Corn sugar new name proposed for high fructose corn syrup

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Editor's note: The industry has seen the sales of high fructose corn syrup on the decline. Could a new name help the sweetener that has been linked to increased risk of health conditions like obesity and diabetes?

On September 14, the Corn Refiner’s Association said in a press release posted on its website that it has asked the Food and Drug Administration to allow manufacturers of high fructose corn syrup, or HFCS, to use the name "corn sugar" instead of high fructose corn syrup.

The FDA considers HFCS as natural, even though critics point out that this sweetener consisting of both glucose and fructose is in reality, not found in corn.  This product is made by enzymatically converting some portion of glucose, which is derived from corn starch, into fructose.

The resulting high fructose corn syrup, which is commonly used in a variety of processed foods and beverages, consists of 55 percent fructose and 42 percent glucose, or 42 percent fructose and 53 percent glucose.

Use of high fructose corn syrup has been linked to an increased risk of overweight and obesity, among other things.  

Princeton University researchers reported on March 18, 2010 in the online version of the journal Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior that consumption of high fructose corn syrup caused more weight gain in lab animals than table sugar when both sweeteners were consumed in equal quantity.

Bart Hoebel and colleagues also reported that long term use of high fructose corn syrup caused abnormal increases in body fat, particularly in the abdomen and an increase in circulating blood fats called triglycerides, both of which are signs of metabolic syndrome.

There is a growing body of evidence that fructose, which can also be found in table sugar or sucrose, honey and other foods, can be harmful when consumed in large quantities, over a lengthy duration. Stephan B.C. and colleagues at the University of Cambridge reported  in the August 2010 issue of The Journals of Gerontology: Series A, Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences that increased fructose intake may boost risk of cardiovascular disease and dementia.

Gaby AR, whose affiliation is not clear, wrote in the Dec 2005 issue of Alternative Medicine Review : a journal of Clinical Therapeutic:

In particular, fructose is a potent reducing sugar that promotes the formation of toxic advanced glycation end-products, which appear to play a role in the aging process; in the pathogenesis of the vascular, renal, and ocular complications of diabetes; and in the development of atherosclerosis. Fructose has also been implicated as the main cause of symptoms in some patients with chronic diarrhea or other functional bowel disturbances. In addition, excessive fructose consumption may be responsible in part for the increasing prevalence of obesity, diabetes mellitus, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Although the long-term effects of fructose consumption have not been adequately studied in humans, the available evidence suggests it may be more harmful than is generally recognized.

Fructose in high fructose corn syrup may not be the only issue surrounding the sweetener that concerns some consumers.

Researchers at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey reported that reactive carbonyls, which are found high in the blood of diabetes patients, are also found in soft drinks sweetened with HFCS.

Dr. Chi-Tang Ho and colleagues found one single can of a HFCS sweetened soft drink contained a five times higher concentration of reactive carbonyls than the concentration found in the blood of an adult with diabetes.

Reactive carbonyls have been found by other scientists to have the potential to trigger cell and tissue damage that could lead to diabetes, according to a news release by the American Chemical Society, which was reporting Dr. Ho's finding.

Editing by Rachel Stockton

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