Honey, where’s the High-Fructose Corn Syrup?

High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is both a preservative and a sweetener. It is produced through a process that changes the form of sugar in cornstarch from glucose to fructose. This sounds natural enough and does not immediately conjure up concerns about health risks, but a closer look at high fructose corn syrup reveals several factors that do cause concern. In particular, the connection between high fructose corn syrup and increased obesity along with the correlating health risks such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and coronary artery disease.

HFCS is not the sole culprit in the obesity epidemic in this country. Its role, however, in this problem is simply its abundance. HFCS is the main sweetener in most soft drinks and at least among the top sweeteners in a plethora of other foods we consume every day including most breakfast cereals, snack foods, fruit drinks, sauces, spread, and dippings, salad dressing, condiments, jams, yogurts, … the list goes on and on.

Honey is a mixture of different types of sugars, water, and small amounts of other compounds. Honey typically has a fructose/glucose ratio similar to HFCS 55, as well as containing some sucrose and other sugars. Like HFCS, honey contains water and has approximately 3 kcal per gram. Because of its similar sugar profile and lower price, HFCS has been used illegally to “stretch” honey. As a result, checks for adulteration of honey no longer test for higher-than-normal levels of sucrose, which HFCS does not contain, but instead test for small quantities of proteins that can be used to differentiate between HFCS and honey.

Honey is a natural sweetener which contains the extra nutrition in the form of proteins, minerals, and vitamins. The plant enzyme amylase present in the raw honey is effective in breaking down and helping the predigestion of the starches in the bread. Taking honey also helps to raise the level of antioxidants required in the body.

But be warned there are bee farms that produce 2/3 of the annual honey production in North America by force feeding their bees high fructose corn syrup or other sugars, and keeping them under 24-hour hive lighting so that they will produce honey year round (the remaining 1/3 of honey produced in North America is pure honey). These tactics result in the bees producing a product that is only partially real honey; the other portion of the “honey” is high fructose corn syrup!