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HFCS & Sugar/Glucose-Fructose

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I've noticed that a lot of labels in Canada have Sugar/Glucose-Fructose as an ingredient.

Is it the same as HFCS? I'm trying to understand more about high fructose corn syrup and what it does to the body.

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  1. dunno, but if you look close on some "light" versions of sugary things, they're using... SUGAR! instead of HFCS. part of it may be due to the increased demand for ethanol.

    3 Replies
    1. re: hill food

      No chance it's due to smarter consumers demanding HFCS-free foods? I'd like to think it may be so.

      1. re: janniecooks

        well if it's due to an interest in the marketplace they're missing the boat cause when I've seen it I had to squint at the ingredients label (condensed milk in this case) and ignore my comment on ethanol - that would only affect price.

        1. re: janniecooks

          I am not qualified comment on the chemisty of any of this, but I have noticed that it seems to be easier to find products (ie bread and such in particular) without HFCS than it seemed to be, say six months to a year ago or so. I'd like to think that it was because of consumer demand, but who knows...

      2. What we commonly call "sugar" is actually sucrose: a disaccharide (di=two and saccharide=sugar) molecule made up of glucose and fructose molecules. I'm guessing that since "sugar" is such an imprecise term, and since the make-up of various sweetners has become an issue, that some labels (maybe required) are specifying exactly the form of "sugar" they're using. HFCS is also a disaccharide of glucose and fructose, but with a different ratio of fructose to glucose that changes its properties in ways that have yet unknown effects.

        32 Replies
        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          Ruth, HFCS is not a disaccharide. It is a mixture of the two monosaccharides glucose and fructose. If it were a disaccharide then it could only exist at a single ratio, 1:1. As monosaccharides the fructose and glucose can be transported directly from your intestine to your bloodstream. A disaccharide like sucrose must first be broken down by enzymatic action into its constituent monosaccharides before they can be absorbed.

          You are on to something with the ratios though. There are various formulas of HFCS which are sold for different uses. The type which is typically used as in soft drinks is called HFCS 55. This means that it is 55% fructose, 45% glucose. This ratio provides a nearly identical amount of sweeting power (gram for gram) as sucrose. By the way, honey's monosaccharide profile is very, very close to HFCS 55, that is nearly 55% fructose, 45% glucose plus a little sucrose and other compounds which give it flavor.

          1. re: kmcarr

            You're right -- I misspoke. Regular corn syrup is 100 percent glucose, then it's mixed with fructose to make HFCS. Which leads to the rather odd fact that there's HFCS 42, which is 42 percent fructose, which means it is not as "high" in fructose as sucrose. What it is, is high in fructose compared to regular corn syrup. Confused yet?

            1. re: kmcarr

              There are various sources for glucose and fructose mixes. A mild acid acting on sucrose does this, producing 'invert sugar'. An example is Lyle's Gold Syrup (actually mix of glucose, fructose and sucrose). I've made it myself using cream of tartar.

              The first stage of producing a sugar from corn produces a glucose syrup (the basic corn syrup). Further action can turn much of the glucose into fructose. The two can be blended to produce the common HFCS blends used in the USA (the 55/45 to imitate sugar taste, a lower fructose blend for baking).

              As mentioned honey is a natural blend. Agave syrup is quite high on fructose - which is supposed makes it healthy (due to a low glycemic index).

              It is probably best to view the Canadian, UK and European fructose-glucose blends are being similar to US HFCS, whether they are derived from corn or not - unless you have a specific problem with corn.

              1. re: paulj

                Some European markets have a quotas on corn derived sugars/syrups to protect their home grown beet sugar industry. So even if a company wants to use glucose or fructose (or a blend), say for the better moister retention qualities or reduced crystalization, they may use one that is not corn based. In addition they have different labeling regulations.

                The USA, in contrast protects its cane sugar producers with tariffs on imported sugar, raising the price of sugar relative to home grown corn sugars. Canada has a modest beet sugar production, but I don't think it has sugar tariffs or quotas.

                1. re: paulj

                  So, HFCS is similar to glucose-fructose then?
                  Because some websites are simply stating that it is a generic term - glucose-fructose is the generic term for HFCS.

              2. re: kmcarr

                I hadn't realized that honey is primarily a glucose-fructose mixture. That's really interesting. I wonder how anti-HFCS arguments might apply to honey. (My suspicion is that the bad effects of HFCS are probably primarily due to its being cheap and abundant, and in everything.)

