High fructose corn syrup
A high fructose corn syrup (HFCS)—also called glucose-fructose in Canada and isoglucose, glucose-fructose syrup or fructose-glucose syrup in Europe—is any of a group of corn syrups that have undergone enzymatic processing to convert some of its glucose into fructose to produce a desired sweetness. In North America, because of its low price compared to sucrose (table sugar), HFCS is commonly used in processed foods.
HFCS consists of 24% water and the rest sugars - mainly fructose/glucose with 0-5% glucose oligomers, but also including 0.3 - 1.1 grams/liter toxic dicarbonyl degradation products. The most widely used varieties of HFCS are: HFCS 55 (mostly used in soft drinks), approximately 55% fructose and 42% glucose; and HFCS 42 (used in beverages, processed foods, cereals, and baked goods), approximately 42% fructose and 53% glucose. HFCS-90, approximately 90% fructose and 10% glucose, is used in small quantities for specialty applications but primarily is used to blend with HFCS 42 to make HFCS 55 (see below).
- 1 Use as a replacement for sugar
- 2 Comparison to other sweeteners
- 3 Production
- 4 Sweetener consumption patterns
- 5 Health
- 6 Apiculture
- 7 Public relations
- 8 See also
- 9 Further reading
- 10 References
- 11 External links
Use as a replacement for sugar
In the United States, HFCS is among the sweeteners that have primarily replaced sucrose (table sugar) in the food industry. Factors for this include governmental production quotas of domestic sugar, subsidies of U.S. corn, and an import tariff on foreign sugar, all of which combine to raise the price of sucrose to levels above those of the rest of the world, making HFCS cheapest for many sweetener applications. The relative sweetness of HFCS 55 is comparable to that of table sugar (sucrose), a disaccharide of fructose and glucose, (HFCS 90 is sweeter than sucrose and HFCS 42 is less sweet than sucrose) while, being a liquid, HFCS is easier to blend.
Comparison to other sweeteners
|Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)|
|Energy||1,176 kJ (281 kcal)|
|Dietary fiber||0 g|
Shown is for 100 g, roughly 5.25 tbsp.
|Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database
Cane and beet sugar
Cane sugar and beet sugar are both relatively pure sucrose. While glucose and fructose (the two components of HFCS) are monosaccharides, sucrose is a disaccharide composed of glucose and fructose linked together with a relatively weak glycosidic bond. The fact that sucrose, glucose, and fructose are unique, distinct molecules complicates the comparison between cane and beet sugar (sucrose) and HFCS. A molecule of sucrose (with a chemical formula of C12H22O11) can be broken down into a molecule of glucose (C6H12O6) plus a molecule of fructose (also C6H12O6, an isomer of glucose), in a weakly acidic environment by a process called inversion. Sucrose is broken down during digestion into a mixture of 50% fructose and 50% glucose through hydrolysis by the enzyme sucrase. People with sucrase deficiency cannot digest (break down) sucrose and thus exhibit sucrose intolerance.
Because of its superficially similar sugar profile and lower price, HFCS has been used illegally to "stretch" honey. Checks no longer test for higher-than-normal sucrose, which HFCS does not contain, but for proteins unique to honey, or use differential scanning calorimetry.
HFCS was first introduced by Richard O. Marshall and Earl R. Kooi in 1957. The enzyme was unviable for mass production, because it required toxic arsenate to work. An industrially feasible glucose (xylose) isomerase that didn't need arsenate, was first discovered by Kei Yamanaka, Kagawa University, Japan, in 1961. The process was refined by Yoshiyuki Takasaki at the Agency of Industrial Science and Technology of Ministry of International Trade and Industry of Japan in 1965–1970.
Milling corn (maize) produces corn starch; added alpha-amylase turns it to shorter sugar chains - oligosaccharides. Glucoamylase is mixed in and converts them to glucose; xylose isomerase (aka glucose isomerase) is on a solid support due to its expense, it turns the mix to 42% fructose and ~50–52% glucose with some other sugars (HFCS 42). Some of this is processed into HFCS 90 by liquid chromatography, then mixed with HFCS 42 to form HFCS 55 (these percentages refer to the proportion of fructose in the dry residue, if all water were removed).
Most manufacturers use carbon adsorption to remove non-sugar compounds. Numerous filtration, ion-exchange, and evaporation steps are also part of the overall process. During these processing steps, sugars can be considerably degraded, leading, for example, to the formation of reactive α-dicarbonyl compounds (α-DCs).
Although both types of amylase are naturally produced by many animals (including humans), the most common method of commercial production is microbial fermentation. Xylose isomerase is not native to animals, and in standard glycolysis the glucose molecules are isomerized only after phosphorylation by glucose-6-phosphate isomerase to fructose 6-phosphate. Fructose molecules are phosphorylated by fructokinase and enter the glycolytic pathway at this point.
Recently, an isotopic method was developed for assessment of intake of sweeteners derived from corn and sugar cane in humans, relative to total intake.
