumption have dramatically risen since the 1970s, while dairy milk, a more nutritious beverage, has fallen.
High-fructose corn syrup is a liquid sweetener made from corn.
When corn starch is broken down into individual molecules, it becomes corn syrup, which is 100% glucose, a simple sugar.
Enzymes are added to convert some of this glucose into fructose.
High-fructose corn syrup was introduced in the 1970s.
High-fructose corn syrup has the same calories as other added sugars.
High-fructose corn syrup is cheaper than sugar, with better flavor enhancement and longer shelf life.
It’s more stable and consistent, especially in acidic foods and drinks.
oods with high-fructose corn syrup include:
Fast food items
Bread and baked goods
Sweetened dairy products like yogurts
Canned foods like soups and fruit
Where does High-fructose corn syrup come from?
High-fructose corn syrup is derived from corn starch.
Starch itself is a chain of glucose (a simple sugar) molecules joined together.
When corn starch is broken down into individual glucose molecules, the end product is corn syrup, which is essentially 100% glucose.
To make High-fructose corn syrup, enzymes are added to corn syrup in order to convert some of the glucose to another simple sugar called fructose, also called “fruit sugar” because it occurs naturally in fruits and berries.
High-fructose corn syrup is ‘high’ in fructose compared to the pure glucose that is in corn syrup.
Different formulations of High-fructose corn syrup contain different amounts of fructose.
How is High-fructose corn syrup made?
As its name implies, high fructose corn syrup is made from corn.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. is the world’s largest corn producer, with Iowa and Illinois growing the most.
Corn is a versatile crop.
High-fructose corn syrupcan be dry milled to produce cereals, flours and grits or it can be wet milled to produce alcohols, ethanol, oils, starches and sugars.
High-fructose corn syrup is made through wet milling.
Starch is separated from the other parts of the corn and used to make a syrup, which is nearly 100% glucose.
This syrup is then converted, refined and filtered into liquid mixtures of either 42% or 55% fructose, with glucose making up the majority of the remaining sugars.
Is High-fructose corn syrup a natural or added sugar?
High-fructose corn syrup is considered an added sugar because we only consume it from packaged foods and beverages to which it has been added during manufacturing.
Current dietary guidance recommends limiting the consumption of added sugars to less than 10% of total calories—in other words, less than 50 grams of added sugars if you consume 2,000 calories per day.
About six in ten American adults eat more added sugars than is recommended.
How is High-fructose corn syrup digested?
Like other caloric sugars, High-fructose corn syrup provides about four calories per gram.
And the way we digest High-fructose corn syrup is similar to other sugars as well.
When we consume High-fructose corn syrup, we consume glucose and fructose.
Glucose ultimately gets taken up by our cells with the help of insulin, while fructose is handled in the liver and does not need insulin to be absorbed.
A 2015 randomized cross-over trial found no differences in blood glucose response or other cardiometabolic outcomes in people who consumed beverages sweetened with High-fructose corn syrup, honey and sucrose daily for two weeks.
Some foods and beverages provide more nutrients than others, which can affect how we metabolize sugars, including High-fructose corn syrup.
One such nutrient is fiber.
We digest fiber-containing foods and beverages more slowly and the rate of glucose absorption is also slowed.
Thus, foods, beverages and meals that contain fiber generally do not impact our blood sugar as much as those without fiber.
Why is High-fructose corn syrup added to foods and beverages?
High-fructose corn syrup is not sold directly to consumers in grocery stores.
Rather, it is only used commercially in items like baked goods, beverages, candies, canned and packaged foods, condiments, jams, yogurts and other sweetened foods.
High-fructose corn syrup use in the U.S. began in the late 1960s, peaked in 1999 and has declined during this century as Americans have reduced added sugars consumption.
The most recent estimates from the U.S. Department of Agriculture show that per capita, similar amounts of High-fructose corn syrup were available for consumption in 2016-17 as was available in 1984–85.
