High Fructose Corn Syrup and Fructose, The Differences

There is a great deal of confusion about fructose and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). They are not the same. The term “high fructose corn syrup” (also known as corn sugar) suggests that HFCS is a fructose sweetener but this is only partly true. In fact, corn sugar contains nearly equal amounts of the simple sugars glucose and fructose. A range of formulas of HFCS with varying ratios of fructose to glucose are used in various food applications, such baked good, beverages, processed fruits, condiments, frozen desserts, jams, jellies, and pickles.

Fructose, a simple sweetener, naturally occurring in many fruits and vegetables, is also found in the added sugars, sucrose, crystalline fructose and corn sugar. Sucrose is made up of glucose and fructose so is very similar in composition to high fructose corn syrup. Crystalline fructose can be produced from corn starch or sucrose and contains fructose alone. Crystalline fructose is primarily used in dry mix beverages, low-calorie products, flavored water, still and carbonated beverages, sports and energy drinks, chocolate milk, breakfast cereals, baked goods, yogurt, fruit packs and confections.

Since pure crystalline fructose and sucrose have their own unique properties, each is uniquely suited for different applications. Fructose is the sweetest of all nutritive sweeteners with approximately 1.2 to 1.8 times the sweetness of sucrose in most food applications. Less fructose can be used to achieve the same sweetness, thereby saving calories. Importantly, fructose also has a low glycemic index and does not cause surges and dips in blood glucose levels relative to glucose and sucrose. Fructose reacts synergistically with other sweeteners and starches in a way that boosts the sweetness and other properties of certain foods and beverages. Fructose also is among the least cariogenic of the nutritive sugars.