High-fructose corn syrup is a commonly used sweetener in sodas and sweetened snacks and has become a big part of American diets.
Unfortunately, many health experts suspect a connection between its increased use, and higher levels of obesity and other related health issues across the country.
Here's what you should know about high-fructose corn syrup, plus some helpful tips you can use to make your diet healthier.
High-fructose corn syrup is derived from corn starch, which is a chain of glucose molecules that are fixed together. When processors break corn down, the final product is corn syrup. High-fructose corn syrup gets its name because it contains higher amounts of fructose compared to ordinary, untreated corn syrup.
The most common types of high-fructose corn syrup contain between 42 - 55 percent fructose. Dubbed high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) 42, the lower-fructose sweetener is usually used in processed foods, certain cereals, baked goods, and many beverages. Alternatively, more potent high-fructose corn syrup, dubbed HFCS 55, is primarily used in soft drinks.
While high-fructose corn syrup is chemically similar to ordinary sugar, there is controversy about whether the body handles the sweetener differently than table sugar.
That said, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, there is no compelling evidence of any notable difference between the safety of foods containing high-fructose corn syrup and foods containing similar amounts of other sweeteners with equal fructose and glucose content. In other words, research has yet to show that high-fructose corn syrup is worse for the body than table sugar, honey, and other traditional sweeteners.
Still, too much high-fructose corn syrup does pose health risks, just like sugar.
According to the Mayo Clinic, it can result in excess calories that are linked to many health problems, including weight gain, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and high triglyceride levels. All of this can increase your risk of heart disease and other deadly health issues.
To avoid potential health problems, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that men consume no more than 37.5 grams (9 teaspoons) or 150 calories of sugar each day, and for women, the AHA recommends no more than six teaspoons (25 grams) or 100 calories of sugar each day.
If you are eating or drinking foods sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup, read the product label to help you determine how much sugar you are consuming. You should also consider choosing sugar-free drinks.
At the same time, you should avoid eating or drinking sugary foods and beverages on an empty stomach, since this can lead to insulin spikes due to rapid digestion. If you choose to eat a sugary snack, try to lower the glycemic load by eating some protein or fiber first. This will slow down the rate of digestion and help you avoid a crash.