What is Crystalline Fructose in Food: Uses, Health benefits, Side effects

What is it | Health benefits | Uses | Side effects | FAQs  

Crystalline Fructose, the crystalline form of fructose, a food additive made from corn or sugar (sugar cane), is commonly used as a nutritive sweetener in foods and beverages. Due to its high sweetness among natural sugars, low Glycemic index and low calories, crystalline fructose is used commonly in health food. 

Let’s know more about this ingredient, its difference with high fructose corn syrup and table sugar.

What is Crystalline Fructose?

Definition: Purified and crystallised D-fructose with a fructose content of not less than 98.0%, and a glucose content of not more than 0.5%. It has the same chemical formula with glucose but a different molecular structure. 

  1. Is it a Sugar?
  2. Is it Natural?
  3. How Much the Calories?
  4. Sweetness
  5. Flavor enhancement
  6. How is it Made?
  7. Crystalline Fructose Vs Table Sugar?
  8. Crystalline Fructose Vs High Fructose Corn Syrup?

Is it A Sugar?

Yes, it is a monosaccharide. Another two monosaccharides are glucose and galactose.

Is it Natural?

Yes, it is a natural sweetener instead of an artificial sweetener as fructose occurs naturally in fruits and vegetables, as well as honey. 

How Much the Calories?

95% of the caloric value of sucrose. (1) It can control calorie intake as it is much sweeter than table sugar.

Sweetness

It has the highest sweetness among naturally occurring sugars. Its sweetness is 1.3 to 1.8 times that of sucrose.

To reach the same sweetness, its usage can be reduced compared with sucrose.

Sweetness is its most important characteristic against other advantages. Its sweetness is not fixed, but changes with the temperature. The lower the temperature, the greater the sweetness. 

Flavor Enhancement

The taste buds in the tongue perceive fructose firstly compared with glucose and sucrose, and the perception disappears rapidly.

Fructose does not mask the flavor release of glucose and sucrose as its peak of flavor release appears before glucose and sucrose. As a result, the flavor of beverage will not be improved and/or maintained by the addition of crystalline fructose.

How is it Made?

Crystalline fructose can be produced from sucrose (sugar cane) or corn starch (or high fructose corn syrup). In both processes, fructose is finally crystallized with extremely high purity and milled into the desired mesh size.

The brief manufacturing process as follows:

1. From Sucrose

The raw material can be sugar cane. A sucrose molecule is formed by the condensation of a glucose molecule and a fructose molecule after a water molecule is removed.

Therefore, sucrose can absorb water and be hydrolyzed to glucose and fructose.

Meanwhile, glucose can be turned to fructose by glucose isomerase as glucose and fructose are isomers. 

2. From Corn starch

Breaking down corn starch to individual glucose molecules to obtain corn syrup and then enzymes are added to convert glucose to fructose.

It is the same way to produce high fructose corn syrup which commonly has the amount of 42% or 55% of fructose in it.

Crystalline Fructose VS Table Sugar?

Table Sugar is made of fructose and glucose. Crystalline fructose is metabolized faster than glucose and its absorption does not rely on insulin in the human body.

It has little effect on blood glucose and is suitable for people with the dysfunction of glucose metabolism and liver dysfunction.

Crystalline Fructose VS High Fructose Corn Syrup?

Both are used commercially to sweeten foods but crystalline fructose is often mistaken with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which is a mixture of nearly equal amounts of fructose and glucose.  There are mainly three differences between them:

1. Fructose assay 

HFCS is also made from corn starch processed by converting some of the glucose (corn syrup) to fructose by enzymes. As a result, it contains both fructose and glucose.

The two main types of HFCS:

  • HFCS 42: 42% fructose and the rest glucose. It is mainly used for processed foods and breakfast cereals.
  • HFCS 55: 55% fructose and the remaining glucose, mostly used in soft drinks.

There is also HFCS 90 in the market which contains 90 percent fructose that can be crystallized to manufacture crystalline fructose.

However, crystalline fructose is simply pure fructose in crystalline form. It’s 100% fructose. 

2. Convenience

The solid form and smaller volume makes it a better option than HFCS in transportation and uses. 

3. Glycemic index

The Glycemic index is a measure of how carbohydrates affect blood glucose concentrations. The glycemic index of fructose is 19, while this value for table sugar is 65 and 100 for glucose. The glycemic index of HFCS is similar to table sugar.

The glucose in high fructose corn syrup is metabolized in a different way with crystalline fructose. As we all know, in our body, the transportation and release of glucose are controlled by insulin. Due to the dysfunction of insulin, the blood glucose in diabetics will increase (like normal people) but it is harmful to this population after the intake of HFCS. 

