FACTSHEET ON GLUCOSE FRUCTOSE SYRUPS, ISOGLUCOSE AND
HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP
1. Understanding the terms
Terms like glucose fructose syrups, isoglucose and High Fructose Corn Syrups
(HFCS) are often confused and used interchangeably. This section aims to clarify
the differences (read more)
Glucose is a simple sugar found naturally in many foods. Glucose performs a
unique and vital role as an energy source for the brain which cannot use other types of
Fructose is also a simple sugar found in many foods. It is the sweetest of all naturally
occurring sugars. High levels of fructose are, for example, typically found in fruits
notably tree fruits (oranges, apples etc.), berries, melons and some root vegetables
such as sweet potatoes, parsnips and onions
Sucrose, or table sugar, is made up of glucose and fructose linked together in a 1:1
ratio (i.e., 50% glucose, 50% fructose).
Glucose Fructose Syrup (GFS) is a liquid sweetener used in the manufacturing of
foods and beverages. It is composed of different sugars, mainly glucose and fructose,
with varying compositions, with a fructose content ranging from 5 to 50%. If the
fructose content exceeds 50%, the product becomes a Fructose-Glucose Syrup.
Isoglucose is glucose fructose syrups with more than 10% of fructose, as defined in EU
In the United States, this type of product is produced from maize starch most
commonly either with a 42% or a 55% fructose content and is called High Fructose
Corn Syrup (HFCS).
For a definition of isoglucose please see COUNCIL REGULATION (EC) No 1234/2007 of 22 October 2007
establishing a common organisation of agricultural markets and on specific provisions for certain agricultural
products (Single CMO Regulation) – definition on page 89
2. How Glucose Fructose Syrups are produced
In the EU, Glucose Fructose Syrups2 are made typically from wheat or maize starch.
The starch molecule is a long chain of glucose cells. By first liberating free glucose
molecules through a process called ’hydrolisation’ and then changing some of these
glucose molecules into fructose in a process called ‘isomerisation’
3. The uses of Glucose Fructose syrups (GFS)
Glucose Fructose Syrups are found in many food and drinks, not only for their
sweetening characteristics, but also for their other specific properties (read
In the EU, GFS is mainly found in confectionery, beverages, jams and preserves, baked
goods, cereal products, yogurts and other dairy products, condiments and canned and
packed goods. It is not only used for its sweetening properties but also for its other
properties, for example to add texture and stability to foods. GFS also, for example,
prevents crystallisation in confectionery and prevents sweets from sticking to their
Outside of the EU, and notably in the US, GFS (notably HFCS as it is termed there),
because, unlike sucrose, is a liquid, it is particularly well suited to and also used widely
in soft drinks.
4. Differences between the EU and the US situation
The extent and type of GFS use varies significantly from one region to the next.
This is partly because of different legislative approaches and partly due to
different consumer preferences, for example between the US and the EU (read
The use of GFS in soft drinks in the EU has been limited because soft drinks need a
fructose content of at least 42% to achieve their desired level of sweetness and GFS
with such a high level of fructose is not available in the EU in sufficient quantities. This
is because in the EU, the production of isoglucose (glucose fructose syrups with more
than 10% of fructose) is limited by the EU sugar regime to 5% of total EU sugar
production. Its use is therefore more limited than elsewhere in the world. In the EU,
soft drinks are therefore sweetened primarily using sucrose, which has a fructose
content of 50%.
In the US, no production limits exist on GFS, and HFCS today constitutes up to 40% of
US sugars consumption. Its main application is in soft drinksii.
For a legal definition of glucose fructose syrup please see Council Directive 2001/111/EC, of 20 December 2001,
relating to certain sugars intended for human consumption, OJ L10, 12 January 2002, p. 53
The EU sugar regime is due to end in October 2017, meaning that, from that date,
there will no longer exist EU production quotas on either sucrose or isoglucose.
This is expected to result in a possible change in isoglucose production in the EU. The
extent of this change is extremely difficult to predict and subject to as yet unknown
outside factors but industry estimates suggest an increase in EU isoglucose production
from its current level of approx. 720,000 tonnes a year to at least 2 million tonnes a
year over time (representing approximately 15% of total EU sugar consumption).
