Sunday, October 3, 2010


The controversy regarding the role played by High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) in American obesity epidemic refuses to die down in spite of massive scientific evidence generated during the last 5 years absolving it of any such detrimental effect on human body. The fact that most of the so called high fructose syrup does not contain as much fructose as that present in white sugar is often ignored while casting aspersions on the former and damning the food industry. It is true that there is practically no processed sweetened food product in the US which does not contain HFCS derived from corn starch and hence the vulnerability of the food industry to such wild allegations. Having faced the wrath of critics activists with some influence on consumer perception, the food industry seems to be getting tired of fighting the battle where a single "lie repeated overtime tends to acquires the sanctity of truth" and has sought a way out by seeking a change in the name of HFCS to Corn sugar which probably is more logical than its present name.

"Would high-fructose corn syrup, by any other name, have sweeter appeal? The Corn Refiners Association, which represents firms that make the syrup, has been trying to improve the image of the much maligned sweetener with ad campaigns promoting it as a natural ingredient made from corn. Now, the group has petitioned the United States Food and Drug Administration to start calling the ingredient "corn sugar," arguing that a name change is the only way to clear up consumer confusion about the product. "Clearly the name is confusing consumers," said Audrae Erickson, president of the Washington-based group, in an interview. "Research shows that 'corn sugar' better communicates the amount of calories, the level of fructose and the sweetness in this ingredient." According to the market research firm NPD Group, about 58 percent of Americans say they are concerned that high-fructose corn syrup poses a health risk. Some scientists over the years have speculated that high-fructose corn syrup may contribute to obesity by somehow disrupting normal metabolic function,but the research has been inconclusive. As a result, most leading scientists and nutrition experts agree that in terms of health, the effect of high-fructose corn syrup is the same as regular sugar, and that too much of either ingredient is bad for your health. Marion Nestle, a professor in New York University's department of nutrition and a longtime food industry critic, says that Americans consume too much of all types of sugar, but that there is no meaningful biochemical difference between table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. "I'm not eager to help the corn refiners sell more of their stuff," Dr. Nestle wrote in an e-mail. "But you have to feel sorry for them. High-fructose corn syrup is the new trans fat. Everyone thinks it's poison, and food companies are getting rid of it as fast as they can." Dr. Nestle says she thinks the plural "corn sugars" is a better description of high-fructose corn syrup, which is actually a mixture of glucose and fructose. But she agrees that the corn refiners "have lots of reasons to want the change." "Even I have to admit that it's not an unreasonable one," Dr. Nestle said. High-fructose corn syrup, which came into widespread use in the 1970s, isn't particularly high in fructose, but was so named to distinguish it from ordinary, glucose-containing corn syrup, according to a report in TheAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition. High-fructose corn syrup and sucrose (also known as table sugar) contain about the same amount of glucose and fructose. In fact, one commonly used version of the ingredient known as HFCS-42 actually contains less fructose (42 percent) than table sugar, which has 50 percent fructose, according to the report".

There is a precedent in history when change in name was sought to correct consumer perception and Canola is the most visible example. Low erucic acid Rapeseed oil developed in Canada was renamed as Canola for better consumer appreciation though the name by itself does not convey any relation to rapeseed or erucic acid. Similarly Prunes were renamed as dried Plums though the reason is not clear. Probably HFCS may be more vulnerable to criticism if environmental degradation, corn cultivation has brought about during the last 5 decades, is taken into reckoning and will the industry seek to rename it again to avoid mention of corn? Why not better call it a "cereal sweetener"?



Cynthia1770 said...

Dr. Potty,
According to ADM's website they
make three types of HFCS:
Cornsweet 42
Cornsweet 55 used for soda
Cornsweet 90 intensely sweet used
for low cal foods and beverages.
The numbers reflect the percent
The problem with the HFCS issue
is that it is not just HFCS but
Cornsweet 90 has 90% fructose.
This is quite different than
the 50:50 in sucrose.
And now the CRA wants to lump these
all together under the euphemistic
"corn sugar"?
Cynthia Papierniak, M.S.

Dr. V.H . Potty said...

Yes, you have a point. Probably even if the name change is allowed the manufacturers should be asked to put a suffix like Corn Sugar F90 to denote the fructose concentration or F50 or F42 or F55.v h potty