Because you asked...Invert Sugar

>> Thursday, May 28, 2009

A reader recently sent me an e-mail asking me if I knew anything about a mysterious ingredient called "liquid invert sugar" that was on the ingredient list of some granola bars he bought at Target. Great question! Funny, the ingredient has never registered with me, but I noticed on the ingredient list of another product the next day at the grocery store.

So...what is liquid invert sugar? Invert sugar is sucrose (a disaccharide of glucose and fructose) that has been broken into free glucose and free fructose. (Sound familiar? That's what HFCS is too - free glucose and free fructose - only the beginning ingredients and processing are completely different.) Invert sugar is sweeter than table sugar (sucrose) because fructose is sweeter than both sucrose and glucose.

Invert sugar is found naturally in honey and maple syrup. In fact, invert sugar is often referred to as "artificial honey," though it doesn't have any of the wonderful little goodies that honey (or maple syrup, for that matter) contain.

Invert sugar is sold as a liquid as either total invert sugar (50% fructose, 50% glucose) or as a mixture of half sucrose and half invert sugar (50% sucrose, 25% fructose, and 25% glucose).


Why use it? Invert sugar has a lot of desirable properties in baked goods and other processed foods. The sugar crystals in invert sugar are smaller than sucrose, which results in a smoother texture of the final product. The smaller crystals also dissolve faster than sucrose crystals. Invert sugar retains moisture better and improves shelf life. As little as 10-15% of invert sugar mixed with sucrose markedly reduces crystallization in the final product, resulting in longer shelf life as well. All the reasons that manufacturers like HFCS apply to invert sugar.

How is it made? Invert sugar is manufactured a couple of different ways - acid hydrolysis and enzymatic inversion. In acid hydrolysis, sucrose is subjected to acid and heat to break it into glucose and fructose. Many different acids can be used, including citric acid. The process is not perfect, however. Conversion of sucrose to glucose and fructose is low (around 40-70% from what I've read), and energy consumption and cost of production are high. Impurities from polymerization products are an issue with acid hydrolysis of sucrose.

Enzymatic inversion of sucrose is achieved using a yeast derived enzyme known as Invertase. Conversion of nearly 100% can be achieved through enzymatic inversion. Low temperatures can be used with enzymatic inversion eliminating polymerization products (and improving final flavor), and filtering of the Invertase is easy. Enzymatic inversion is not cheap, however, so both methods of inversion appear to be in use.

The home cook can also make invert sugar and in fact does so when making jellies or jams. Mixing sugar with citric acid, cream of tartar, or fresh lemon juice and boiling will result in some sugar inversion - enough to keep the remaining sucrose from recrystallizing.

Should I use Invert Sugar? Again, this is a personal decision. We avoid HFCS (of course) and also fructose as ingredients preferring to limit our free fructose consumption to natural products (like fruits, honey, and maple syrup) that have more to offer. Because of that, we'll probably also add invert sugar as a specific ingredient to our list of things to avoid, but I'm not going to be concerned about the invert sugar that is in jellies and other baked goods where it might form during the baking process.


Hmmm... Learning about invert sugar production does make me wonder how much sucrose if converted to fructose and glucose in our stomachs. I've heard the argument that HFCS is processed the same as sucrose in our bodies because sucrose breaks down into fructose and glucose in the highly acidic environment of our stomachs. I would love to know what the conversion of sucrose to free glucose and free fructose is in our body - something I haven't come across yet. Just one of those things I wonder about.

Keep your questions coming!

41 comments:

Kathryn May 29, 2009 at 3:09 PM  

I don't know much about the chemistry of these things. But i don't believe HFCS is utilized by the body in the same way as sucrose. Triglycerides are raised & fat stored with HFCS much more than sucrose. It is my belief that it interferes with the ability to feel full as well.

cathy May 29, 2009 at 3:23 PM  

Kathryn - It's controversial. We've given up HFCS in part because of the possibility of HFCS being processed the way you mention. (We have more reasons for not consuming it, but the underlying health aspect of consuming HFCS was our original driving force.) Too much fructose in any form has been shown to have the health effects that you mention.

BUT, there is a current thought in the research world that sucrose and HFCS might be processed the same way - because sucrose separates into fructose and glucose when in contact with stomach acid making sucrose and HFCS pretty much the same once in your stomach. Personally, I think that it will be a long time before we fully understand the health ramifications of HFCS and am happy to have it out of our house!