                1. re: jlafler

                  J., I think you have gotten right to the core of the issue. IMHO, HFCS is not in and of itself evil. The fact that it is so cheap allows processors to cram a lot of it into their products. I believe the ill effects flow primarily from the quantity consumed, not so much from it's chemical makeup.

                  1. re: kmcarr

                    You guys seem to make a good point.
                    Corn seems to be abundant.

                    I guess because it is highly processed, it steers people away from it. Really, I am not sure where I stand.

                    There is enriched flours as one of the deadly things too.

                    1. re: shdiep

                      yes, but now corn is (relatively) going through the roof in price with greater interest in bio-fuel.

                      which is my hunch why other sources are again economically viable.

                      not to (intentionally) be a jerk, but the majority of us will buy what we can find and afford. I wish I had more choice, but I do it as well.

                      a second trip (3-6 blocks on foot) for that alternative... ehhh.

                      1. re: hill food

                        I see your point. And I actually follow that too.

                        I follow a tight budget, so I have to spend where I can, and spend where I cannot. And sometimes, foods that are the best choice are not necessarily in favour of my wallet.

                    2. re: kmcarr

                      Whether HFCS is evil or not, it is not equivalent to honey, nor are its effects on the body quite the same as honey's effects, and its effects are not benign. I am no chemist either, so realize I'm treading on thin ice here, but my understanding is that the added fructose molecule in HFCS is the big factor in the metabolic process of converting excess sugars to fat. HFCS is very scary stuff, as it found in most all processed food products, and is a most efficient vehicle on the road to obesity. I don't recall whether the study (or studies) I read was cited in Michael Pollan's "In Defense of Food" or Gary Tabues' "Good Calorie, Bad Calorie" but regardless, both books cite studies of the metabolic processes and it seems that only recently are scientists beginning to really understand the metabolic processes on a cellular level. It is at the cellular level that HFCS does it wicked work and it is the chemical makeup of HFCS that makes it particularly harmful, due to the effects of that extra fructose molecule on the metabolic processes.

                      1. re: janniecooks

                        Are you trying to claim that fructose is bad, regardless of its source? Other posts in the thread claim is that fructose can come from a verity of sources, not just corn.

                        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fructose

                        1. re: paulj

                          I think he refers to it being highly processed and added into, that HFCS is deemed harmful.

                          I am not sure where I stand exactly, because at first, the FDA encouraged fat-free and low-fat products. But they were filled with partially hydrogenated oils, which were thus trans fat. Now, they are telling us to avoid trans fats. So, products are beginning to alter their labelling to be "Trans Fat Free".

                          II guess Michael Pollan's suggestion of simply eating more plants is the best bet. I should try to avoid boxed foods, but convenience sometimes outweighs that.

                          1. re: shdiep

                            Fat-free and low-fat food are, by definition, not filled with transfats. I think you're confusing low-fat with low-cholesterol. When I think of all the transfat-filled margarine my grandparents ate instead of butter because it had no cholesterol and was therefore presumed to be healthier .... sad, really.

                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                              >I think you're confusing low-fat with low-cholesterol.<

                              Or possibly "low saturated fat." Hydrogenated oils usually replace natural substances that are high in saturated fat, which supposedly raises blood cholesterol levels.

                              1. re: jlafler

                                "...my understanding is that the added fructose molecule in HFCS is the big factor in the metabolic process of converting excess sugars to fat. HFCS is very scary stuff, as it found in most all processed food products, and is a most efficient vehicle on the road to obesity."

                                This is incorrect.

                                Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Nov;86(5):1354-63.
                                Effects of glucose-to-fructose ratios in solutions on subjective satiety, food intake, and satiety hormones in young men.

                                CONCLUSION: Sucrose, HFCS, and G50:F50 solutions do not differ significantly in their short-term effects on subjective and physiologic measures of satiety, uric acid, and food intake at a subsequent meal.

                                Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2007;47(6):561-82.
                                A critical examination of the evidence relating high fructose corn syrup and weight gain.
                                Based on the currently available evidence, the expert panel concluded that HFCS does not appear to contribute to overweight and obesity any differently than do other energy sources. Research recommendations were made to improve our understanding of the association of HFCS and weight gain.

