What is Fructose?
Carbohydrates have been an important component of the human diet since Man’s earliest times. Cereal grains and tubers provided starchy glucose, while honey, fruits and vegetables supplied simple sugars like glucose and fructose. As methods for refining sucrose (table sugar) from sugar cane and beets developed, glucose and fructose assumed a somewhat increased prominence in the diet relative to starch.
Pure crystalline fructose was first made available for food and beverage use 20 years ago, having been marketed previously primarily as a health supplement. Pure crystalline fructose has had a negligible effect on the carbohydrate composition of the diet because of the small volume of this sugar produced relative to all other naturally occurring and added starches, syrups and sweeteners.
Food scientists and technologists favor pure crystalline fructose because it possesses functional properties beyond their inherent sweetness, which extend its usefulness in a wide variety of foods and beverages.
Pure crystalline fructose is a product of both the corn wet milling and sucrose industries. In the former, cornstarch is extracted from corn kernels and, in a series of processing steps, glucose is enzymatically transformed to fructose. In the latter, the disaccharide bond in sucrose is enzymatically hydrolyzed to liberate glucose and fructose. In both processes, the fructose is then crystallized, dried, milled to desired particle size and packaged. The crystalline product is brilliant white and very high purity.
Crystalline Fructose and High Fructose Corn Syrup are Not the Same
People often use the terms “high fructose corn syrup (HFCS)” and fructose interchangeably; however they are not the same. While pure crystalline fructose contains fructose alone, HFCS contains nearly equal amounts of glucose and fructose, similar to sucrose (table sugar).
Sucrose and HFCS have long been considered Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS). As a significant component of these two sweeteners, the safety of fructose has been thoroughly documented in several scientific reviews performed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other expert panels. The FDA concluded, “High fructose corn syrup is as safe for use in food as sucrose, corn syrup and invert sugar.” An International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) Expert Panel concluded, “Fructose is a valuable, traditional source of food energy, and there is no basis for recommending increases or decreases in its use in the general food supply or in special dietary use products.”
Contrary to contemporary reports, the introduction of HFCS (isoglucose) in the latter quarter of the 20th century did very little to change the ratio of simple sugars to starch, or the ratio of glucose to fructose. Why? Because HFCS and sucrose have nearly the same composition and HFCS simply replaced sucrose in many applications on a one-for-one basis.
A Joint Consultation of the World Health Organization and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization found that consumption of sugars is not a causative factor in any disease, including obesity.
Fructose Does Not Lead to Health Concerns
Fructose is not responsible for the obesity epidemic or any other health issues the U.S. is facing. Obesity, diabetes, and other chronic health conditions are multi-faceted, brought on by many different factors, not just one. Allegations that fructose causes increased fat production or increased appetite and weight gain are based on poorly crafted experiments which often test extremely high levels of fructose, much higher than the levels found in a typical human diet. These studies are also generally carried out in animals that are poor models for human metabolism. Consequently, the findings from these studies are extreme, and not applicable to real-life situations.
Meeting Consumer Demand
Calorie Control Council consumer research shows that more than 187 million adult Americans are incorporating low calorie, sugar-free foods and beverages into their meal plan as part of a healthy lifestyle. People will continue to demand a greater variety of low calorie products as they strive to make healthier food choices. Fructose can help meet this demand because of its unique sweetness and functionality.
Fructose is being used in new foods and beverages, such as shelf-stable nutrition bars, soft moist cookies, pourable frozen juice concentrates and energy-reduced products.
Some are even suggesting the application of fructose for those with special dietary or nutritional needs, like endurance athletes.
Fructose and HFCS are not the same. Fructose is sweeter than sucrose so less is needed to achieve the same sweetness, offering calorie savings. Fructose has a low glycemic index and does not cause surges and dips in blood glucose levels. Pure crystalline fructose offers many functional benefits when added to a wide range of foods and beverages, improving product palatability and stability.
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