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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

I've lost (and kept off for 2 years) 40 lbs just by cutting out HFCS......

Anonymous

04/12/2012 - 1:59pm

yummy

Anonymous

04/12/2012 - 2:59pm

Umm high fructose corn syrup has arsenic and mercury

Anonymous

04/17/2012 - 10:23pm

That HFCs has mercury and arsenic eww

Anonymous

04/17/2012 - 10:26pm

I am wondering how you inject an entire pork carcass with corn syrup. And as far as letting a pig grow older and more valuable, that is pure ignorance. Pigs feed and gain weight to a certain age and then stop converting their feed as efficiently. So you have to feed more to get another pound of body weight, and the cost of the feed eats into your profit, I call BS on that post.

Anonymous

04/18/2012 - 1:42am

While in the process of not drinking soda you gotta make sure you don't eat junk food either to lose weight. Anybody can speed their metabolism up.

Anonymous

04/20/2012 - 8:27am

Have you worked in a packing house where pigs are processed. Have you noticed the increase in size of pork chops and other pork cuts in the last 4 yrs? Have you noticed the sweet flavor in all pork lately?What exactly do you know about raising and feeding hogs?

Anonymous

04/20/2012 - 2:05pm

If you didn't lose weight by cutting out soft drinks... you probably weren't drinking any to began with. I stopped drinking american soda and started drinking mexico soda, which is made with real sugar by the way, and I have lost weight. I think there is something about the fructose sugar.... More research is needed than what this add is putting out.

Anonymous

04/21/2012 - 7:34pm

This article is not true.
HFCS IS bad for you. The reason why is that even though it is a sugar, your body does not digest it the same as real sugar. It has to do with the way our bodies digest HFCS. It goes through the liver and is immediately converted to fat. As we all know, sugar is the first substance to burn off while exercising. True fat burn comes after about 15 mins of strenuous exercise. But because of the chemical composition of HFCS, our bodies must work harder to burn off the excess fat caused by its consumption.

Anonymous

04/29/2012 - 1:38pm

Agreed people should stop blaming HFCS for obesity, soda is a load of empty calories people that say that this need to be looked into is silly these are nutrition experts and doctors with published papers I think they know what they are talking about also HTCS is made from cOrn and according to the food department is natural, people don't be miss informed

Anonymous

05/04/2012 - 1:46am

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