By: Adriana Avila, Staff Reporter | Photo By: Jonathan Gamboa, Production Manager
High Fructose Corn Syrup Vs. Table Sugar
“10 Minutes With…” is a feature in which a member of the CNM faculty shares professional insight on a local, national or international issue.
There are some big differences between high fructose corn syrup and regular sucrose — better known as table sugar — said Biology instructor Thomas Kennedy
Fructose and glucose are natural sugars and are both plant products, but high fructose corn syrup is genetically modified. Fructose, especially the kind found in corn syrup, does not identify in a body the same as glucose, contrary to the television ads created by the Corn Refiners Association, he said.
“To say fructose and glucose are treated the same in our bodies is completely wrong,” said Kennedy, “They are treated differently.”
Fructose is preferred by junk food manufacturers because it is sweeter and cheaper than table sugar, said Kennedy.
Both Pepsi Co. and Coca-Cola have released special ‘original flavor’ versions on their drinks which are made with table sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup, he said. The two versions have very different tastes, said Kennedy.
“If they’re both the same, then why do they taste different?” Kennedy said.
When glucose enters the bloodstream, insulin is released to regulate it and turn it into energy, he said. Because the body does not recognize fructose as regular sugar, it is sent to the liver instead. The liver breaks the fructose down. If too much has been ingested at once, the liver can’t process it fast enough to use as sugar energy, and it turns into fat, he said.
Table sugar is actually half glucose and half fructose. High fructose corn syrup is almost the same thing, but it has a higher concentration of fructose than glucose, making it an unhealthy balance, said Kennedy.
High fructose corn syrup is a combination of 55 percent fructose and 45 percent glucose. Both fructose and glucose are natural sugars but have different shapes. Our bodies therefore process them differently, he said.
“Shape is extremely important in biological reactions,” said Kennedy.
In the US, a person consumes an average of 12 teaspoons of high fructose corn syrup a day. Teens, students and others with little time for sleep consume close to 80 percent more on average, he said.
“As Americans, we have too much sugar in our diets to begin with,” Kennedy said.
There is one thing that fructose manufacturers have been falsely accused of, he said. The urban legend that mercury can be found in high fructose corn syrup is based in fact, but is mostly myth, said Kennedy. Mercury has also been found in several samples of commercial products containing high fructose corn syrup, but it was probably a contaminant from the machinery in the production factory rather than an intended additive, he said.
“The mercury isn’t purposely put in the high fructose corn syrup. If it was, companies like Pepsi and Mountain Dew wouldn’t have many customers,” said Kennedy.