DAILYNOMS: Hydroxymethylfurfural

Friday, July 14, 2017


I first heard about this chemical compound's name in a biochemistry class in 1991.
I remember it not because I was a brilliant student but the funny name of this substance. It is a cytotoxic (toxic to living cells) which occurs when you heat treated any sugar based food. Basically, Hydroxymethylfurfural is a very fancy name for some kind of ash.

Hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) is a well-known substance in beekeeper community. Sugars such as lactose, galactose, and mannose are the toxic three musketeers for the honey bee colonies. HMF is not a sugar but considered as the D'artagnan of this trio because it appears where ever some sugar get heated. It is also the quality symbol for the honey we eat. If the levels of HMF exceeds 0.08 mg/g scientists suggest you should use that honey as glue instead of putting on your bread.

Any food which can be caramelized produces HMF. Including dried fruits, baked goods, coffee, honey etc. Most food naturally develops Hydroxymethylfurfural in during their shelf life. What makes HMF concerning is, it requires low temperatures to occur and it is highly soluble in water. For example, brewing tea levels differ between 170 F / 77 C to 212 F / 100 C.  If you use honey to sweeten your tea, the temperature of it is enough to increase HMF levels significantly. In fact, experts suggest never heat up honey more than 104 F / 60 C and preserve it below
71.6 F / 22 C to slow down the Hydroxymethylfurfural development.

HMF also found in cigarette butts. So you maybe smoking free for the last couple of years or proudly never smoked before but if you drink more than six cups of coffee a day (especially a dark roast) or enjoy biting burned corners of your croissant you invite great amounts of this toxin into your digestion system.

As humans, we consume 5 to 8 mg of HMF on a daily basis. Some studies show we receive HMF mostly from coffee and baked foods. The good news is, Hydroxymethylfurfural metabolize in kidneys and immediately excreted with the urine.

In conclusion, HMF is considered not a highly toxic compound but nobody has an opinion about its long term effects. Scientists have been experimenting to prove that Hydroxymethylfurfural is carcinogenic but so far nothing has been found. However, most agreed on the potential is there.

In early 2000's  a science team of five people revealed Hydroxymethylfurfural's genotoxic potential. You can reach the full article from here:


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