Natural born killer
March 24th 2009, 10:09
Our cover story this month exposes the shocking revelation
that high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), a ubiquitous sweetener used in
everything from cola to 'healthy' snacks, is heavily laced with mercury
that has inadvertently been added during its manufacturing process.
So widespread is HFCS, and so contaminated by mercury in the manufacturing
process, that most of us-even those consuming so-called
'natural' or 'organic' processed foods and snacks-could be ingesting
some 28.5 mcg of mercury every day. Indeed, the average American is
eating more than 42 lb (19 kg) of it every year.
What's more, new evidence suggests that the use of HFCS may be behind the rise in
obesity in Western countries such as the US and UK.
Naturally, the corn industry, which was more or less saved from extinction by the discovery
in the 1970s of an enzyme that could convert the glucose in corn syrup to fructose, counters
that HFCS is 'natural'-derived entirely from natural substances with no artificial additives
But that begs the question of what exactly we mean by 'natural'. Of the two types of highfructose
corn syrup being widely used, HFCS-55 is 55-per-cent fructose and HFCS-42 is 42-
per-cent fructose. The remainder percentages of each sweetener is largely made up of glucose
plus approximately 6 per cent of higher saccharides.
The manufacture of HFCS is an involved process. The first step is to extract the corn starch
from corn, which is then treated with the enzyme alpha-amylase, a natural enzyme present
in human saliva and pancreatic fluids but, in this instance, produced commercially from
bacteria. The resulting polysaccharides produced from the chemical interaction of corn
starch and this enzyme are treated with yet another enzyme called 'glucomylase'-harvested
through a process that uses fungi from the Aspergillus family.
The third step in this process involves passing the mixture over a third enzyme called
glucose isomerase. This enzyme is entirely synthetic, and this is what is responsible for doing
most of the work-that is, converting part of the corn glucose into fructose so that the
resultant HFCS is 42 per cent fructose, 6 per cent other saccharides and 52 per cent glucose.
To produce HFCS-55, the HFCS-42 is put through liquid chromatography, which helps
manufacturers to separate out only the fructose, resulting in a liquid that is 90-per-cent
fructose. Then the HFCS-42 and HFCS-90 are blended together and the result is HFCS-55,
with a higher concentration of sweetness and the sweetener of choice for most soft drinks.
Some 90 per cent of the soft drinks produced in the US are made with HFCS-55.
In a number of plants (all of the HFCS plants in the UK and one-third of those in the US),
the manufacturing process exposes this 'entirely natural' product to caustic soda (sodium
hydroxide), which requires the use of mercury in the process.
This means that this all-singing, all-dancing, 'natural' substance is produced through a
three-stage enzyme-conversion process, including one totally synthetic enzyme and, in the
manufacturing process at some plants, exposed to a good deal of mercury, which mysteriously
All this mixing, dividing and refining may be why there is increasing evidence that this
sugar derivative could be causing massive weight gain. As with most food that is manipulated
in any major way, the body simply doesn't recognize it or, indeed, know what to do with it.
I don't know about your dictionary but, to my mind, HFCS is to natural sugar what a saline
implant is to female breasts-a weird approximation that can never be called an equivalent
to the real thing.
You can read the full report in the March issue of 'What Doctors Don't Tell You'. To begin your subscription, please follow this link: