Monday, May 23, 2011

corn syrup vs sugar vs high fructose corn syrup

My top two least-liked commercials of the moment are...

a) The Dole commercial that implores us to enjoy Dole fruit cups because, "Finally, you can enjoy fruit without added sugar, artificial sweeteners, etc etc etc". I'm sorry. It's too much trouble to pick up an apple or a cup of strawberries? I wasn't aware that was suuuuuuch a challenge for people! News flash, people: it's better to eat fruit out of your own cup than god-knows-what out of a prepackaged cup. No brainer.

b) I'm sure you've seen this one: a pleasant-looking mom is totally worried because she keeps hearing how evil corn syrup is. Well, rest assured, Americans- corn syrup is just like regular syrup! The corn farmers of America promise! And commercials never lie, so definitely trust this actress playing a mother! (sarcasm, sarcasm, sarcasm.)

Listen. Corn syrup is a cheap sweetener that has made its way into virtually every processed food (another great reason to eat whole foods and cook for yourself!) So I'd like to talk just briefly about what the chief differences are between sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and regular corn syrup (and yes, there are differences between the last two!) I don't want to give corn farmers or even corn a bum rep, and it's important to know a few things for your own well-being.

SUGAR. Sugar is processed by every cell of the body. Your body turns the sugar into glucose. Yes, your body needs some sugar, because it gives us energy. I do not mean go eat a candy bar and say I told you to. Processed sugar has zero nutrients, it does nothing to help you out. Fruit, dairy, vegetables, even meat... your body turns these foods into glucose and gives you the nutrients and minerals that you need. So yes- while it's true your body processes sugar into glucose in a way like-minded to fruit and vegetables, you will reap no benefit from eating cane sugar. Other than the possible enjoyment you may get from a cookie.

CORN SYRUP. Used to soften the texture of things and sweeten things, corn syrup is different than HIGH-FRUCTOSE corn syrup (HFCS). Your body processes it similar to sugar; ie, it is processed by every cell of the body. It is less dangerous than HFCS, but what I said about "sugar" also applies here; you're not going to garner big benefits from eating it.

HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP. Now here is the garbage everyone has their knickers in a twist about. With good reason. HFCS is corn syrup that has gone under an enzymatic processing, converting glucose to fructose, to desired sweetness. What is distinctly different about HFCS is that it is NOT processed by every cell in the body. The liver is made to do all the work processing HFCS. And news flash, the junk is in almost every processed food you have in your cupboard or fridge. So while it may be safe "in moderation", it could be problematic that your liver is constantly being forced to process this "sweetener" (HFCS) that is hanging out in a lot of your favorite foods.

So is "corn sugar" just like "table sugar", like industry bigs want us to believe? Maybe it's too soon to tell. Or maybe you can look around and see how bad health in this country has gotten. Personally, I'm on the side of better safe than sorry. I think fresh strawberries taste sweeter and more delicious than any Little Debbie brownie, and I like knowing that the food going into my body is there for the purpose of nurturing it and making it strong. And I am also on the side that companies are there to sell you things. If you don't buy, they have no income. So of course someone trying to sell you a product will say that their product is the best, or their product is totally safe.

I mean, just ask the tobacco companies.

until later...

"Roughly $40 billion in federal subsidies are going to pay corn growers, so that corn syrup is able to replace cane sugar. Corn syrup has been singled out by many health experts as one of the chief culprits of rising obesity, because corn syrup does not turn off appetite. Since the advent of corn syrup, consumption of all sweeteners has soared, as have people's weights. According to a 2004 study reported in the American journal of Clinical Nutrition, the rise of Type-2 diabetes since 1980 has closely paralleled the increased use of sweeteners, particularly corn syrup." ~ Gabriel Cousens


  1. Good post, but this information is not entirely right. Sucrose (table sugar) is a disaccharide (sugar made of two simple sugars) that has one fructose bonded to one sucrose. HFCS is a mixture of simple sugars, about 50% glucose and 50% fructose. By the time sucrose and HFCS are in your stomach, they are essentially the same (your stomach breaks the link in sucrose, yielding 50% fructose and 50% glucose). Both types of sugar are bad for you in high doses. Both will cause negative effects associated with eating high levels of fructose. The major distinction is taste, with HFCS tasting sweeter. This may have some effect on consumption, since sweeter means 'better' for some people, causing them to eat more of it.

    What I want to know is whether regular corn syrup is healthier than sucrose or HFCS. Because it contains very low levels of fructose, there is the potential that it is healthier. Glucose does not attack the liver like fructose, and is not hidden by the body's ability to monitor 'fullness'. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be any research about whether it's healthier. Of course reducing consumption of ALL types of sugar would be beneficial.

  2. Thanks for your comment... I'm not a professional, I get most of my info from television programs I watch and research I do. The main thing I was getting at was that your liver does most of the work to break down HFCS, whereas the other sugars have other cells in the body to help them. In that aspect, I really don't believe they're the same. However, I try to avoid both of them, because the main problem is that every processed food seems to contain them!

    Whether corn syrup is "healthier", I doubt it. The healthiest is to avoid processed foods and use a little honey to sweeten the things you really want sweetened, I suppose!

  3. Roughly 10 years ago a good friend of mine had access, through a college professor of his, to some of the down-low on corn syrup and after thinking about it myself for bit I started to avoid the stuff and had a 10 lb weight loss off my baseline weight that I have never regained.
    Thankfully, in the past few years it has become easier to avoid it.
    I have learned to recheck labels on each grocery trip though as some products do drop it for a time just to add it back in down the road.