Amy May 29, 2009 at 3:32 PM  

Thanks for that thoughtful post Cathy. I feel like I need to think of a sugar related question, just because I love your answers.

I have never seen invert sugar on a label, but I will probably notice now.

laura May 29, 2009 at 4:29 PM  

Very interesting. Mostly a rhetorical question, but I'm curious whether invert sugar will start getting used more and more as a way to get the more well-known HFCS off the ingredients list.

cathy May 29, 2009 at 4:35 PM  

Laura - I doubt it. It's substantially more expensive than HFCS, and more expensive than sucrose. I'd guess that the companies that move away from HFCS simply switch to sucrose. It does seem to have its niche, though, so maybe I'll be proven wrong!

Jon (was) in Michigan May 30, 2009 at 5:44 AM  

Thanks for the post. I had a big discussion about invert sugar with a friend a while back. I had the chemical make up totally wrong (I was thinking it was an enantiomer because of the "invert" name). I think we concluded it was ok. It sounds like you are on the fence about it, so I'm not worried about it at the moment.

Lori May 31, 2009 at 2:53 PM  

Very informative post. I haven't come across invert sugar. I'll have to keep my eye out. I'm interested in the controversy regarding how it is utilized as well.

Courtenay May 31, 2009 at 9:30 PM  

Great blog post! I appreciate the information you share as it helps me make informed decisions when feeding my family.

I have another question regarding fat. Is butter bad for you? I was under the impression that butter (within moderation) is fine because it is natural (as opposed to margarine). Some information that I read recently on a "healthy living" blog made me feel like I should be avoiding butter at all costs. I've also read that canola oil is better than other oils. Why is that?

I'm confused when it comes to fats. Which fats should I be feeding my family and why?

cathy June 1, 2009 at 6:34 AM  

Jon - Love that you were discussing invert sugar! Just as an FYI, they call it invert sugar because when measuring sugar concentration using polarimeter, plane-polarized light is rotated to the right through a sucrose solution and to the left (opposite) in an invert sugar solution. So light is "inverted" through the invert sugar solution.

Courtenay - Are you reading my mind? Great questions about fat! I'm actually working on a post on saturated fat for hopefully later this week. It's not as clear cut as it seems, and you are definitely asking the right kinds of questions! I hope to have another post on canola oil soon too. So, hate to leave you hanging, but check back soon!

James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. June 1, 2009 at 11:05 AM  

Great informative post, Cathy. Thanks

George January 16, 2010 at 6:25 PM  

The disaccharide sucrose (table sugar) is indigestible by humans. It must be broken down into its glucose (a.k.a. dextrose) and fructose (a.k.a. levulose) components. Thankfully, mother nature has supplied us all with the enzyme invertase in our saliva and gastic juice, to do just that!

HFCS is made in 2 common forms: HFCS 42, which is 42% fructose, 52% dextrose, 3% maltose, 3% higher saccharides. HFCS 55, used in soft drinks, contain 55% fructose, 41% dextrose, 2% maltose and 2% higher saccharides.

The "carbohydrate profile" of HFCS is remarkably similar to that of natural honey.

nhom March 9, 2010 at 11:26 AM  

oh..but i don't know the process of invert sugar..now,i'm doing seminar about it.can U help me? i am from VietNam. vui khi gặp bạn

Joe April 14, 2010 at 3:46 AM  

great blog, Cathy. You seem to be saying the HFCS is no different from invert sugar? Could you clarify?

Courtenay - Pls avoid Canola like the plague as this is an artificially created oil. Go read this article:

The Real Story on Canola Oil
(aka Can-ugly Oil) by Fred Pescatore. Just google title of article and author's name.

The best oils to use are rice bran oil (very high smoking point), Canadian Nutiva hempseed oil (excellent stuff), virgin coconut oil, grapeseed oil and virgin olive oil.