5. The nutritional properties of GFS and HFCS
GFS, other starches and sucrose are nutritionally equivalent and contain the
same number of calories, 4kcal/g (read more). Human beings derive their energy from carbohydrates, proteins and fats. EFSA
(European Food Safety Authority) published guidelines suggesting that carbohydrates
should constitute 45-60% of total energy intake for both adults and childreniii.
GFS is a sugar and one source of carbohydrates. Other carbohydrate sources include
starch, found predominantly in starchy foods like bread, potatoes and pasta and
sucrose, an important ingredient in many food products that are commonly found in
GFS, other starches, and sucrose all contain the same number of calories, 4Kcal /g iv.
HFCS is typically produced in the US with a fructose level of either 42% or 55%. The
fructose level in sucrose or honey is 50%, i.e. equivalent to HFCS as illustrated in the
The US Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in 2012 noted that ‘High Fructose Corn
Syrup is nutritionally equivalent to sucrose. Both sweeteners contain the same number
of calories (4 per gram) and consist of about equal parts of fructose and glucose. Once
absorbed into the blood stream, the two sweeteners are indistinguishable’ v.
6. HFCS consumption and obesity
No causal relationship between increased HFCS consumption and increased
obesity rates has been demonstrated. The reality is that HFCS consumption in
the US has been decreasing since 1999 but obesity rates have continued to
increase (read more)
As a result of the popularity of GFS in the US, at levels with a similar fructose level to
sucrose (i.e. HFCS), there has been extensive research in that country comparing the
health and nutritional characteristics of HFCS with sucrose. Though causality was
never established, the evidence initially suggested a correlation between increasing
HFCS consumption and rising US obesity and diabetes ratesvi.
This suggested correlation has been thoroughly reviewed and subsequently strongly
questioned primarily because whilst US HFCS consumption has been falling since
1999, obesity and diabetes rates in that country have continued to increase.
The American Medical Association clearly stated in June 2008 that ‘high fructose syrup
does not appear to contribute to obesity more than other caloric sweeteners’vii.
Furthermore, data from other countries showed no correlation between HFCS and
obesity prevalence ratesviii.
7. Fructose compared to other sugars
Studies comparing beverages with different levels of fructose have not
demonstrated any differential effects on feelings of fullness between fructose
and other sugarsix (read more).
Evidence demonstrates that fructose and glucose, the main constituents of both HFCS
and sucrose are indeed metabolised in different ways in the body x.
However, studies comparing beverages with different levels of fructose have not
demonstrated any differential effects on feelings of fullness between fructose and
other sugarsxi. More generally, when fructose or fructose-containing sweeteners are
used as an alternative to other carbohydrates in diets providing similar calories, no
adverse effect on body weight is observedxii. To cite Sievenpiper J L, de Souzan R J,
Mirrahimi A, Me Y, Carleton A J, et al., ‘Fructose, if consumed in high doses can
contribute to increasing bodyweight but such effect would be due to excessive caloric
intake rather than to the consumption of fructose itself’xiii.
Recent research published in Europe supports these conclusions, to cite Tappy et al :
“Through multiple misconceptions about fructose and fructose-containing sugars, a
causal role of their intake has been proposed in the aetiology of the global obesity
epidemic. However, current evidence on the metabolic effects of fructose, as
consumed by the majority of populations, is insufficient to demonstrate such a role in
metabolic diseases and the global obesity epidemic.”xiv
In June 2014 the UK SACN draft report on “Carbohydrates and health” stated that:
“The body absorbs free fructose and glucose, or the same sugars derived from sucrose
and HFCS, in exactly the same way. Therefore, it appears unlikely that fructose, as
consumed as a component of HFCS, causes metabolic abnormalities or promotes
weight gain more than other sugars consumed in an isocaloric diet (Klurfeld, 2013 )”
and concluded after reviewing existing studies and meta-analysis that: “Therefore on
balance, it is considered that there is insufficient evidence to demonstrate that
fructose intake, as consumed in the diet, leads to adverse health outcomes
independent of any effects related to its presence as part of total and free sugars”.xv
8. The causes of obesity
The increasing rates of obesity, both in the US and Europe, and indeed elsewhere
in the world are, as nutritionists, health experts and researchers generally agree,
primarily the result of an imbalance between calories consumed and calories
burned. The solution to reducing obesity is promoting a balanced diet and
sufficient physical activity xvi.
