Sugary Saga: High Fructose Corn Syrup's Origins and Impacts
A Brief Origin Story of HFCS
Once upon a time in 1957, scientists Richard O. Marshall and Earl R. Kooi created an enzyme called glucose isomerase. They used this enzyme to alter the sugar in corn syrup, making it sweeter and calling it high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).
To make this sweet substance, they began with corn and ground it into corn starch. From there they converted it into corn syrup. After that, they added the glucose isomerase enzyme, which created a sweeter sugar called fructose.
High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) made its way into loads of processed foods and soft drinks across the United States. Soda company giants such as Pepsi and Coca-Cola made the switch to this new sweetener because sugar prices were through the roof — it was all about cutting costs back then and not at all about feeling healthy.
HFCS’ rapid adoption by food industry
Switching to HFCS was a big win for food producers. It's cheaper than cane or beet sugar, which means it lowers their production costs and fattens up their profit margins. Plus, the price of HFCS stays pretty steady, so they can plan and budget without worrying about wild price swings. Oh, and here's another cool thing: HFCS is made from corn, and guess what? We've got loads of corn right here in the USA. That means a steady supply and less dependence on imported sugar.
But wait, there's more! HFCS does some magic in food production. It makes things taste better, helps them last longer on the shelf, and even improves the texture. So, all in all, it's a win-win for food producers, making their products top-notch and their wallets fatter.
The average American (in 2018) consumed 37.7 pounds of High Fructose Corn Syrup per year. This is because HFCS now represents more than 40% of caloric sweeteners added to food and drink products. America's consumption of this gooey liquid has increased by more than 1000 percent!
Where is HFCS Hidden?
HFCS has quietly made its way into some of our favorite treats. Soft drinks have been using HFCS to add that sweet touch to your favorite fizzy beverages. Granola and protein bars, those convenient on-the-go snacks we love, often contain a hidden dose of HFCS. Even your morning cereal may not be as innocent as it seems, as some of those crunchy bites are sweetened with HFCS. And who can resist a cold scoop of Icecream on a hot day? Well, here's the scoop: HFCS often finds its way into our beloved desserts. So, the next time you reach for one of these goodies, keep in mind that HFCS might be hiding in there.
Drawbacks of HFCS
Impact on Metabolic Health: HFCS can have negative effects on metabolic health. Studies suggest that excessive consumption of HFCS may contribute to insulin resistance, elevated blood sugar levels, and an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Increased Risk of Obesity: HFCS consumption has been linked to weight gain and an increased risk of obesity. The high fructose content in HFCS may disrupt appetite regulation, leading to overconsumption of calories and contributing to the obesity epidemic.
Liver Health Concerns: HFCS metabolism primarily occurs in the liver. Excessive intake of HFCS has been associated with an increased risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and liver damage. HFCS consumption can lead to fat accumulation in the liver and contribute to liver inflammation.
Potential Cardiovascular Risks: High consumption of HFCS has been linked to adverse effects on heart health. It can increase the levels of triglycerides, LDL cholesterol (the "bad" cholesterol), and promote the development of other risk factors for cardiovascular diseases.
Benefits of Natural Sugars
We’ve been told the myth that sugar is bad for us when in fact, our bodies need it to function. Adding natural sugars to your diet such as bananas, dates and honey while being mindful of the amount you need, can have a whole host of benefits.
Nutritional Boost: These sweeteners pack more than just sweetness. They come with extra nutrients and antioxidants, including vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. This means you can enjoy a touch of sweetness while adding a bit of nutritional value to your diet. A win-win!
Blood Sugar Buddy: Unlike high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), natural sweeteners tend to have a lower glycemic index. What does that mean? Well, it means they won't send your blood sugar on a rollercoaster ride. Instead, they offer a slower and steadier increase in blood sugar levels, which is great for managing overall blood sugar and avoiding sudden insulin spikes.
Simplistic Purity: Natural sweeteners are a far cry from heavily processed HFCS. They're often derived straight from plants or trees and undergo minimal processing. That means they come with fewer additives and maintain their wholesome qualities. If you're all about keeping things pure and simple, natural sweeteners are the way to go.
Flavor Fiesta: One of the coolest things about natural sweeteners is the diverse range of flavors they offer. Each sweetener brings its own unique taste profile to the table. Whether it's the rich warmth of maple syrup, the floral sweetness of honey, or the mellow notes of agave nectar, these alternatives can turn your culinary adventures into a flavor-packed fiesta. It's a chance to savor and appreciate the delightful nuances that these natural wonders bring to your favorite dishes and drinks.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t plug why the natural sugars in our bars are so awesome, right?
All our bars use a medjool date and honey binder with certain flavors containing either unsweetened sour cherries or raisins. That means you’re getting all-natural sugars that come with a whole host of health benefits!
Medjool Dates: This amazing little fruit contains heaps of healthy fiber which helps to reduce bad (LDL) Cholesterol, control blood sugar and pressure levels while promoting digestive health. They also have been proven to improve your metabolism which can help fight tiredness and fatigue as well as aiding in weight management.
Honey: Bees are perhaps one of the most effective pollinators in nature, pollinating up to 5,000 plants per day which has extremely beneficial environmental impacts, but where they really shine is in their sweet, sweet nectar. Honey has been proven to provide digestive support and can act as an antibacterial to support your immune system. It also can protect you against metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes if consumed in moderation.
Cherries: The anti-inflammatory and antioxidants in cherries can help relieve exercise-induced muscle pain, damage, and inflammation. Cherries are especially high in polyphenols, a large group of plant chemicals that help fight cellular damage, reduce inflammation, and promote overall health. Polyphenol-rich diets may even protect against some chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, mental decline, and certain cancers.
Raisins: Raisins are a great source of iron which can help fight anemia and improve blood circulation. Their nutrients, like oleanolic and linoleic acid, may also have antibacterial properties and some studies have found that this effect may limit plaque-forming bacteria in your mouth. They’re also high in fiber which can help your digestive health.
As with anything, you do have to make sure that you consume even natural sugars in moderation. Too much of anything can be bad and that’s why none of our bars have any more sugar than a banana. So go ahead and order yourself some bars and get after it!