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

By Joyce Hendley, 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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COMMENTS POSTEDsort icon

Obviously poor Joyce has never taken a Chemistry class. Metabolic breakdown has everything to do with how our bodies respond to what we put in our mouths. HFCS is metabolized very differently then regular sugar and is similar to ETOH as it is broken down by the liver and therefore may contribute to the same type of diseases you would see with alcoholism. . Fatty liver, diabetis type 2, and heart disease. In this process there is also a breakdown of certain enzymes that result in higher then normal levels of uric acid which can contribute to other health problems such as gout. This doesn't even touch on the obesity issue and all the secondary health issues from this.

Anonymous

02/25/2012 - 2:41pm

High fructose corn syrup is made from corn...what does corn have?
GMO's!!! Double whammy!!!

Anonymous

02/26/2012 - 11:02pm

sugar is not good for your body in any form HFCS is not natural beware! avoid it as best you can. you'll feel great and sleep better and have no need to nap during the day !

Anonymous

02/27/2012 - 7:30am

love the annonymous sources here, if your facts are so good, stand up and be counted until then.... you have no prrof of what you say .

Jann in OHIO

Anonymous

02/29/2012 - 5:15pm

Everybody's an expert!!!!!

Anonymous

03/01/2012 - 1:04am

I quit all sugars. I have lost 47 lbs since Sept 14 ,20 11.

Anonymous

03/01/2012 - 7:46am

I am NOT a doctor BUT I do know that I hardly ate anything and was gaining, and gaining, and gaining. I stayed away from sodas and most of the time "other" junk food, but blew up like a helium balloon. I cut out high fructose corn syrup by 99%, and by the end of the first week, I lost FOUR (4) dress sizes. I am still losing weight. I am convinced that high fructose corn syrup does affect people negatively. I eat products that contain real sugar, and I do NOT blow up like a helium balloon like I did with high fructose corn syrup. I am NOT looking to get those of you who support high fructose corn syrup all bent out of shape BUT, you need to consider the possibility that some humans can not consume your "fake" sugar. Like there are people who are gluten intolerant, others allergic to seafood and shellfish, others lactose intolerant, some allergic to peanuts, I do believe there are those who can not consume YOUR product and I AM ONE OF THEM.

Anonymous

03/02/2012 - 11:44pm

yes, but Dr. Wayne Scott Anderson says in his book that HFCS actually increase your appetite so u want feel satisfied and u want to eat more and that is the industrys strategy to get people to buy more food and they make bigger profits. I stand by this, different sugars have different glycemic spikes and if u have diabetes in your family or not that is something you need to watch for. Natural sugars that are not refined do not have the same glycemic spikes as refined sugars. I go into sugar comas when I drink sodas. ive switched to drinks that are sweetened by evaporated cane sugar which comes from the sugar cane and stevia from the stevia plant. Sugar is a sugar is a sugar, I dont think so. HFCS also has to be metabolized by the liver, as if the liver doesnt have enough things to filter. People wake up, the industry dont care if u r getting the nutrients u need, they ust want there profits.

Anonymous

03/03/2012 - 12:39am

if i drink a soda with HFCS, i some times get a headache. it always makes me feel bad and makes my joints ache. if i drink a soda with real surgar like for exsample "pepsi throwback" then none of the above will happen. your body doesn't lie. i don't care what they say, i can feel the difference.
LDF

Anonymous

03/10/2012 - 12:58am

How is high fructose corn syrup any different from the fructose in sucrose, honey, fruit, vegetables and agave syrup?

Anonymous

03/13/2012 - 7:11pm

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