There has been controversy brewing over high fructose corn syrup and whether or not it’s contributing to the obesity crisis in the US. On one side of the controversy are those who take the position that high fructose corn syrup is nutritionally equivalent to sugar. The other point of view is that high fructose corn syrup is contributing to the nation’s obesity problems as it is increasingly used in lieu of sugar in our food.
In 1971, scientists discovered how to synthesize syrup that is made of 55 percent fructose and 45 percent glucose. Since normal table sugar contains 50 percent fructose and 50 percent glucose, the synthesized syrup was name “high fructose corn syrup” (HFCS). HFCS is six times sweeter than sugar but costs only half as much. As a result, HFCS has become the sweetener of choice in the food and beverage industry in the US.
The Corn Refiner’s Association states that high fructose corn syrup is a corn sugar that is nutritionally the same as table sugar. High fructose corn syrup is derived from corn which is a natural grain product and contains no artificial or synthetic ingredients or color additives. It also meets the FDA requirements for being labeled as “natural”.
There are opponents of the use of HFCS that maintain the opinion that consuming HFCS is contributing to the problems with obesity in the US. Because it is found everywhere and obesity levels are rising, the opponents feel there is a correlation between the two. There has been so much attention to this point of view that the Corn Refiners Association has begun a campaign to promote the use of HFCS and is attempting to change the name that is placed on ingredient labels to list HFCS as corn sugar.
A recent study done at Oregon Health and Science University indicates that the brain does in fact react differently to fructose as compared to glucose. Nine normal-weight human study subjects received an infusion of fructose, glucose, or saline solution and then brain activity was studied through a functional MRI. The results showed that the activity in the cortical brain control areas was inhibited when fructose was given but was activated when given the glucose infusion. This is a significant finding due to the fact that these control brain areas are thought to be important in determining on how a person responds to food, tastes, smalls, and pictures. This study further supports what opponents of HFCS feel in the relation between the rising obesity rates and HFCS.
There will most likely be a continuing battle between the two sides of this controversy. HFCS and table sugar although are very similar, turn out to be different in how our bodies react to them. It will take many more studies to support or refute the opinion that HFCS is contributing to obesity, but as of right now, the Corn Refiner’s Association seems to be loosing ground on their side of the argument.
Corn Refiner’s Association
Oregon Health and Science University