High Fructose Corn Syrup

Here’s the basic process for making HFCS:
corn –> (milled into) corn starch –>
(processed into) corn syrup + enzymes (change glucose to fructose)
= high fructose corn syrup

Google high fructose corn syrup and you’ll find a plethora of articles about it being bad for us. There are possible health concerns with diabetes and high cholesterol, and it may or may not be the cause of rising obesity in the U.S. But hey, eat foods filled with HFCS or sugar (can or beet) and you’re going to be putting your body at risk.

There’s another issue with HFCS though, and here are 2 of the reasons Wikipedia gives as to why it is so controversial:

  • The preference for high-fructose corn syrup over cane sugar among the vast majority of American food and beverage manufacturers is largely due to U.S. import quotas and tariffs on sugar. These tariffs significantly increase the domestic U.S. price for sugar, forcing Americans to pay more than twice the world price for sugar, thus making high-fructose corn syrup an attractive substitute in U.S. markets. For instance, soft drink makers like Coca-Cola use sugar in other nations, but use high-fructose corn syrup in their U.S. products.
  • Some critics of HFCS do not claim that it is any worse than similar quantities of sucrose would be, but rather focus on its prominent role in the overconsumption of sugar; for example, encouraging overconsumption through its low cost.

An article in the Washington Post says, “What makes corn a target is that federal subsidies — and tariffs on imported sugar — keep prices low, paving the way for widespread use of high-fructose corn syrup and, in the process, keeping the American palate accustomed to the sweetness it provides.” Add to that the problem of how much energy it takes to process the corn into HFCS, and the fact that corn is grown without rotating the crops, which is damaging to the soil, and requires even more pesticides.

I’m not yet very educated on the subject, but let’s just say the evidence suggests that HFCS is a real bad guy when it comes to our health and the planet. Maybe down the road, government corn subsidies will be properly addressed by a future farm bill, because for now, the subsidies are forcing us into eating more sweets than healthy alternatives, simply because they are cheaper.

One of these years, the eaters of America are going to demand a place at the table, and we will have the political debate over food policy we need and deserve. –Michael Pollan

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1 Comment

Filed under food

One response to “High Fructose Corn Syrup

  1. I love this post! We are writing about topics like these in our “going granola” category, and this is on our list. Isn’t amazing that we are eating more corn than we realize? It really is in everything!

    We are children of the corn…


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