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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This article's message is that all sugars are the same...and that real sugar- from sugar cane or naturally ocurring fruit sugar (fructose)- is just as bad for our health as HFCS. Not true! The only likeness that HFCS shares with table sugar, fructose, and honey is the calorie content.

It is without dispute that Americans should consume fewer sugars, in any form. However, HFCS is a lab-created sweetener that does not occur in nature. It is an artificial, chemical "sugar" that our bodies cannot digest, and wreaks havoc on our pancreas. Equally as bad as HFCS in terms of internal damage to our health are artificial sweeteners such as aspartame & sucralose (Splenda), which artificially stimulate the pancreas to produce excess insulin, and is linked to diabetes in case studies. Check out these links for more info: &


01/06/2010 - 3:13am

HFCS used in soft drinks is 55% glucose and 45% fructose. So is table sugar. So is honey. they contain virtually the same amount of fructose. The take home message is: dont add any type of concentrated sweets to your diet.


01/10/2010 - 10:57pm

Just called Dr Pepper/Snapple and was told they don't make anything without hfcs besides diet rite which has splenda which is another harmful addative. Guess I wil add this company to my Do Not Buy From List


01/11/2010 - 1:39pm

Honey is loaded with anitoxidants. HFCS is not. Even if it's true they have the same glucose/fructose makeup, they are far from being the same thing.


01/14/2010 - 12:02pm

Guys it's not that it's easy to figure out. I'd say atleast 89% of our population as americans are blind to all of these facts that the ones who don't eat it know. Everythings composition is hidden from the public because they know it's bad for you. but it's cheaper. so there going to keep doing it if EVERYONE keeps buying it.


01/15/2010 - 3:08pm

HFCS is all about people with agendas and it doesn't matter what the facts are, people will only listen to the data that supports their agenda.


01/23/2010 - 11:39am

Common sense is the key. Remember eat a lot of grains and vegetables. Limit the amount of meat. And avoid foods loaded with sweeteners. For something sweet, fruit is a good alternative. I have found that after a while eating properly becomes habit and the cravings for things such as sweets diminishes a great deal. It is not hard to get in the habit if you go out to eat, to ask for water instead of soda.


02/06/2010 - 11:03pm

What really gets me upset is the fact that almost everything we eat has HFCS and is harder than ever to grocery shop. Everytime when I go to the grocery store, I always have to check the ingredients to make sure it doesn't have any of that gunk, but it's so difficult to look for foods without it, even so called healthy foods. I hope there are still foods out there that are chemical free.


02/07/2010 - 4:53pm

You want to see what is good for you, look at the bottom of the web sites promoted as myth busters... what are they? The corn industry folks.

Want to know how to live a healthy lifestyle and not be overweight? Eat a non-processed organic food diet, excercise reguarly and invest in yourself.

Don't be fooled, there are no short cuts. Cheap quick food isn't cheap when you realize you have heart desease and other problems. You are what you eat! Once you start eating without HFCS and other intense sweeteners... really, just go without them for 3 weeks... then try them again, you will puke and wonder how you managed to consume this processed stuff in the first place.

Check out movies like "King Corn" and "Food Inc," Folks, our nations food is corporatized for your pleasure and their pocketbook... not your health or well being. What you eat is a choice... what is yours going to be? Syntetic or natural, truely natural and organic?

Me? I'm so done with corporate mass produced food. I live by a simple basic montra. Local, Sustainable, Renewable, Organic and humane.

Works for me too. I'm in my late 50's and I changed my lifestyle 7 years ago so that physically, I'm in my 30's for all intents and purposes. Just from eating organic or at least, Non-processed foods.

How do you feel?... Really... don't kid yourself.


02/09/2010 - 12:49am

I've often wondered about the health effects that come from consuming HFCS. When I was watching a well known christian program that's hosted by a man in his 80's say to avoid HFCS at all costs, I began to do some research on labels of everyday foods that we buy & take for granted. It was simply "STUNNING" how every label I read contained HFCS in some sort of form! It is no wonder there are so many heart disease & cancer deaths here in the United States. There has to be a connection between HFCS & the leading causes of death each year in America. It's just a shame that corperate interests put "profit" over the health of its customers. Would you market food that you knew for a fact causes sickness & disease to your children? I think not. I'm sure with the money these corperate execs. make each year can afford to shop for organic "real food" types of food & make sure their local supermarkets stock organics where they live. We have choices, & that is good & fine. But I think there should be more choices in "most" if not "ALL" grocery stores. Most of the problem is the fact that we here in America do not grow over 80% of our foods anymore. It's imported from overseas. Most farmers here are forced to file bankruptcy due to Government beaurocracy stringed with higher taxes. Ever wonder why milk is $4 a gallon? It's nearly impossible to farm these days due to the Govt. imposing higher taxes upon farmers. It's too expensive to shop totally organic. Most stores in certain areas have very little organic foods available. Especially in "Rural" areas where you have to drive over an hour to your local Supercenter for groceries. We need to start growing our own foods & provide more organic choices in local supermarkets that are cheap & affordable to the less than average income earners. Until we start doing that, there will always be a health crises in America.


02/22/2010 - 10:42am

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