Sweetener consumption patterns
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. Molasses and common dried fruits have a content of less than 10% fructose sugar. From 1970 to 2000 there was a 25% increase in "added sugars" in the U.S.
The use of HFCS in the United States is partially attributable to government tariffs that maintain domestic sugar prices at above the global price and subsidies to corn growers that lower the cost of the primary ingredient in HFCS, corn. Since 1797 there have been a system of sugar tariffs and sugar quotas in the United States that maintains the price of imported sugar at levels up to twice the global price. Industrial users of sugar were continually looking for cheaper replacements and HFCS was rapidly adopted as a lower cost sweetener when a food grade version became available in the 1970s. HFCS derived from corn is more economical than sugar in the United States.
HFCS is more stable, particularly in acidic beverages, and its liquid form is easier to transport, handle, and mix than granulated sucrose. Soft drink makers such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi use sugar in other nations, but switched to HFCS in the U.S. in 1984. Large corporations, such as Archer Daniels Midland, lobby for the continuation of government corn subsidies.
Other countries, including Mexico, typically use sugar in soft drinks. Some Americans seek out Mexican Coca-Cola in ethnic groceries because they prefer the taste compared to Coca-Cola in the U.S. which is made with HFCS. Kosher for Passover Coca-Cola sold in the U.S. around the Jewish holiday also uses sucrose rather than HFCS and is also highly sought after by people who prefer the original taste.
Consumption of HFCS in the U.S. has declined since it peaked at 37.5 lb (17.0 kg) per person in 1999. The average American consumed approximately 27.1 lb (12.3 kg) of HFCS in 2012, versus 39.0 lb (17.7 kg) of refined cane and beet sugar. "
In the European Union (EU), HFCS, known as isoglucose in sugar regime, is subject to a production quota. In 2005, this quota was set at 303,000 tons; in comparison, the EU produced an average of 18.6 million tons of sugar annually between 1999 and 2001. Wide-scale replacement of sugar with HFCS has not occurred in the EU. For labeling purpose, syrup which is predominantly glucose, like HFCS 42, is called Glucose-Fructose Syrup (GFS), while syrup which is predominantly fructose, like HFCS 55, called Fructose-Glucose Syrup (FGS).
In Japan, HFCS accounts for one quarter of total sweetener consumption. In the Japanese Agricultural Standard it is called 異性化糖 ("isomerized sugar"). If a syrup contains more than 50% glucose, it is called ブドウ糖果糖液糖 ("glucose fructose syrup"); if syrup contains 50% to 90% fructose, it is called 果糖ブドウ糖液糖 ("fructose glucose syrup"); and if syrup is more than 90% fructose, it is called 高果糖液糖 ("high fructose syrup").
α-dicarbonyl degradation products
While some high-fructose corn syrup advocates may claim the product contains all-natural ingredients, one study detected multiple toxic dicarbonyl degradation products, created during the processing steps. The seven major dicarbonyls are: 3-deoxyglucosone, glucosone, 3-deoxygalactosone, 1-deoxyglucosone, 3,4-dideoxyglucosone-3-ene, methylglyoxal, and glyoxal. 3-Deoxyglucosone was identified as the major α-DC with concentrations up to 730 μg/mL HFCS. The total α-DC content ranged from 0.293 to 1.130 gram/liter HFCS. These compounds react with amino acids to form Advanced glycation end-products. The α-dicarbonyls and AGEs are inducing and compounding factors of diabetes and its complications, e.g. nephropathy, Alzheimer's disease and cataracts, and vascular complications. AGEs affect nearly every type of cell and molecule in the body and are thought to be one factor in aging and some age-related chronic diseases.
Health concerns have been raised about HFCS's contribution to obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Critics of the extensive use of HFCS in food sweetening argue that the highly processed substance is more harmful to humans than regular sugar, contributing to weight gain by affecting normal appetite functions.
The Corn Refiners Association disputes this and claims HFCS is comparable to table sugar. Studies by the AMA state that "it appears unlikely that HFCS contributes more to obesity or other conditions than sucrose", but welcome further independent research. However, fructose, in contrast to glucose, was shown to potently stimulate lipogenesis (creation of fatty acids, for conversion to fat). A review in Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism concluded: 'dietary fructose might promote the development of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, which in and of itself, can result in hepatic insulin resistance, a key feature of type 2 diabetes mellitus.' A single-author review has disputed the links between HFCS and obesity and metabolic syndrome, and some[who?] food and beverage industry experts have concluded that HFCS is no different from any other sugar in relationship to these diseases. HFCS has been classified as a "generally recognized as safe" (GRAS) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration since 1976.