Polyunsaturates go rancid quickly but masked by deodorisation during processing. Most vege cooking oils mostly polyunsaturates) are high in Omega-6, which is the cause of inflammation in the body and inflammation is the single biggest contributor of contemporary diseases. Avoid peanut oil, soya oil, sunflower seed oil, cottonseed oil, margarine, partially-hydrogenated oils or shortenings (trans fats)

Take precautions when buying virgin olive oils as there have been cases of fraud from adulteration of the oils with cheap, low quality stuff. Coconut oils have been unjustly demonized by the big oil corps to divert the market. Saturated oils are good for you so stick to butter (or, better still, ghee), plus good animal fats. No margarine.

Google for the oil expert Dr Mary Enig "The oiling of America" and other articles. Bruce Fife's book and articles on virgin coconut oil. Best website for spreading food facts and fallacies - Weston Price foundation.

Good sugar substitutes: Stevia, Palm sugar (low glycemic index of only 35), Lohan sweetener, Malt syrup (rice and barley). You can buy some of the sweeteners at iherb.com or swansonvitamins.com

Cheers, Joe

Anonymous August 24, 2010 at 11:14 PM  

Invert sugar and HFCS are NOT the same thing.

Invert sugar is sucrose split into component glucose and fructose in a hydration reaction.

Corn syrup is made by natural enzymatic reaction of amylase on starch, yielding 100% glucose. High-fructose corn syrup makes the extra step of introducing an enzyme that doesn't normally occur in nature to convert glucose to fructose. They have to genetically modify microorganisms to get this to happen in any significant quantity.

You have to understand fructose isn't a molecule; it's a family of molecules. There are different handedness, linear or cyclic, fructofuranoses and pyranoses. The fructose form this enzyme produces is different than what you can get from fruit or honey, and probably different from invert sugar.

Anonymous October 12, 2010 at 3:29 PM  

Fructose is not a family of molecules.

"Fructose, or fruit sugar, is a simple monosaccharide found in many foods."

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fructose

Fat is confusing. There's some contradictionary research regarding saturated fats. Check out Wikipedia. We need more omega 3's though.

cathy October 12, 2010 at 4:28 PM  

Anonymous - Your comment really has no relationship to the post.

generic viagra December 10, 2010 at 10:46 AM  

I had never listened about Invert sugar, but it has happened to me that I sometimes want to cook something so I look the recipe and I found out that I don't know all the ingredients it contains! Thanks for the information

Melia February 6, 2011 at 2:21 PM  

Thanks for the information. I was looking at the ingredient list on some Greek honey flavored yogurt that we got, and one of the ingredients listed was honey powder (cane sugar, invert sugar and honey). This was the first time we had seen invert sugar in anything.

Erin February 9, 2011 at 2:47 PM  

As a treat, I caved and bought Wheat Thins for the kids "junk food" craving because it didn't have HFCS...in carefully studying the ingredients when I got home (curious about what they substituted instead of the ubiquitous HFCS), I discovered invert sugar. No one is writing much about it. My gut says it can't be good, since that box of Wheat Thins did not agree with any of us and the kids say they'll never want them again. All in all, a good thing, but again it does make me wonder just what invert sugar really does.

Anonymous March 30, 2011 at 4:33 AM  

All I know about this is that after eating 2 chewy granola bars with this ingredients, I have a massive headache the likes of which I normally get when I accidently eat something with Sucralose/Aspertame or such in it.

Robert L March 30, 2011 at 8:18 PM  

The body converts all sucrose in the diet to glucose and fructose. So from a nutritional viewpoint in is all the same sucrose and invert sucrose (i.e. glucose and fructose). This is all very simple.

The problem is sugar (sucrose or HFCS) period! - NOT whether it is completely broken before consumption (HFCS) or after consumption in the body (table sugar). All sucrose (table sugar) becomes inverted period!

Now HFCS can be similar or different from table sugar in this regard. HFCS-50 is 50%glucose and 50% fructose and thus no different to the body than table sugar. HFCS-42 used in baking goods is 42%fructose and 58% glucose (less fructose than table sugar. HFCS-55often used in soft drinks, is 55% fructose and 45% glucose - so it is higher in fructose than table sugar - However, because it is sweeter than table sugar you don't need as much HFCS-55 than table sugar for the same sweetness and thus you actually consume less fructose then you would get if table sugar was used to acheive the same level of sweetness.
Everyone is missing the point! The problem is that AMericans consume too much sugar!!!! Period. Be less concerned with whether it is fructose or glucose. The exception to this, of course, is for diabetics. Diabetics need to avoid glucose and so fructose is healthier for diabetics since it doesn't raise blood sugar.

