The natural wonder of high fructose corn syrup

I don’t have to come to every discussion I’m invited to, but sometimes, the invitation is just too juicy.

The case in point this morning is the Corn Refiners Association recent newsletter lead story, “Natural Options for Sweeteners.”

Yes, the refiners boasted that high fructose corn syrup “meets the Food and Drug Administration policy for use of the term ‘natural.’" ‘Course, that sham is on the FDA, and if I were the corn refiners, I’d use it too. But still, it is a sham:

”To make HFCS, you start with corn, then mill it to produce starch -corn starch.  Starch, the most important carbohydrate in the human diet, consists of long chains of glucose. To make corn syrup, you mix the corn starch with water and then add an enzyme, produced by a bacterium, that breaks the starch down into shorter chains of glucose. Then you add another enzyme, produced by a fungus, that breaks the short chains down into glucose molecules. At that point, you have regular corn syrup. To make the corn syrup into high fructose corn syrup, you turn some of its glucose molecules into fructose molecules by exposing the syrup to yet another enzyme, again produced by bacteria. This enzyme converts the glucose to a mixture of about 42 percent fructose and 53 percent glucose, with some other sugars as well. This syrup, called HFCS 42, is about as sweet as natural sugar (sucrose) and is used in foods and bakery items.  HFCS 55, which contains approximately 55 percent fructose and 42 percent glucose, is sweeter than sucrose and is used mostly in soft drinks.” ~

Got that? Milled, mixed, enyzmed, enzymed, enzymed ... All natural, according to the FDA.

And that doesn’t even cover the fact that most corn is genetically modified, produced with petrochemically derived fertilizers, which are just as “natural,” ‘cause they came from the ground. Presumably.

But wait, there’s another paragraph in the corn refiners' story:

”As for the question of whether or not HFCS is recognized as ‘natural’ by consumers, evidence suggests that the question may be beside the point. A study from Mintel shows that the number of consumers looking to reduce total sugars in their diet ranged between 17% and 26%, while those trying to avoid HFCS ranged between 1% and 5%.

This just beggars understanding. Those two data are barely comparable, never mind meaningful. I just can’t fathom what the refiners are even saying those numbers prove, never mind whether they do it.


Author and wellness innovator Michael Prager helps smart companies
make investments in employee wellbeing that pay off in corporate success.
Video | Services | Clients