You're likely familiar with industrial sweeteners such as high-fructose corn syrup, which is found in a wide variety of foods. Another food additive you may find as you peruse food labels is high-maltose corn syrup. The difference between the two is that the main sugar in HFCS is fructose, while the main sugar in HMCS is maltose. Because of their differing sugars, HMCS may not carry the same risks as HFCS. But it's still an added sugar, so limit your intake.
Lack of Research
Unlike HFCS, which scientists have studied extensively, few human studies have evaluated the potential health effects of regularly consuming HMCS. From a chemical standpoint, maltose is formed from two glucose units as the result of fermentation and is the least common disaccharide found in nature. High-maltose corn syrups contain at least 35 percent maltose, with the typical commercial brand containing 65 percent maltose.
A Lesser Evil
Fructose is the primary component that has caused concern in terms of HFCS. The body breaks down fructose differently than other sugars, and this may cause adverse effects when eaten regularly. Because maltose contains little to no fructose, it may not carry the same risks as HFCS.
Researchers found that regularly consuming beverages sweetened with HFCS increases heart disease risk factors, such as bad cholesterol, more than glucose. Their findings were published in the October 2011 issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.
Added Sugar and Your Health
It's best to treat HMCS just as you would any other added sugar. Too much sugar spells trouble for your health in the form of weight gain, cavaties, insulin resistance, fatty liver and heart disease. It's recommended that you limit added sugar from all sources to 100 calories if you're a woman and 150 calories if you're a man. The major sources of added sugar are soft drinks, cakes, cookies, pies, candy and ice cream.
Taming Your Sweet Tooth
HMCS is found in processed foods, which in addition to having sugar often have too much fat and sodium and too few nutrients. A diet high in processed foods is bad news due to an imbalanced distribution of nutrients. Cut down your intake of processed foods and increase your intake of whole foods.
Try a fresh fruit and low-fat yogurt parfait cup, homemade trail mix, a fresh fruit smoothie or peanut butter on celery sticks topped with raisins when your sweet tooth strikes. Stick to the outer perimeter of the store when you're grocery shopping, and focus on fresh foods instead of packaged fare in the aisles.
- Colorado State University: Sugar and Sweeteners
- Elmhurst College: Maltose Is Made From Two Glucose Units
- Center for Science in the Public Interest: High-Maltose Corn Syrup
- American Heart Association: Sugar 101
- Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism: Consumption of Fructose and High Fructose Corn Syrup Increase Postprandial Triglycerides, LDL-cholesterol, and Apolipoprotein-b in Young Men and Women