Again, the problem is too much sugar! not whether it comes from corn (HFCS) or sugar-cane (table sugar). By the way, apples and pears are 2/3 fructose and 1/3 glucose (higher in fructose than most HFCS-55.

Anonymous May 24, 2011 at 8:12 AM  

I found this post after googling invert sugar. I was looking for information after finding invert sugar as an ingredient in containers of Goya brand Nectars (juice). After reading the post and comments, I am still not sure if it is good for you, bad for you, or neither!

Anonymous May 31, 2011 at 6:27 PM  

My husband and I also saw the inverted sugar in Goya peach juice/nectar. We are trying to decide between that and Kern's peach juice, which contains HFCS. Kern's has less sugar per serving, Goya more juice. It's a toss-up.

Anonymous August 8, 2011 at 10:26 AM  

The problem is not glucose, it is fructose.. your body has a capacity to absorb as much glucose as you can throw at it, and it will all be stored in the liver, and what is not needed is excreted.

Fructose on the other hand, is NOT processed by the body the same way... in fact, the body processes fructose by the same biological pathways as alcohol... same enzymes are used and storage in the liver is the same, as little oily droplets that your liver cannot properly process... if you wanna know more about this , view this youtube series by Robert H. Lustig, MD, UCSF Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology, explores the damage caused by sugary foods:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM

It is an hour long video, but it very illuminating and informative

Anonymous October 11, 2011 at 11:13 AM  

Great info! Thanks. I received two boxes of chocolates for my birthday (last month) and looked at the list of ingredients. Invert sugar was listed second. So,of course, I wanted to know what that was. Upon further searching,it seems that bakers prefer this form of sugar in their products. This is the first time I actually saw this listed in a product's ingredients.

Mike October 22, 2011 at 6:26 PM  

There is nothing wrong with HFCS. Period. It is in fact the most logical solution to several factors, and considerations: among them availability and price, and allows us to have more sweetness with less calories. What is wrong with that?! I am not in farming, I am not in agribusiness, I am a chemist and a nutritionist and having read dozens of textbooks about nutrition and human metabolism I fail to see even a minimal problem with HFCS.

Anonymous December 6, 2011 at 12:12 PM  

Mike,
There have been studies done in a number of universities in the US that prove HFCS is one of the leading feeders of cancer cells.
Cancer cells like any kind of sugar, but High Fructose Corn Syrup makes them 'jump for joy'! I for one just wonder if this invert sugar on the labeling isn't another way to slip HFCS into us without us knowing it. It was done with the Aspartame, by changing its name to Nutri-Sweet, them again to Sucralose. Some studies might have shown that the processes were different, but the end result was the same.

Honey December 27, 2011 at 5:04 AM  

Based on what I have read, invert sugar is about 25% sweeter than regular white sugar, which makes me feel it is not such a bad alternative. Even though I agree, all sugars including HFCS are bad because of obvious reasons, but consuming these in moderation is probably fine. Additionally, God knows what all chemicals and additives these sugar syrup suppliers add the during manufacturing of their products.

Thanks for your informative post as always.

Amanda January 13, 2012 at 6:00 AM  

The Girl Scouts are now using invert sugar in their cookies instead of HFCS. Interesting.

Unknown March 16, 2012 at 6:29 AM  

When sucrose enters the body it is broken down into Glucose and Fructose through Glycolysis. This does create energy, but it uses some energy to get that energy. When fructose does not go through the Glycolysis process and gets stored. This uses less calories and is more 'fattening' than sucrose

Anonymous April 4, 2012 at 10:47 AM  

Thanks for your participating upon healthy diet - Alright are commercial products interest upon popularity but the way to understand such properties of chemistry content may be that of how volume per mass is defined.

That indeed means naturally to absorb 1 gram of sugar from fruit or from pastry is still to absorb 1 gram of sugar the kind of calories. Although, easy going are diggest sugar may diffuse rapidly upon blood absorbtion but, to prefer 1 kg of sugar from starch is to introduce 1 kg of calories stocking potential into one's organism so the king is to assimilate a 1 kg of fruit sugar subject to calories retention. However, as the commercial products are quit expensive, to avoid fruits and pastry is to enjoy any diet program built from high rate of fiber content that is hearth healthier while oneself is really suffering under diet disease.

