An intro to high fructose corn syrup

A concept of the bio-fuel from corn.

High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is something that is talked about more and more frequently in the media. But what exactly is it, and what is its presence in the Australian food industry. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is something that is talked about more and more frequently in the media. But what exactly is it, and what is its presence in the Australian food industry.

High fructose corn in syrup is a sweetener that is made from the starch present in corn, where the glucose is turned into fructose to give it sweetness. It was developed by a corn processing company in the US in the 1970’s and is cost effective and easier to handle than convention cane sugar. As the US is unable to produce the vast quantities of cane sugar that we can here in Australia, HFCS replaced sugar in the manufacturing of many foods.

Although HFCS is not available for purchase in Australia, and is not used regularly in our food manufacturing products, it does appear in some dessert foods, and many foods that have been imported from America (pretty much a given). It is not fructose, and should not be confused with pure fructose, and although called high fructose corn syrup, it was only given this label to differentiate it from regular corn syrup, which contains a larger proportion of glucose.

There are several different types of HFCS, which are differentiated by their glucose to fructose ratios and the physical performance they have on products. It is added to foods such as soft drinks, lollies, biscuits, and pastries to name a few products, and as it is sweeter than sugar, requires less amounts to be used for the same amount of sweetness.

HFCS has been labelled as the cause of many health conditions and the rapidly rising obesity rates in the US, although studies are still looking to confirm this. From the 1970’s when HFCS predominantly started being used in America, obesity and type 2 diabetes rates have progressively started to rise as noted by a nutrition researcher (although decreasing activity levels, increasing calorie intake, and changes in lifestyle have played a major role in the changing health profile of the US), correlations had been drawn. Since then, evidence has not been conclusive and HFCS is viewed similarly to sugar in terms of its effect on health. Advisably, consumption of these products should be kept to a minimum.

The bottom line? Don’t believe everything you read on the internet. HFCS has developed a bad reputation in terms of its health effects, although none of this is supported by evidence. And due to the presence of cane sugar in Australia, HFCS is not something we should be worrying about in our diets (unless you are eating large amounts of imported food). For more information, talk to an APD!