Sunday, October 11, 2009

Glucose Isomerase


Just a spoon full of.....


High Fructose Corn Syrup
makes the medicine go down?


Hmm, just doesn't have the same ring to it...  and the melody doesn't really work. 

Now if we believe the repeated assertions from the Corn Refiner's Association or the Center for Consumer Freedom that High Fructose Corn Syrup is "simply a kind of corn sugar" then what does it matter?  It's just a name.

But what IS HFCS?  How is it made? Is it really just "corn sugar," nutritionally no different than any other form of sugar?

Boiled down (no pun intended), High Fructose Corn Syrup is glucose that has been enzymatically isomerized into fructose. 

HUH?

Ok, so during my free time over the past few months i literally scoured professional journals, medical reports, etc until i found authoritative sounding descriptions of both what HFCS is, as well as how it is made.  Over the course of this research, I found patent records, EU regulations, professional journal articles, medical studies, etc.  According to the the reports and articles i read, the central component in HFCS production is the enzyme used in the isomerization process, Glucose Isomerase.  For the record, none of the sources I found suggested some other process or otherwise contradicted the fact that Glucose Isomerase plays a key role in the production of High Fructose Corn Syrup.

The most detailed description I found of Glucose Isomerase (GI), how it is formed, and its role in HFCS production, was contained in The American Society for Microbiology's academic journal, Microbiological Review.  In the article "Molecular and Industrial Aspects of Glucose Isomerase,"  Snehalata Bhosale, Mala Rao, and Vasanti Deshpande describe the production of HFCS and break it down into a 3-step prcess:
"The production of HFCS from starch comprises three major processes: (i) liquefaction of starch by α-amylase, (ii) saccharification of starch by the combined action of amyloglucosidase and a debranching enzyme, and (iii) isomerization of glucose by GI."


This article does not delve into the politics of the debate; it's as rigidly objective as any academic report could possibly be.  There is no discussion of digestion or subejctive statement about how great it is that there is such widespread use of HFCS.  They describe the enzymatic isomerization processes in excruciatingly minute detail.  They also detail the reason behind the genetic modification of Glucose Isomerase.

So why, if I am so opposed to HFCS, do I reference this study?  Because it is informative.  It describes in more detail than I have seen anywhere else what HFCS is.  It doesn't take sides.  The authors are not from a lobbyist group;  they are scientists who work in a laboratory.

And in conclusion, i cannot help but contend that anyone who says HFCS is "natural" and just a "corn sugar" stands to benefit monetarily from these utterly ridiculous assertions....

2 comments:

  1. And what is the problem with using enzymatic processes to synthesize corn syrup?

    ReplyDelete
  2. It's not just the enzymatic process, it's the whole package. This statement, cited above, does not strike me as a description of the creation process for a "natural" ingredient:
    "The production of HFCS from starch comprises three major processes: (i) liquefaction of starch by α-amylase, (ii) saccharification of starch by the combined action of amyloglucosidase and a debranching enzyme, and (iii) isomerization of glucose by GI."

    ReplyDelete