                                Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Jul;86(1):116-23.
                                Sugars and satiety: does the type of sweetener make a difference?
                                Nutritional Sciences Program, School of Public Health and Community Medicine,

                                RESULTS: We found no differences between sucrose- and HFCS-sweetened sodas in perceived sweetness, hunger and satiety profiles, or energy intakes at lunch. CONCLUSION: There was no evidence that commercial soda beverages sweetened with either sucrose or HFCS have significantly different effects on hunger, satiety, or short-term energy intakes.

                                Food Chem Toxicol. 2007 Aug;45(8):1523-36. Epub 2007 Feb 17.
                                Lack of findings for the association between obesity risk and usual sugar-sweetened beverage consumption in adults--a primary analysis of databases of CSFII-1989-1991, CSFII-1994-1998, NHANES III, and combined NHANES 1999-2002.

                                Conclusion: Multiple lifestyle factors and higher dietary fat intake were significantly associated with obesity risk. Populations who frequently consumed Sugar Sweetened Beverages, primarily HFCS sweetened beverages, did not have a higher obesity rate or increased obesity risk than that of populations which consumed Sugar Sweetened Beverages infrequently.

                          2. re: paulj

                            No, I'm not claiming that fructose itself is bad, it is the extra fructose found in HFCS that is bad.

                            1. re: janniecooks

                              I don't understand. When you say 'extra' what are you comparing it to?

                              A wiki article is a good place to find a description of the controversies surrounding a subject, but it is not the best place to weigh the evidence, and in this case,to learn which studies are good, and which should be discounted. A major difficulty in this case is distinguishing between the effect of a diet high in all sugars, and one high in HFCS. A study that finds problems with a high sugar diet, is not going to prove that a modest sugar intake that includes some HFCS is harmful.

                              Consider another substance that can be harmful in large quantities, alcohol. Clearly a diet high in beer (and stronger drink) is bad, in part because it can displace other nutritious items from the diet. But that does not mean that a modest consumption of beer and wine is bad for most of us. Being a teetotaller is not the only alternative to being alcoholic.

                              1. re: paulj

                                Agreed, Wikipedia is not a scholarly source, but as a quick source for the purposes of this thread, it is good enough; CH is JAMA. The issue with the extra fructose in HFCS is that not all the fructose in HFCS is bound to sucrose molecules, as it apparently is in cane/beet sugars. This unbound fructose is not metabolized the same as bound fructose/sucrose molecules.

                                There are plenty of studies to support or disprove one hypothesis or another. But my research has lead me to believe there is overwhelming evidence in support of the hypotheses that consumption of sugars and starches are the cause of obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, atherosclerosis, diabetes, etc. - the so-called diseases of modern civilization that have arisen in populations once the western diet was introduced.

                                There are some who believe consumption of meat is bad for different reasons, some who would never eat a living thing, some who eschew alcohol, and so on. Then there are those who believe sugar consumption is to be avoided, not merely moderated, and I am in this group. One makes one's own choices for oneself and one's family. Time (and hopefully further, scientifically sound) research will perhaps point us to a scientific "truth", but in the meantime, sugars are out for my household.

                                1. re: janniecooks

                                  Jannie, the first step in the metabolism of sucrose is to cleave this disaccharide into its constituent monosaccarides, fructose and glucose. From that point forward the metabolism of the liberated fructose and glucose monosaccharides is exactly the same as if they had been consumed in the form of HFCS. This breakdown is catalyzed by the enzyme sucrase and occurs in the small intestine, before the sugars are taken up into the bloodstream or any cells. For this reason I don't think that consuming fructose-glucose blends (HFCS, invert syrup, honey) is significantly different than consuming sucrose. Many of the papers citied in the Wiki article supported this conclusion.

                                  I agree with you that Americans are over consuming sugar (though we may differ on degrees) but I don't think HFCS should be singled out as being that much worse than other sugars.

                                  1. re: janniecooks

                                    Under the digestion section of the wiki article:
                                    "Fructose exists in foods as either a monosaccharide (free fructose) or as a disaccharide (sucrose). Free fructose does not undergo digestion; however when fructose is consumed in the form of sucrose, digestion occurs entirely in the upper small intestine. As sucrose comes into contact with the membrane of the small intestine, the enzyme sucrase catalyzes the cleavage of sucrose to yield one glucose and fructose unit. Fructose, passes through the small intestine, virtually unchanged, then enters the portal vein and is directed toward the liver."
                                    and
                                    "The absorption capacity for fructose in monosaccharide form ranges from less than 5g to 50g and adapts with changes in dietary fructose intake. Studies show the greatest absorption rate occurs when glucose and fructose are administered in equal quantities [26]. When fructose is ingested as part of the disaccharide sucrose, absorption capacity is much higher because fructose exists in a 1:1 ratio with glucose"

                                    In sum, sucrose is broken into fructose and glucose molecules, and these are then absorbed and metabolized. So other than that digestive step involving sucrase, what is the difference between ingesting sugar, and ingesting a HFCS55?

