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The Sugar Controversy

March 24, 2012 | Filed Under Business, FDA, Health, Paleo-Skeptic | Comments Off

The Corn Refiners Assn., ADM, and others were out in the US District Court in the Central District of California on Wednesday to defend their advertising practices. They want to be able to list the high-fructose corn syrup they produce as “corn sugar” on food package labeling. Cane sugar producers are opposed.

I side with the producers of cane on this one.

To label the high-fructose corn syrup as “corn sugar” would be misleading.


Sugars are of two categories; simple or complex. The simple ones are monosaccharides, which may be found as themselves or in combination as forming a disaccharide, or they may form a polysaccharide, such as starch or cellulose.

These sugars are oxygenated carbohydrates that break down under enzyme activity. Much of the enzyme activity is heat specific; that is, they only work within a certain temperature range.

The nomenclature of enzymes indicates two criteria: the sugar that it operates on, and the manner of activity. The alpha enzymes break down the sugars by cutting them in half, while the beta enzymes nibble at the ends of the molecule. To my (somewhat incomplete) knowledge, the beta enzymes will break the sugar down more, take longer to operate, and work at a slightly lower temperature.

The digestion of these sugars is according to the enzyme level and metabolism of the individual. Certain sugars, such as lactose and galactose, may be difficult to digest. Lactose is a disaccharide composed of glucose and galactose, and requires a beta-galactosidae to split it apart. Galactose requires three enzymes in succession to break it down for the body to use. I will note here that the product “Beano” is an alpha-galactosidae, though I am unsure how it may affect lactose intolerance.

Glucose is the sugar that your body runs on. It’s the easiest to process. The body will also convert sucrose to glucose for use immediately, as sucrose is a disaccharide composed of glucose and fructose. It doesn’t convert all of the sucrose, but that which is needed. The rest is stored as fat. But the body maintains a surplus of glucose at all times.

The body will only convert fructose when it is deficient in glucose and sucrose. Otherwise it is stored as belly fat. It just seems to have a preference for that.

Two units of glucose bound together form the sugar maltose. If the molecule is made up of more than two units of glucose, it is then known as maltodextrin, which is one of the main products of corn. Metabolism of maltodextrin may be an issue for those with gluten intolerance. I’m not sure if products such as Beano might help with this condition.

One of the things that I would like to point out here is that fruit is best eaten first thing in the morning, and it would be best to avoid it late in the evening. The body will not metabolize fructose in a catabolic state. Glucose level will be lowest at early morning, and the fructose is more likely to be metabolized at that time.

Those same strictures would apply to products containing high-fructose corn syrup.

That’s where the term “corn sugar” becomes misleading. The sugars in corn are glucose or dextrose. I’m really not sure how or why they would put the fructose in there in the first place.

But it’s definitely not corn sugar.

Corn sugar is a product which is sold widely at brew shops as priming sugar. This is the sugar added at bottling to produce carbonation.

The brewing yeasts are capable of breaking down fructose, but different sugars produce different levels of carbonation in the finished product.

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