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What is high fructose corn syrup, anyway?

by Beth Ann Bentley  |  1764 views  |  0 comments  |        Rate this now! 

High fructose corn syrup is a sweetener made by changing the sugar in cornstarch to fructose. High fructose corn syrup has a preservative quality to it, extending the shelf life of processed foods. As a sweetener, it is much cheaper than sugar and has become a popular ingredient in many sodas, flavored drinks, and other processed foods. Check your food labels; you may be surprised by how many foods contain high fructose corn syrup.

Some nutrition experts blame the growing obesity problem on the increased consumption of high fructose corn syrup, especially in beverages. The controversy largely comes down to whether this is coincidence or a contributory relationship. The scientific theory is that fructose is more readily converted to fat by your liver than sucrose is, thus increasing the levels of fat in your bloodstream. Additionally, some animal studies have shown a link between increased consumption of high fructose corn syrup and adverse health effects, such as diabetes and high cholesterol. However, these theories are yet unproven.

Still the fact remains that Americans, Canadians, and many Europeans consume large quantities of high fructose corn syrup in the form of soft drinks, flavored beverages, and processed foods -- foods that are high in calories and low in nutritional value. Some critics claim this to be the true problem: an industry encouraging overconsumption through readily available low-cost foods. The fact is that, ounce for ounce, high fructose corn syrup has fewer grams of sugar than actual sugar, is cheaper to use, and is used in abundance. Here are some tips to reduce high-fructose corn syrup in your diet:

1.) Read food labels. Check out our iLunchbox's section on how to read a food label.

2.) Buy 100-percent fruit juice instead of fruit-flavored drinks.

3.) Choose fresh fruit instead of fruit juices.

4.) Choose fruit canned in its own juices instead of heavy syrup.

5.) Cut back on soda or eliminate sodas all together.

Some technical definitions:

What is corn syrup? The singular term “corn syrup” is somewhat of a misnomer because it is used to identify a group of sweeteners that differ from one another simply by the amount of dextrose (glucose) present in the commercial syrup. Since only a single type of corn syrup is generally used in a food product, the term “corn syrup” is permitted in an ingredient statement. However, consumers have no idea how much glucose is contained in the particular “corn syrup” listed in an ingredient statement. A commercial “corn syrup” may contain between 20 percent and 98 percent  dextrose (glucose). “Corn syrup” may also be called “glucose syrup” in an ingredient list. Corn syrups are used in many daily food items, including salad dressings, tomato sauces, powdered drink mixes, fruit drinks and juices, frozen desserts like pudding and ice milk.

About the Author

Beth Ann Bentley is the founder of

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