                                    Later under health effects:
                                    "Studies that have compared high fructose corn syrup (an ingredient in soft drinks sold in the US) to sucrose (common cane sugar) find that they have essentially identical physiological effects"
                                    As to the overall consumption of sugars, I quote from the start of the article:
                                    "Honey, tree fruits, berries, melons, and some root vegetables, such as beets, sweet potatoes, parsnips, and onions, contain fructose, usually in combination with sucrose and glucose."

                                    1. re: janniecooks

                                      Jannie,

                                      <<<No, I'm not claiming that fructose itself is bad, it is the extra fructose found in HFCS that is bad..The issue with the extra fructose in HFCS is that not all the fructose in HFCS is bound to sucrose molecules>>>

                                      I wonder if you've checked the source of your information.

                                      Are you saying that unbound fructose is bad?

                                      What about honey, which you like? The fructose is honey is unbound. Honey is a 1:1 mixture of glucose and fructose, just like sucrose, but in honey the glucose and fructose are not bound.

                                      Is the unbound fructose in fruit bad? There's lots of that.

                                      <<not all the fructose in HFCS is bound to sucrose molecules as it apparently is in cane/beet sugars. This unbound fructose is not metabolized the same as bound fructose/sucrose molecules..>>>

                                      Some high-fructose corn syrup is actually lower in fructose than white sugar. It's 42 percent fructose and 58 percent glucose, the kind in bread, jams and yogurt.
                                      M.

                                      1. re: janniecooks

                                        <<But my research has lead me to believe there is overwhelming evidence in support of the hypotheses that consumption of sugars and starches are the cause of obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, atherosclerosis, diabetes, etc. - the so-called diseases of modern civilization that have arisen in populations once the western diet was introduced.>>

                                        Now we're talking about sugars in general and not just HFCS.

                                        The research shows you can blame sugar, HFCS and honey for their empty calories, but you can't blame them for obesity. Above, I listed some of the recent scientific articles that disprove any correlation between HFCS and obesity.

                                        "Despite the increase the proportion of available calories in the total diet that comes from table sugar and HFCS combined has remained remarkably constant since 1970 at about 15 to 16 percent."

                                        Further, we aren't eating any more fructose than before, but US citizens are still getting fatter.

                                        "Because sugar and the combination of all varieties of HFCS contain about 50 percent fructose, the relative proportion of fructose in the food supply also has remained constant, at about 8 percent of daily caloric intake."

                                        So, consumption of sugars isn't the reason for the increased amount of obesity in the country. Calories are still the issue.

                                        "However, total calories available in the food supply increased from 3300 to 3900 per person per day between 1970 and 2000, based on USDA food supply data."

                                        Info source: Food Insight, published by IFIC, July/August 2004

                                        1. re: janniecooks

                                          "Wikipedia is not a scholarly source, but as a quick source for the purposes of this thread, it is good enough."

                                          NO. It is not.

                                          I am a food chem geek, and, of all the Wikipedia entries I've ever read, the two on Fructose and High-Fructose Corn Syrup have the most errors.

                                          Not only errors -- factual errors -- but agendas and propaganda.Wikipedia is known to be an unreliable resource for information, because it is written by humans, and can be edited by other humans, who wish to promote a point a view or cause.

                                          HFCS and sugar are hot button issues, and -- let me be clear -- the fructose and HFCS entries are phenomenal examples of lies, outdated research, spin, and monetary interests at play -- all created by people, groups, health food advocates, sugar and corn lobbyists, and HFCS PR firms trying to get you to believe something that just isn't so.

                                          Do. Not. Use. Wikipedia. For. Scientific. Information.

                                  2. re: janniecooks

                                    Hunh?

