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High-Fructose Corn Syrup: Sugar's Evil Twin

If you’re an avid soda drinker or you’ve noticed a strange ingredient on your loaf of bread, you might have a few questions. What is high-fructose corn syrup? Why was it first made? How is it made? Why is it bad for you? What are the consequences of consuming it in excessive amounts? If you have these questions, we have your answers.



How It’s Made and Why

High-fructose corn syrup (or HFCS for short) is derived from corn. It was first introduced in 1957, but didn’t gain traction in the American market until the late 1970s when the price of corn was low because of government subsidies. On the other hand, the cost of sugar was high. Therefore, it was cheaper to use a corn-derived recipe rather than spending the money to have sugar.



The process of making HFCS is turning corn into corn starch, then corn syrup, then using enzymes to convert some glucose into fructose. This makes the concoction taste sweeter and also increases the amount of fructose in the substance. We’ll talk about the dangers of excessive fructose intake later, but just know it’s not a good thing.


Products HFCS Is Found In

HFCS can sneak its way into your diet in a number of ways. Since the debate about whether or not high fructose corn syrup is healthy for you began, the industry has been altering the name of it slightly so you don’t get scared and run away when you see the words “high fructose corn syrup” on a bottle of soda. Just read your nutrition label and look out for these culprits:

- fruit fructose

- maize syrup

- glucose syrup

- crystalline fructose

High fructose corn syrup is very common in processed foods such as soda, cereals, and even bread! In fact, many foods you would consider “healthy” are made with high fructose corn syrup.



Why HFCS Is Bad For You

HFCS is composed of “empty” calories, which means the calories won’t fill you up. This will lead to overeating. Studies show that animals with a HFCS diet gain more weight than those who have a healthy diet. Additionally, the liver is the only organ that can process fructose in high amounts. Fructose can cause health issues if consumed in excessive amounts.


Consequences of Consuming HFCS

As the use of HFCS has increased, levels of obesity and other health problems have increased as well. Consuming HFCS in excessive amounts can cause health problems including diabetes, heart disease, weight gain, tooth decay, and metabolic syndrome. It can also cause a change in mood and an increase in blood glucose levels. One study conducted by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis showed that pregnant rats on a high-fructose diet showed dramatic effects on the placenta. Engaging in a high-fructose diet while pregnant may also restrict fetal growth and cause metabolic issues for the baby later in life.


Overall, high-fructose corn syrup should be treated with caution, as with anything you consume. If consumed in excess, the effects could possibly be life-threatening.