High fructose corn syrup: a safe, natural ingredient

The July 31 article "Fructose sweetning could be even worse than using other sweeteners," mischaracterizes high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), a natural, home-grown sweetener from U.S. corn fields. The article reports on a recent University of Cincinnati study whose authors assert that the body processes HFCS differently than other sugars due to the fructose content.

This study unfortunately confuses pure fructose with HFCS. HFCS used in U.S. caloric soft drinks is either 55% fructose or 42% - not the mixture of pure 100% fructose dissolved in water that was used in this study. HFCS also importantly contains glucose, and in about the same proportions as found both in the sucrose-sweetened soft drink used in the study and in table sugar. By contrast the pure fructose used in the study had no glucose component.

The absence of glucose makes pure fructose fundamentally different from HFCS. "This is because glucose has been shown to have a tempering effect on specific metabolic effects of fructose." Once the combination of glucose and fructose found in HFCS and sucrose are absorbed into the blood stream - and regardless of whether they come from soft drinks sweetened with HFCS or with sucrose - the two types of sweetener appear to be metabolized similarly using well-characterized metabolic pathways.

This study actually confirmed the tempering effect of glucose on weight gain. Mice given the soft drink with sucrose - which, like HFCS, is an approximately equal blend of fructose and glucose - did not show significant body weight gain or increased body fat.

Conclusions from this study, while important, cannot be extrapolated to HFCS-sweetened soft drinks. That is because the study compares water, a sucrose soft drink and a diet soft drink - all widely used in the human diet - with a fluid fabricated from pure fructose and water that is found nowhere outside the laboratory.

In 1983, the Food and Drug Administration listed HFCS as "Generally Recognized as Safe" (known as GRAS status) for use in food, and the FDA reaffirmed that ruling in 1996.

As a natural, nutritive sweetener, HFCS can be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet. According to the American Dietetic Association, "Consumers can safely enjoy a range of nutritive and nonnutritive sweeteners when consumed in a diet that is guided by current federal nutrition recommendations ... as well as individual health goals."

Audrae Erickson, President
Corn Refiners Association
1701 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20006



The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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