Although HFCS and sucrose have similar amounts of fructose, sucrose releases its fructose after a hydrolysis step, creating slower fructose release. HFCS is the primary source of added sweeteners in the U.S. The growth of fructose consumption in many developed nations coincides with the increase of prevalence of obesity, and a 2005 review concludes: Compared with glucose, the hepatic metabolism of fructose favors lipogenesis, which may contribute to hyperlipidemia and obesity'. Consumption of fructose has been shown to increase visceral adipose deposition and de novo lipogenesis (DNL), produce dyslipidemia, and decrease insulin sensitivity in older, overweight/obese subjects. Many health professionals and nutrition experts agree that excessive use of all carbohydrates, particularly sugar-sweetened beverages, leads to weight gain, due to a decreased effect on satiety.; this does not imply that fructose is no more harmful than other sweeteners.
The use of industrial-grade sodium hydroxide in the processing of corn syrup has given rise to speculations that HFCS can be a source of inorganic mercury, depending on how it is manufactured. A 2009 study found that out of 20 samples of HFCS collected from three separate manufacturers, 11 did not contain detectable levels of mercury (detection limit 0.005 μg mercury/g) while 9 of 20 samples did contain mercury. Eight of the 9 samples containing mercury had levels of mercury ranging from 0.065 μg to 0.570 μg mercury/g HFCS. The samples of HFCS that did not contain mercury "were likely manufactured using caustic soda produced by a membrane chlor-alkali plant which does not use mercury in its manufacturing process." The food industry no longer uses conventional chemical hydrolysis for the manufacture of HFCS, but instead a multi-step bioprocess that uses bacterial enzymes.
In apiculture in the United States, HFCS has become a sucrose replacement for honey bees. In 2009, a study by Leblanc et al. found that at temperatures above 45 °C (113 °F) HFCS rapidly forms hydroxymethylfurfural, which is toxic to the honey bees being fed HFCS. In 2012, a study by Chensheng Lu et al. found symptoms of colony collapse disorder (CCD) in beehives fed HFCS that the researchers laced with levels of a pesticide hypothesized to have been present in HFCS feed since 2006.
A 2013 study by Wenfu Mao and colleagues from the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign report that "constituents found in honey, including p-coumaric acid, pinocembrin, and pinobanksin 5-methyl ether, specifically induce detoxification genes." They found that adding p-coumaric acid to a diet of sucrose increases mid-gut metabolism of coumaphos, a widely used in-hive pesticide used for controlling Varroa destructor mites, by approximately 60%. Since p-coumaric acid is a major component of pollen, it is part of the natural diet of honey bees and may help regulate immune and detoxification processes. They conclude: "Using honey substitutes, including HFCS, may thus compromise the ability of honey bees to cope with pesticides and pathogens and contribute to colony losses."
There are various public relations issues with HFCS, including with its labeling as "natural", with its advertising, with companies that have moved back to sugar, and a proposed name change to "corn sugar". In 2010 the Corn Refiners Association applied to allow HFCS to be renamed "corn sugar", but were rejected by the United States Food and Drug Administration in 2012.
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We determined that constituents found in honey, including p-coumaric acid, pinocembrin, and pinobanksin 5-methyl ether, specifically induce detoxification genes. These inducers are primarily found not in nectar but in pollen in the case of p-coumaric acid (a monomer of sporopollenin, the principal constituent of pollen cell walls) and propolis, a resinous material gathered and processed by bees to line wax cells. RNA-seq analysis (massively parallel RNA sequencing) revealed that p-coumaric acid specifically up-regulates all classes of detoxification genes as well as select antimicrobial peptide genes. This up-regulation has functional significance in that that adding p-coumaric acid to a diet of sucrose increases midgut metabolism of coumaphos, a widely used in-hive acaricide, by ∼60%. As a major component of pollen grains, p-coumaric acid is ubiquitous in the natural diet of honey bees and may function as a nutraceutical regulating immune and detoxification processes. The widespread apicultural use of honey substitutes, including high-fructose corn syrup, may thus compromise the ability of honey bees to cope with pesticides and pathogens and contribute to colony losses. (From the abstract.)
- Yirka, Bob (30 April 2013). "Researchers find high-fructose corn syrup may be tied to worldwide collapse of bee colonies". Phys.org. Retrieved 2 May 2013.
A team of entomologists from the University of Illinois has found a possible link between the practice of feeding commercial honeybees high-fructose corn syrup and the collapse of honeybee colonies around the world. ... Since approximately 2006, groups that manage commercial honeybee colonies have been reporting what has become known as colony collapse disorder — whole colonies of bees simply died, of no apparent cause. As time has passed, the disorder has been reported at sites all across the world, even as scientists have been racing to find the cause, and a possible cure. To date, most evidence has implicated pesticides used to kill other insects such as mites. In this new effort, the researchers have found evidence to suggest the real culprit might be high-fructose corn syrup, which beekeepers have been feeding bees as their natural staple, honey, has been taken away from them. ... The researchers aren't suggesting that high-fructose corn syrup is itself toxic to bees, instead, they say their findings indicate that by eating the replacement food instead of honey, the bees are not being exposed to other chemicals that help the bees fight off toxins, such as those found in pesticides.
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