Our cover story this month exposes the shocking revelation that high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), a ubiquitous sweetener used in everything from cola to ‘healthy’ snacks, is heavily laced with mercury that has inadvertently been added during its manufacturing process.
So widespread is HFCS, and so contaminated by mercury in the manufacturing process, that most of us—even those consuming so-called ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ processed foods and snacks—could be ingesting some 28.5 mcg of mercury every day. Indeed, the average American is eating more than 42 lb (19 kg) of it every year.
What’s more, new evidence suggests that the use of HFCS may be behind the rise in obesity in Western countries such as the US and UK.
Naturally, the corn industry, which was more or less saved from extinction by the discovery in the 1970s of an enzyme that could convert the glucose in corn syrup to fructose, counters that HFCS is ‘natural’—derived entirely from natural substances with no artificial additives or ingredients.
But that begs the question of what exactly we mean by ‘natural’. Of the two types of high fructose corn syrup being widely used, HFCS-55 is 55-per-cent fructose and HFCS-42 is 42- per-cent fructose. The remainder percentages of each sweetener is largely made up of glucose plus approximately 6 per cent of higher saccharides.
The manufacture of HFCS is an involved process. The first step is to extract the corn starch from corn, which is then treated with the enzyme alpha-amylase, a natural enzyme present in human saliva and pancreatic fluids but, in this instance, produced commercially from bacteria. The resulting polysaccharides produced from the chemical interaction of corn starch and this enzyme are treated with yet another enzyme called ‘glucomylase’—harvested through a process that uses fungi from the Aspergillus family.
The third step in this process involves passing the mixture over a third enzyme called glucose isomerase. This enzyme is entirely synthetic, and this is what is responsible for doing most of the work—that is, converting part of the corn glucose into fructose so that the resultant HFCS is 42 per cent fructose, 6 per cent other saccharides and 52 per cent glucose.To produce HFCS-55, the HFCS-42 is put through liquid chromatography, which helps manufacturers to separate out only the fructose, resulting in a liquid that is 90-per-cent fructose. Then the HFCS-42 and HFCS-90 are blended together and the result is HFCS-55, with a higher concentration of sweetness and the sweetener of choice for most soft drinks.Some 90 per cent of the soft drinks produced in the US are made with HFCS-55.
In a number of plants (all of the HFCS plants in the UK and one-third of those in the US), the manufacturing process exposes this ‘entirely natural’ product to caustic soda (sodium hydroxide), which requires the use of mercury in the process.
This means that this all-singing, all-dancing, ‘natural’ substance is produced through a three-stage enzyme-conversion process, including one totally synthetic enzyme and, in the manufacturing process at some plants, exposed to a good deal of mercury, which mysteriously ‘disappears’.
All this mixing, dividing and refining may be why there is increasing evidence that this sugar derivative could be causing massive weight gain. As with most food that is manipulated in any major way, the body simply doesn’t recognize it or, indeed, know what to do with it.
I don’t know about your dictionary but, to my mind, HFCS is to natural sugar what a saline implant is to female breasts—a weird approximation that can never be called an equivalent to the real thing.
You can read the full report in the March issue of 'What Doctors Don't Tell You'. To begin your subscription, please follow this link:
Published 24 March 2009 10:09 by Bryan Hubbard
Filed under: high fructose corn syrup, sugar, HFCS, sweetener