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High-Fructose Corn Syrup: Natural or Not?

Posted Oct 03 2008 11:32am
By Dr. Christine Gonzalez (PharmD, HHC)

After the recent release of a high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) ad campaign on television by the Corn Refiners Association, many consumers are more confused than ever. No wonder! As presented in these commercials, a lot of the information can be misleading because they claim that HFCS is "natural" and simply "made from corn". This started me on an interesting quest to figure out first and foremost whether HFCS is natural or not. Here’s what I found out...

HFCS is NOT a naturally occurring substance. It is produced by a processing procedure that breaks cornstarch down into glucose. Then some of that is converted into fructose. A synthetic fixing agent fixes the enzymes used to make HFCS into a column. Since the synthetic fixing agent does not actually come into contact with the final product, it is not considered to be included or added.

On July 8, 2008, the FDA made a statement in a letter that “high-fructose corn syrup may be labeled natural when synthetic fixing agents do not come into contact with it during manufacturing”. That is how the Corn Refiners Association can claim that HFCS is “natural”, and now this claim is supported by the FDA's definition. Very interesting indeed!

So, while it is true that HFCS is made from corn – a natural grain product – and technically, it does not contain any artificial or synthetic ingredients, a complex process in which chemical bonds are broken and rearranged produces HFCS. Doesn’t seem very “natural” to me. But now that you know, you can make your own, more informed decision. I’d love to hear your opinions on this topic...

Update 9.20.08: Check out this video that was created by Bev – one of our community members – in response to the high-fructose corn syrup ads!

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