Tuesday, December 28, 2010


The poor High Fructose Corn Syrup! Commonly known as HFCS it is a hexose sugar just like glucose but it is perceived to be metabolized slower than the latter. It is also a normal metabolite in the body with all necessary enzymes present in humans to push it all the way to CO2 while generating energy. But there is a growing controversy regarding its alleged role in accumulating fat around the waist and many consumers seem to be convinced by this argument though not absolutely supported by much scientific evidence. That the processing industry has adopted it as the most economical sweetener in most of the packed food products has made the matter worse. Sustained campaigns by many activist organizations against use of HFCS seem to be affecting the business of the industry in a significant way and a trend is slowly emerging wherein many industrial players are either reducing its use already or contemplating doing so progressively to protect their business.

"First it was calories, then it was fat and sodium. Now, the latest health concern is high-fructose corn syrup. As the country deals with obesity issues, ingredients in food have come under increasing scrutiny, bringing some confusion to the marketplace but also opportunities for companies as they try to differentiate themselves in a competitive grocery store. Consumer concern has been getting a quick response from food companies, as many remove high-fructose corn syrup from well-known products, replacing it with cane or beet sugar. Sara Lee Corp. is the latest to jump on board, removing the sweetener from its two best-selling breads. Among the big-name products that already have undergone recipe overhauls are Hunt's ketchup, Gatorade, and everything in Starbucks' pastry case. High-fructose corn syrup, the widely used and historically inexpensive sweetener, has been getting a critical look from food scientists and many American families, due at least in part to books, movies, and studies looking at why Americans continue to gain weight. First lady Michelle Obama has said that she won't feed her daughters products containing the ingredient. Many medical and nutritional experts, as well as the Corn Refiners Association, say that all sweeteners are metabolized in the same way. A Princeton University study, on the other hand, has found that long-term consumption of high-fructose corn syrup does lead to abnormal increases in body fat, especially around the belly. Books such as The Omnivore's Dilemma have added to the debate, asserting that widespread use of high-fructose corn syrup is part of what's wrong with the American diet. And movies such as Food, Inc. have heightened many consumers' skepticism".

What is the truth? Logically HFCS has to get metabolized like glucose and a naturally occurring fructose containing product cannot have any undesirable effect on human body. How ever one of the critical questions raised in this controversy is whether HFCS can be considered as a normal fructose source as it is a product derived from corn by hydrolysis and isomerization reaction to increase the fructose content using industrial enzymes. In contrast sucrose contains glucose and fructose in equal concentration to which human body is accustomed. Whether high concentration of fructose impairs the normal carbohydrate metabolism in the body is not precisely known. The situation is similar to bis-phenol A (BPA) controversy now being faced by the packaging industry and may countries are rushing to ban this artifact chemical supposed to be leached into the food from the package causing some harm to the consumers. Though there is no conclusive proof that BPA really poses any hazard at levels it occurs in processed and packed foods, many industry players are voluntarily shunning the packaging materials with potential for contamination from this chemical. While as a general philosophy use of natural materials and consumption of natural foods are ideal, the modern society cannot live without processed foods and all such products are presumed to be put in the market after weighing the risk-benefit aspects while formulating.


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