High fructose corn syrup, which is also known as gluctose-fructose syrup or maize syrup, is an ingredient that has glucose converted into fructose to enhance its sweetness. It’s in almost every processed food that requires a sweetener and is in most beverages as well. You’ll find it in everything from bread to soup to soda.
Using a starch for a sweetener is a practice that dates all the way back to the 9th century in Japan. It wasn’t until the 17th century, however, that glucose was discovered by Andreas Marggraf. Another starch-based glucose was invented by Gottlieb Kirchoff through the use of potato starch and sulfuric acid. As for HFCS, the claim of invention lies with Richard Marshall and Earl Kooi with a sweetener introduced in 1957.
There is no evidence that one person or group holds a specific claim to this sweetener’s invention, however, and the use of HFCS wasn’t perfected until 1970.
Why Was High Fructose Corn Syrup Used?
When the 1970’s rolled around, the United States was in a lot of domestic turmoil. Many remember the fuel shortages and rationing that occurred, but there was also problems with cane sugar coming into the country. With political revolutions happening in sugar producing nations, climate changes creating even more sugar shortages, and a free trade market regulating the price of the commodity, the average person couldn’t afford real sugar.
That caused everyone to begin looking at alternatives. People remembered that you could create sugars from starchy products. What did the US grow a lot of that contained a lot of starch? Corn.
Is HFCS Dangerous Like Some People Claim?
The reality of high fructose corn syrup is that people consume a lot of it every year, even if total consumption rates have been decreasing for a decade. According to research that occurred in 2010, the average person consumed 43.5 pounds of HFCS per year. Nearly 11% of the average American’s caloric intake comes from this sweetener.
Any excessive intake of sweetener could have a detrimental effect on the body, including regular cane sugar. Sugars contain calories and higher caloric intake equates to higher obesity levels and a potential for disease development, such as diabetes.
There is also the possibility that HFCS contains mercury contaminants because of the chlor-alkali products that are used during the manufacturing process. Because of this, there are several medical professionals that do not support the consumption of this sweetener, even though others believe it to be safe.
As with any food product, the final decision lies with you. This invention, which has been perfected over the decades by several individuals in many different countries, is in many of the prepared and packaged foods that are consumed every day. Some might say that this sweetener makes for food-like substances instead of real food. Whatever your feelings may be, HFCS did help to create a reasonable sugar substitute at a time when one was needed and because it is a sugar, it should be consumed responsibly.