Thanks for your advances.

Jen Mek December 3, 2012 at 1:50 PM  

There is little difference between HFCS and table sugar. Those who boycott HFCS and yet eat table sugar don't understand how the body processes fructose & glucose. Glucose is processed by the entire body. Fructose is ONLY processed by the liver. Therefore, when we consume HFCS, table sugar or ANY Sucrose (including those found naturally in our foods), that same fructose will go to the liver and the glucose will go its way and our liver will work double time processing the fructose. It doesn't matter if it's HFCS or the sucrose found in dates, for example. What we need to do is limit all sugars. Moderation is key...but we get so caught up in demonizing HFCS, we do so ignorantly.

Anonymous March 31, 2013 at 11:37 PM  

The real questions remaining about the difference between sucrose and HFCS are:
1. Does the taste, consumption of the sucrase enzyme, or some other trigger warn the body in such a way that facilitates a more orderly processing of the glucose and fructose that will be released from it?
2. Is sucrose separated into its component parts so gradually that the liver is less likely to be overloaded with a bust of simple sugars?

While HFCS and "invert sugar" do have some desirable effects of the texture of some products, they noticeably affect the taste of these products, giving them a dull sticky-sweetness and sometimes a disgusting aftertaste. I first remember noticing this with a plastic tub of cheap ice-cream my mother brought home in 1976. Since then that taste has affected one food after another; I guess I'm lucky to be repulsed by something that is pretty harmful anyway.

Anonymous April 28, 2013 at 11:57 PM  

Thanks for the post
Can adding invert sugar for Delay Kick Sugar Honey
thanks

Anonymous April 29, 2013 at 12:01 AM  

Thanks for the post
Can adding invert sugar for Delay Kick Sugar Honey
thanks

Bob Anthony June 23, 2013 at 8:51 AM  

After World War II as the German doctors set up shop in the USA most were appalled to find out that in the USA ice cream was being made with manmade invert sugar and some sodas were made with manmade phosphoric acid. They knew (common knowledge in Germany at the time) if you fed a child under the age of 10 years old or a pregnant mother the combination of manmade invert sugar and manmade phosphoric acid, it could induce leukemia in the child or the new born. The irony is that in the USA, most children celebrations serve ice cream and soda in fairly large quantities and at home for children treats and rewards.

Germany did not use manmade invert sugar in their ice cream and would never think of adding phosphoric acid to a drink. However today there are many processed products that are fed to pregnant mothers, infants and children that cause childhood leukemia. Just ask a scientist in the USA today, they have been quite aware of the facts for many years.

So next time you purchase ice cream and soda, make sure they do not include manmade invert sugar and phosphoric acid.

Charity August 30, 2013 at 5:42 AM  

Fantastic!

Detroit_Doula August 31, 2013 at 12:30 PM  

Ok so fructose and glucose are both sent through the cycle called glycolysis (breakdown of glucose) the fructose enters a stage or two later but the products from this breakdown power the Krebs cycle which produces atp (adenosine triphosphate)...which is what all living cells run on. Protein and fats eventually run through this cycle also but have additional preprocessing in the body. Basically all macro nutrients (carbs, fats, proteins) are made of the same atoms arranged slightly different. Anyway, these additional processing steps require atp and that's why avoiding carbohydrates increases metabolism.

Carla @ Gluten Free Recipe Box October 19, 2013 at 11:08 PM  

Awesome post! I wanted to learn about invert sugar so that I could develop a recipe which would duplicate Van's Natural Foods Cranberry Almond Whole Grain Bars. They contain brown rice syrup and invert sugar. I will just use honey to substitute for the invert sugar. Luckily, I have brown rice syrup on hand.

Thomas Gray February 2, 2014 at 10:34 PM  

Hey, have you heard about SR FINE CHEMICALS. It's a very good chemicals company.I had taken chemicals from this company and i found best results.
You should also try the products of this company.

Charlotte james February 4, 2014 at 3:33 AM  

I have also used Sugar Processing Chemicals for making the new products.
These are very effective chemical products and i think that it will be long time productivity chemicals.

  © Blogger templates Sunset by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP