Food, In A Nutshell #2: Glucose-Fructose Syrup, Sugar’s Evil Twin

As if common garden sugar wasn’t bad enough, the type of sugar now increasingly added to snack foods and soft drinks is even worse. The food industry has spawned a new monster: glucose-fructose syrup.


This abomination was first conceived in the US (where it is known as high-fructose corn syrup). It has now, predictably, made its way to our shores, leaving in its wake a trail of controversy and obesity.


Glucose-Fructose syrup arriving
Here comes trouble

Glucose-fructose syrup is corn syrup that been processed to convert some of its glucose into fructose. The result is an exceptionally and intensely sweet product. In the US, where the intake of sugar-sweetened soft drinks has risen in parallel with the epidemic of obesity, glucose-fructose syrup has come to replace ordinary sugar in processed food, mainly because it is much cheaper. It is everywhere – in drinks, bread, cereals, and breakfast bars, and just about anything where ordinary table sugar might once have made an appearance.


Glucose-fructose syrup is 55-90% fructose (fruit sugar). There is nothing wrong with fructose in fruit; the problem is that in extracted, concentrated form it is much sweeter than ordinary sugar. And more damaging. Glucose-fructose syrup does everything that ordinary sugar does, and then some. Instead of entering blood circulation, it goes directly to the liver, where it is readily converted into fat. It is very selective, favouring above all the accumulation of abdominal and ectopic fat. Ectopic fat is that which accumulates in areas where it wouldn’t normally, and where it shouldn’t: around the heart, the liver or in muscles.


Furthermore, fructose consumption lowers levels of circulating leptin concentrations. Leptin is a hormone that signals to the brain that you are full, so it helps suppress appetite. Lower that level of leptin and you are likely to eat more.


Look out for glucose-fructose syrup on labels, and make sure you give this health hazard a wide berth.*


*Alert! A recent AYCE shopping reconnaisance has revealed that the supermarket Sainsbury’s is now making good use of glucose-fructose syrup. It is in their own-brand pickled onions (seriously). They used to add just plain old sugar. Not only is glucose-fructose syrup cheaper, it also conveniently does away with the word ‘sugar’ on the label. So anyone scanning the label might not realise just what they are getting. You really do have to know your onions.


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