In contrast, fructose will not go into your bloodstream and it has little impact on blood glucose, as it goes to the liver, where enzymes turn it to fat. This enables crystalline fructose as a sweetener for diabetics to control blood glucose levels. 

What are the Health Benefits?

Dental Friendly

Crystalline fructose is not likely converted to acid by streptococcus in the oral cavity. Dislike sucrose, it will not be utilized by streptococcus to produce glucan, thereby inhibiting the generation of dental caries. Therefore, it can be used as a sweetener in products for children.

Low Glycemic Index

Due to its low glycemic index, the blood glucose rises slowly after ingestion, and requires less insulin than other sugars, which is beneficial to people with type 2 diabetes and obesity. European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) claimed its health benefits in 2011, that

Consumption of foods containing fructose leads to a lower blood glucose rise compared to foods containing sucrose or glucose. In order to bear the claim, glucose and/or sucrose should be replaced by fructose in sugar-sweetened foods or drinks so that the reduction in content of glucose and/or sucrose, in these foods or drinks, is at least 30 %. (2)

Specification

Other names Levulose, Arabino-hexulose, D-, D-fructose, Fruit Sugar
Appearance Odorless, white crystalline powder. Stable to light and heat, easy to absorb moisture. It is easy-to-use, free-flowing crystalline form.  
CAS number 57-48-2
Chemical formula C6H12O6
Molecular weight 180.16
Solubility Easily soluble in water (solubility is 3.5g/mL at 20°C) and ethanol, insoluble in ether.

What are the Uses?

Pure crystalline fructose has been used as a nutritive sweetener in foods and beverages. Also, it can be used as a humectant in cosmetics.

Food

From the FDA’s information, crystalline fructose is used as a flavor enhancer, flavoring agent or adjuvant, formulation aid, nutritive sweetener, processing aid, solvent or vehicle, stabilizer or thickener and texturizer in food. (3)

Bakery

Crystalline fructose has good hygroscopicity and can be used in the processing of foods that need to be moisturized, such as bread and cakes.

It retains water in bakery products and so prolongs the shelf life.

In the bakery, it can also partially replace sucrose to accelerate Maillard reactions which are the chemical reactions between amino acids and reducing sugars. It produces an attractive brown color and aroma after baking.

Beverage

Crystalline fructose is a table sugar substitute as it improves and/or maintains flavor and has a low glycaemic index in beverage. The application such as in dry mix beverages, enhanced or flavored vitamin water, carbonated beverages, sports and energy drinks and etc. 

Diabetic Food

It is suitable for diabetics as its low glycemic response.

Others

Due to its sweetness, flavor enhancement and water retention properties, crystalline fructose can replace sorbitol and glycerol in foods, and it can improve the taste. It can also be used in cereal bars, frozen foods, low-calorie products, chocolate milk, yogurt, ice-cream and confectionery.  

Cosmetics

Per the “European Commission database for information on cosmetic substances and ingredients”, it functions as a humectant agent in cosmetic and personal care products. (4)

What are the Possible Side Effects?

Crystalline fructose is generally considered safe but there is a controversy that it is bad for our health as it may link to obesity, diabetes, and nonalcoholic fatty liver. Also, the high intake will do bad to our health, such as dyslipidaemia and insulin resistance.

Fatty liver

It is reported in Harvard Health Blog that triglyceride (a form of fat) is formed in the metabolism of fructose in the liver which breaks down fructose. Triglycerides can build up in liver cells and damage liver function. (5)

Overdose

High intakes of fructose may lead to metabolic complications such as dyslipidaemia, insulin resistance and increased visceral adiposity. (6)

Is it Safe for Pregnant?

Yes, it is generally safe but better consult with your doctor in the condition of use.

Frequently asked questions

Is it Vegan?

Yes, as mentioned above, it is vegan as the raw material used and manufacturing process without the use of animal matter or products derived from animal origin. As a food ingredient, it is considered vegan and vegetarians can eat it.

Is it Halal?

Yes,  it is generally recognised as halal as it is permitted under the Islamic Law and fulfill the conditions of Halal. And we can find some manufacturers certificated with MUI halal.

Is it Kosher?

Yes, it meets all the “kashruth” requirements and can be certified as kosher or maybe kosher passover. 

Is it Gluten free?

Yes, it is typically gluten-free and people with celiacs can eat it. It is an ingredient commonly found in both gluten-free and gluten-containing food labels. 

Conclusion

Now you may have a knowledge of the corn sweetener – Crystalline Fructose from this article. Have you found this additive in your food? Let me know in the comments below.

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