                                    1. re: janniecooks

                                      Jannie, I am a chemist (B.S. Chemistry, M.S. Biochemistry) and I'm sorry, but what you are claiming has no basis is chemistry or biology. At the cellular level the source of fructose and glucose, whether from honey or HFCS is irrelevant. There is no way a cell can differentiate where a molecule of fructose came from. And being "refined" in no way alters the fructose or glucose molecule; refining removes other "contaminating" molecules. The most significant components of honey are fructose and glucose; the ratio of fructose to glucose in honey if similar to the ratio in commonly used HFCS preparations. If you believe that HFCS is scary then you must also believe that honey is scary. Like many poisons, the toxicity is dose dependent. It is the quantities of sugars we are putting into our bodies which is doing the harm.

                                      1. re: kmcarr

                                        What would be the recommended amount of sugar to consume in a given day?

                                        I see where what you guys are saying. It's not HFCS yielding obesity. It is the overconsumption of sugar. And people just tend to eat products with high sugar content from HFCS.

                                        1. re: shdiep

                                          Especially since because of it's moisture-preserving qualities HFCS is often added to products that wouldn't normally have sugar at all (like bread).

                                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                            But is the excess consumption, for most people, coming from 'hidden' sources like this, or the obvious ones like soda, fruit juice beverages, cookies, candy, sweetened breakfast cereals, and ice cream?

                                            As a side note, it is the glucose part of HFCS that has the moisture-preserving quality, so bakers prefer the lower fructose version, HFCS-42.

                                            Related to the original question, isoglucose is another name for a fructose-glucose mix produced by the action of an enzyme on glucose.
                                            http://stats.oecd.org/glossary/detail...

                                            1. re: paulj

                                              <<But is the excess consumption, for most people, coming from 'hidden' sources like this, or the obvious ones like soda, fruit juice beverages, cookies, candy, sweetened breakfast cereals, and ice cream>>

                                              The percentage of sugars in our diet has not gone up, nor has the amount of fructose in our diet. But Americans are consuming 900 more calories per day than we did per day 40 years ago, and are far more sedentary as well.

                                          2. re: shdiep

                                            What would be the recommended amount of sugar to consume in a given day?
                                            ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                                            I'll recommend that you pose that question to a qualified professional in health and nutrition.

                                            1. re: shdiep

                                              How about consuming less than the average amount of sugar per day?

                                              But that requires having some idea of how much you consume, and what the average is.

                                              I saw, in one of the wiki articles, statistics about sugar comsumption per capita in various countries. If I recall correctly, the numbers were on the order of 50kg per year. Some countries like Belgium were higher than that. USA was about that, but split evenly between sugar and HFCS. I suspect those numbers come from total sugar sales (to manufacturers and retailers) divided by the population (as opposed to consumer surveys).

                                              50kg/yr is about 0.3 lb/day. How many oz of sugar (in all forms) do you consume? I have no idea of what my consumption is, though hopefully it is lower than average (little soda, limited sweets and commercial cookies, reduced sugar in my baking, etc).

                                2. Interesting discussion on the merits of HFCS vs other forms of carbohydrates, but the short answer is Glucose-Fructose is the approved way to list on a product made to be sold in Canada the same thing that we in the us refer to as HFCS. It's got nothing to do with healtier or not. If you look at lots of Canadian labels you'll see other subtle differences as well flavor is spelled flavour in Canada. Neither is right or wrong those are the names approved by the federal food agencies in their respective countries

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Ken Bookmyer

                                    Thanks for the clarification of my question Ken!

                                    I also saw that they started to have commercials about HFCS on television too.

                                    1. re: shdiep

                                      Above, someone cited a study that concluded:

                                      "We found no differences between sucrose- and HFCS-sweetened sodas in perceived sweetness, hunger and satiety profiles, or energy intakes at lunch."

                                      Read lab studies just as critically as you would Wikipedia articles. Note that "perceived" effects are not be the same as organic chemical effects. And more important, to me, is the absence of perceived FLAVOR. When I travel outside the USA and consume versions of products sweetened with sugar instead of HFCS as at home, the taste is different. I think sugar has a 'milder' sweetness than HFCS. HFCS tastes 'sharper,' creating an effect analogous to MSG: both make my tongue crave more despite my hunger being satisfied.

                                  2. Table sugar (glucose) is a disaccharide which is half glucose and half fructose, joined by a weak chemical bond. High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is a mixture of glucose and fructose in approximately equal proportion. They are equivalent metabolically, if the HFCS is 50-50. HFCS is cheaper, which is why it came into widespread use.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: GH1618

                                      I think you meant table sugar (sucrose).

                                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                        You are right. Thank you.