High-fructose corn syrup: everything you wanted to know, but were afraid to ask1,2

Victor Fulgoni III
ABSTRACT The annual American Society for Nutrition Public Information Committee symposium for 2007 titled “High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS): Everything You Wanted to Know, But Were Afraid to Ask” served as a platform to address the controversy surrounding HFCS. Speakers from academia and industry came together to provide up-to-date information on this food ingredient. The proceedings from the symposium covered 1) considerable background on what HFCS is and why it is used as a food ingredient, 2) the contribution HFCS makes to consumers’ diets, and 3) the latest research on the metabolic effects of HFCS. The data presented indicated that HFCS is very similar to sucrose, being about 55% fructose and 45% glucose, and thus, not surprisingly, few metabolic differences were found comparing HFCS and sucrose. That said, HFCS does contribute to added sugars and calories, and those concerned with managing their weight should be concerned about calories from beverages and other foods, regardless of HFCS content. Am J Clin Nutr 2008;88(suppl):1715S. INTRODUCTION

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The concern about the rise in the degree of overweight and obesity in the United States has heightened media attention about certain ingredients. One ingredient, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), has received considerable attention over the past few years. Some of this attention was the result of a publication by Bray et al (1) that hypothesized that the rise in obesity might be associated with increased use of HFCS by the food industry. For many in the food industry, this hypothesis was confusing because those who used HFCS knew that the component sugars were very similar to sucrose. However, very limited research existed to confirm the metabolic similarities of HFCS and sucrose. Several studies did look at the effects of high amounts of fructose in the diet and indicated some cause for concern or at least the need for more research (2). The annual American Society for Nutrition Public Information Committee symposium for 2007 titled “High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS): Everything You Wanted to Know, but Were Afraid to Ask” was organized to bring together leaders on this topic to address the controversy surrounding HFCS. White (3) started off the symposium with a description of HFCS including why it is used by the food industry. HFCS is a versatile, cost-effective sweetener of foods and beverages. Composition data indicated that the predominant form of HFCS used by the food industry is very similar to sucrose, being about 55% fructose and 45% glucose. Thus, the use of HFCS has not caused a rapid increase in fructose as was reported (1). Duffey and Popkin [presented by Popkin (4)] presented information about the caloric contribution of HFCS indicating that HFCS provided 8.3% of total energy intake (189 kcal ⅐ personҀ1 ⅐ dҀ1) and

15.7% of total carbohydrates. Total added sugars were reported to be 377 kcal/d or 16.8% of calories. Stanhope and Havel [presented by Havel (5)] and Melanson et al [presented by Rippe (6)] presented metabolic data from well-designed clinical trials to determine whether the metabolic effects of HFCS were different from those of sucrose. Both researchers reported that HFCS and sucrose study groups had similar blood glucose concentrations and similar insulin responses. Hunger ratings and leptin and ghrelin levels were also similar between the HFCS and sucrose groups. From one research group, there was an indication that postprandial lipemia may have been higher in the HFCS group. Further research will be needed to confirm these results and to ascertain the metabolic impact, if any, of this change in lipids immediately after consumption. Thus, we now have a clearer picture about HFCS; namely, metabolic responses are similar to sucrose as would be expected from the composition of these 2 sweeteners. That said, there is still concern about added sugars consumption because these provide a significant number of calories to the American diet. Although some would like to continue to demonize HFCS, the focus should be on reducing all sources of added sugars and other sources of extra calories. Hopefully, the results of this symposium will help to redirect limited resources in a manner that will provide the most benefit to Americans.
I thank Rita Buckley for editorial assistance in the preparation of the supplement articles. VF is responsible for the content of this article. VF is Senior Vice President of Nutrition Impact, LLC, a consulting firm that serves the food and beverage industry.

1. Bray GA, Nielsen SJ, Popkin BM. Consumption of high-fructose corn syrup in beverages may play a role in the epidemic of obesity. Am J Clin Nutr 2004;79:537– 43. 2. Havel PJ. Dietary fructose: implications for dysregulation of energy homeostasis and lipid/carbohydrate metabolism. Nutr Rev 2005;63:133–57. 3. White JS. Straight talk about high-fructose corn syrup: what it is and what it ain’t. Am J Clin Nutr 2008;88(suppl):1716S–21S. 4. Duffey KJ, Popkin BM. High-fructose corn syrup: is this what’s for dinner? Am J Clin Nutr 2008;88(suppl):1722S–32S. 5. Stanhope KL, Havel PJ. Endocrine and metabolic effects of consuming beverages sweetened with fructose, glucose, sucrose, or high-fructose corn syrup. Am J Clin Nutr 2008;88(suppl):1733S–7S. 6. Melanson KJ, Angelopoulos TJ, Nguyen V, Zukley L, Lowndes J, Rippe JM. High-fructose corn syrup, energy intake, and appetite regulation. Am J Clin Nutr 2008;88(suppl):1738S– 44S. From Nutrition Impact, LLC, Battle Creek, MI. Address reprint requests to V Fulgoni III, Nutrition Impact, LL, 9725 D Drive North, Battle Creek, MI 49014. E-mail: vic3rd@aol.com. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2008.25825A.
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