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Demystifying Corn Syrup

By Cook's Illustrated Published July 2011

Is Karo corn syrup the same thing as the high-fructose corn syrup ubitquitous in soft drinks and other processed foods?

In a word, no. Corn syrup (the most popular brand being Karo, introduced in 1902) is made by adding enzymes to a mixture of cornstarch and water to break the long starch strands into glucose molecules. It’s valuable in candy making because it discourages crystallization; it also helps baked goods retain moisture. And because it is less sweet than granulated sugar, corn syrup makes an excellent addition to savory glazes, contributing body and sticking power.

High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a newer product, coming on the market in the 1960s. It is made by putting regular corn syrup through an additional enzymatic process that converts a portion of the glucose molecules into fructose, boosting its sweetness to a level even higher than that of cane sugar. Because HFCS is considerably less expensive than cane sugar, it is widely used in processed foods, but it is not sold directly to consumers.