High fructose corn syrup (1975- ) or HFCS is a sugar made from maize (Zea mays, called corn in America). It is just as sweet as ordinary sugar but in America it is cheaper, so it takes the place of sugar in nearly all soft drinks and in many processed foods.
Coke in America, for example, does not have ordinary sugar like it once did (and still does in Mexico), but HFCS.
The really bad thing about HFCS is that it makes you fat without making you feel full. It is a man-made sugar that your body does not recognize as food, so you keep eating. And yet more of it is turned into fat than ordinary sugar.
In 1970 HFCS did not even exist – it was invented in Japan in the 1970s. Yet today it accounts for half of all the sugar that Americans eat. This helps to explain why they are fatter now than a generation ago. Some say it also causes diabetes in old age.
In Europe HFCS is rare. In Japan it accounts for a fourth of the sugar eaten.
Four companies make most of the HFCS:
- Archer Daniels Midland (ADM)
- CPC International
They make a fortune off it.
ADM, whose advertisements you see on Sunday morning
political talk shows in America, gives money to both political parties.
That is no surprise: HFCS is a creature of government. It would not be so much cheaper than ordinary sugar if the government did not:
- Give money to maize growers.
- Limit the amount of foreign sugar that comes into the country and add high tariffs to its price.
- Cut off trade with Cuba after it fell to the communists.
Because of the last two, table sugar costs a lot more in America than it does in the rest of the world. Because of the first, maize is cheaper than it should be. All this helps HFCS.
Still, HFCS has more than just a price advantage over ordinary sugar:
- It is easier to transport because it is a liquid.
- It is easier to mix into food and drink.
- It lasts longer, especially in soft drinks.
- America can grow far more maize than sugar cane, even without government help.
HFCS is made by breaking down the sugar in maize and purifying it so that it is mostly fructose. You need the high levels of fructose to make maize sugar as sweet as ordinary sugar.
Fructose is a sugar found in fruit and plants. It is two
times sweeter than table sugar (sucrose), but it is harder for the body to take in. Fructose for the most part has to go through your liver first. This makes it good for those with diabetes, but too much of it can give you stomach trouble.
When a lot of HFCS is given to test animals, horrible things have happened, even death. But it has been hard to prove the same results for humans. Nevertheless many believe that it makes people fat and can lead to diabetes.