Q. Is high-fructose corn syrup bad for you?

By Joyce Hendley, M.S., September/October 2007

Is high-fructose corn syrup bad for you?

A. High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a manmade sweetener that’s found in a wide range of processed foods, from ketchup and cereals to crackers and salad dressings. It also sweetens just about all of the (regular) soda Americans drink. HFCS used in foods is between 50 to 55 percent fructose—so chemically, it’s virtually identical to table sugar (sucrose), which is 50 percent fructose. Metabolic studies suggest our bodies break down and use HFCS and sucrose the same way.

Yet, after HFCS began to be widely introduced into the food supply 30-odd years ago, obesity rates skyrocketed. And because the sweetener is so ubiquitous, many blame HFCS for playing a major role in our national obesity epidemic. As a result, some shoppers equate HFCS with “toxic waste” when they see it on a food label. But when it comes right down to it, a sugar is a sugar is a sugar. A can of soda contains around nine teaspoons of sugar in the form of HFCS—but, from a biochemical standpoint, drinking that soda is no worse for you than sipping home-brewed iced tea that you’ve doctored with nine teaspoons of table sugar or an equivalent amount of honey.

Even Barry Popkin, Ph.D., a nutrition professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who previously suggested, in an influential 2004 paper, a possible HFCS-obesity link, stresses that the real obesity problem doesn’t lie just with HFCS. Rather, it’s the fact that sugars from all sources have become so prevalent in our food supply, especially in our beverages. He scoffs at the “natural” sweeteners sometimes added to upscale processed foods like organic crackers and salad dressings. “They all have the same caloric effects as sugar,” he explains. “I don’t care whether something contains concentrated fruit juice, brown sugar, honey or HFCS. The only better sweetener option is ‘none of the above.’”

At EatingWell, it’s our philosophy to keep any sweeteners we use in our recipes to a minimum—and likewise, to limit processed foods with added sugars of any type, including HFCS. We recommend you do the same.

Did you know?

The corn syrup found on supermarket shelves is only a distant cousin to the high-fructose corn syrup used commercially. Both start by processing corn starch with enzymes and/or acids, but the HFCS process is much more complex and results in a different chemical structure.

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Omg...we are all going to get diabetes!


09/29/2009 - 1:17pm

not really.


10/05/2009 - 1:29pm

Recently heard that corn syrup has a spore that comes from the corn that some people are allergic to. True or not, I don't know.


10/12/2009 - 8:47am

apparently they are associating hfcs with abdominal area related cancers!??


10/19/2009 - 9:10pm

But what if we only eat packaged food?


10/20/2009 - 1:40am

So what's the proper way to get the nutrients we need?


11/29/2009 - 6:43am

It's true. A sugar is a sugar is a sugar but, it all depends on the source. Sugar in it's most natural state is easier to digest, Eg.; Honey from bees, maple syrup from trees (one of the best), molasses (sweet yet bitter as well and also good for you), stevia plant when picked from the actual plant and put into your beverage (just don't eat the leaf itself), sugarcane when used directly from the cane plant (same thing, don't eat it 'cause it's hard to digest), etc.... Sugar in it's most chemical unnatural form takes anywhere between 1 to 3 days to digest. Corn is a natural digestive aide and, in the past was used more as a medicinal food rather than a staple food. When messed with and turned into a sweet sticky goo, it sticks to your insides. Ever seen a bottle of pancake syrup? You know, Mrs. Butterworth, Aunt Jemimah, Log Cabin, etc.? All made with high fructose corn syrup. After pouring it, let it sit for a while and notice all the crystals sticking to the inside of the bottle... Well, that's what's happening to your insides. WE CAN'T DIGEST IT PROPERLY. And when we add it to EVERYTHING, imagine how much of the stuff we can't eliminate from our bodies when we're compounding it every day in all the packaged food we eat. THAT'S why we have diabetes and obesity. Think about it. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure this one out.


11/29/2009 - 3:59pm

not if you don't eat it


12/10/2009 - 4:42pm

I read that it is a MYTH that our bodies digest HFCS differently, it is virtually identical to table sugar. Hmmm....


12/14/2009 - 9:21am

Anything processed rarely has a good effect on your digestive system. HFCS is pretty much as processed as you can get. is almost a sick joke, and when they say that is nearly identical in composition of fructose and tabe sugar. Remember that the three main types of simple sugar (lactose, sucrose, glucose) all have the same components, and the *exact* same measurement of each component. But the way their molecular structure is formed drastically affects the way your body uses and digests it. It IS about the way a food is processed, there IS difference.


12/25/2009 - 12:03am

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