List of references
Corn Refiners Association, 2010 Annual Report.
EFSA (2010). "Scientific opinion on dietary reference values for CHO and dietary fibres." EFSA Journal 8(3): 1462
Textbook knowledge, supported by Food insight which says “HFCS and table sugar contain the same number of
calories – 4 calories per gram or 16 calories per teaspoon.”http://www.foodinsight.org/Content/6/HFCS_v7.pdf
Acad Nutr Diet 2012: 112: 739-758.
Bray, G.A., S.J. Nielsen, and B.M. Popkin, Consumption of high-fructose syrup in beverages may play a role in the
epidemic of obesity. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2004. 79: p. 537-543;
Moeller et al. 2009 the effects of high fructose syrup. J Am Coll Nutr 28(6) 619-26.
The Health Effects of High Fructose Syrup, Report 3 of The Council on Science and Public Health (A-08), The
American Medical Association.
http://www.theaustralianparadox.com.au/Fructose.php; http://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/3/4/491/htm – Soenen E, Westerp-Plantenga WS (2007) No differences in satiety or energy intake after high-fructose corn
syrup, sucrose, or milk preloads. Am J Clin Nutr 86:1586-94.
Monsivais P, Perrigue MM, Drewnowki A (2007) Sugars and satiety: does the type of sweetener make a
difference. AM J Clin Nutr 86: 116-23.
L. Tappy and K-A Lé (2010) Metabolic effects of fructose and the worldwide increase in obesity. Physiol Rev 90: 2346.
Akhavan T and Anderson GH. (2007). Effects of glucose-to-fructose ratios in solutions on subjective satiety, food
intake, and satiety hormones in young men. Am J Clin Nutr 86(5):1354-1363.
Soenen S, Westerterp-Plantenga WS (2007) No differences in satiety or energy intake after high-frucrose corn
syrup, sucrose, or milk preloads. Am J Clin Nutr 86: 1586-94.
Monsivais P, Perrigue MM, Drewnowki A (2007) Sugars and satiety: does the type of sweetener make a
difference. Am J Clin Nutr 86: 116-23.
EFSA (2011). "Scientific opinion on the substitution of health claims related to fructose and reduction of
postprandial glycaemic responses pursuant to article 13(1) of regulation (EC) No 1924/2006." EFSA Journal 9(6):
2223 [15 pp].
Cozma, A. I., J. L. Sievenpiper, et al. (2012). "Effects of fructose on glycaemic control in diabetes: a systematic
review and meta-analysis of controlled feeding trials." Diabetes Care 35(7): 1611-1620.
Ha, V., J. L. Sievenpiper, et al. (2012). "Effects of fructose on blood pressure: a systematic review and metaanalysis of controlled feeding trials." Hypertension 59(4): 787-795.
Sievenpiper J L, de Souzan R J, Mirrahimi A, Me Y, Carleton A J, et al. (2012) Effect of fructose on body weight in
controlled feeding trials. Ann. Intern, Med. 1856: 291 – 304.
V.J. van Buul, L. Tappy and F.J.P.H. Brouns, Nutrition Research Reviews, 2014, Misconceptions about fructose-
containing sugars and their role in the obesity epidemic.
Klurfeld D, Foreyt J, Angelopoulos T, Rippe J. “Lack of Evidence for High Fructose Corn Syrup as the Cause of
the Obesity Epidemic.” (Accepted, International Journal of Obesity, advance online publication, doi:10.1038/
ijo.2012.157, 18 September 2012.);
Scientific Advisory Committee in Nutrition (2015) Carbohydrate and health. Available from:
WHO (2003). Diet, Nutrition and the prevention of chronic diseases: Technical report 916.