Most people are aware that High-fructose corn syrup and other sugars are added to foods and beverages to provide sweetness (sucrose and High-fructose corn syrup are equal in sweetness), but many may not know that sugars are also used for other reasons.
High-fructose corn syrup is a common ingredient in baked goods to provide surface browning, moisture, structure and texture, in beverages for body and flavor, in breads, jams and jellies to act as a preservative, and in other items to stabilize emulsions and add flavor.
While added sugars such as High-fructose corn syrup give many of our favorite foods the taste and mouthfeel we have come to expect, it is important to keep our consumption of added sugars low.
The rise of High-fructose corn syrup
High fructose corn syrup production begins with making syrup from cornstarch.
This initial stage corn syrup is mostly glucose, and you can find it in the supermarket (pro tip: mix with red food coloring to make cheap and very convincing fake blood).
This syrup is then isomerized (i.e., atoms shuffled around) to convert some of the glucose into fructose.
The process was originally introduced in 1957, but it didn’t take off right away.
There are actually three types of high fructose corn syrup out there, named for their fructose content:
High-fructose corn syrup-42 (42% fructose), High-fructose corn syrup-55 (55% fructose) and High-fructose corn syrup-90 (you guessed it, 90% fructose).
High-fructose corn syrup-42 was the first to be created and is still used today in processed foods and some beverages.
High-fructose corn syrup-90 is made by passing High-fructose corn syrup-42 through an ion exchange column designed to retain more of its fructose component. The primarily-fructose product that results isn’t used as a sweetener, but rather is mixed with High-fructose corn syrup-42 to generate High-fructose corn syrup-55.
The intermediately sugary High-fructose corn syrup-55, introduced in the late 1970s, is the most commonly used sweetener in U.S. soft drinks.
This fine tuning of High-fructose corn syrup manufacturing occurred during a period in U.S. history when sugar was becoming more expensive (in part due to trade restrictions) and corn cheaper.
Farm subsidies encouraging farmers to produce as much corn as possible resulted in excess supply and thus falling prices.
Manufacturers stood to save money by switching to corn-based ingredients.
In 1980, Coca-Cola began using High-fructose corn syrup in its beverages, and by the mid 80s most other soft drink companies had followed suit.
High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is an industrial sugar used to sweeten many processed foods and beverages.
High-fructose corn syrup is made from corn starch and is relatively inexpensive to manufacture.
Most High-fructose corn syrup is composed of approximately 55% glucose and 45% fructose, while table sugar (sucrose) is 50% glucose and 50% fructose.
The levels of all sugars consumed per person in the U.S. has increased from 4 pounds a year in 1776 to 20 pounds in 1850, to 120 pounds in 1994, and now 160 pounds per person per year.
Much of this increase in sugar consumption is from High-fructose corn syrup, especially in the form of soft drinks.
What is High Fructose Corn Syrup?
Before I get to recommendations, it is important to understand what High-fructose corn syrup actually is.
Contrary to some ideas, High-fructose corn syrup is not a sweetener created from extra high concentrations of fructose, as the name may suggest.
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, High-fructose corn syrup is produced from corn syrup, which is typically 100% glucose.
This syrup is processed to increase the amount of fructose and is then blended with glucose.
Fructose is a sugar naturally found in fruits, while glucose is a simple sugar used as a source of energy for the body.
Interesting facts about High-fructose corn syrup:
High-fructose corn syrup’s used to sweeten foods and drinks, especially processed and store-bought foods
High-fructose corn syrup’s just as sweet as table sugar
High-fructose corn syrup blends well with other foods
High-fructose corn syrup has a longer shelf life than other sweeteners, such as cane sugar
High-fructose corn syrup’s less expensive than other sweeteners
High-fructose corn syrup can range in fructose content from 42% fructose in baked goods to 55% fructose in beverages (table sugar is 50% fructose)
High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a liquid sweetener made from cornstarch.
It is made by breaking down corn into molecules of glucose (a type of sugar).
Half the glucose molecules are then chemically changed into fructose (another type of sugar – but sweeter).
On food labels, you may see HFCS called “glucose-fructose”.