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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

get over sugar, sugar ...treat it as the poison that it is...give up sugar (and flour while you're at it) and see if you don't lose some weight. I did...and belive it or not ... your taste buds will get used to less sugar...even after no sugar for a while...you'll get used to foods being less sweet and know in your heart you're doing what you can to get rid of that excess body fat. That's what they mean when they say eat more to lose weight. they just left out a few words like natural and unprocessed...

Anonymous

07/07/2010 - 5:34pm

You can make your own conclusions. I stopped eating any food, condiment or candy that listed HFCS, corn syrup solids, or corn syrup in its ingredients list, and I started walking about an hour a day. (I also stopped eating processed wheat products). I lost 40 pounds. My goal was to lose 3 pounds a month, and by not eating corn syrup, I did, rather quickly and painlessly. Say whatever you want, but if you are overweight and don't want to be, try cutting out the HFCS and processed wheat.

Anonymous

06/24/2010 - 2:23pm

Good lord, I hope you DO move to Australia. We sure don't need people with your polarized negativity here. Good thing for you PRESIDENT Obama supports the democracy of this country and doesn't have you arrested and 'disappeared', which your disrespectful, vicious comments would earn you in just about any other country on the planet. You are the furthest thing possible from a patriot; but, more apropos to this article, you are an idiot: READ the research - ALL of it - so that you can have an INFORMED opinion rather than just parroting back what you've heard someone else say. Oh, and by the way, global warming is real. Look it up, you inflammatory imbecile.

Anonymous

06/15/2010 - 12:33pm

How funny someone would bring Obama up in this discussion when HFC's have been around longer than the president. What an idiot.

Anonymous

06/05/2010 - 9:57am

My daughter is actually allergic to corn--corn on the cob, corn from a can, corn syrup, corn starch. . .
Sometimes when I tell people that she breaks out in rashes if she has the least amount of a corn product (like a tiny bit of ketchup on a french fry, or gravy on meat--even Gerber baby food that has corn starch in it) they act like that is so strange and that it is just not possible that corn could be bad for a person. Well, it definitely is for my daughter. But I wonder if some people (not all, of course) are really affected by this idea that corn syrup (as my main concern) can't possibly be bad for you if it is just used in moderation. I think that yeah, that might be true. But for my daughter, it isn't. Even the tiniest amount affects her. I really wish there were more companies who make foods that would just use regular cane sugar if they have to sweeten something at all. And if more food companies would exclude corn products it would make it a whole lot better! Even Cheerios has corn in it! Most yogurt. Hot dogs. Bologna. Often in canned fruit. Pretty much all cereal that isn't organic. Any kind of frozen food that is made in the midwest or around Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa. . . almosts always has some kind of corn in it. Is corn syrup and other corn products just the cheapest ingredients for companies to get? I usually have to make all of my daughter's food from scratch. And yeah, this is fine. But it sure would be nice to once in a while grab something that everyone else can eat and is even sometimes actually nutritious for other people and be able to give it to my daughter without her having an allergic reaction.
I personally think that corn is used way, way, way too much in America's food. Yeah. There may be a place for helping corn farmers and all, but do we have to put some kind of corn product in practically everything we eat?

Anonymous

05/28/2010 - 5:34am

HFCS is the same, metabolicly, as sugar. it breaks down the same way, and gives you the same empty calories. While it may seem like it's common use has added to obesity, it is more to the issue of sugar commodity. Sugar, in forms including sucrose, fructose, glucose, and so on, are in almost any form of processed food. All of these become glucose after being digested, all at the same rate. If you take the same amount of all of these and feed them to separate people, they will all produce the same amount of glucose, in the same amount of time. HFCS is not the cause of American obesity, but our habits as American consumers.

Anonymous

05/25/2010 - 1:49pm

All you people just don't like anything do you. The dang article already states that any sweetener is bad for you. so to use it in moderation.

As for the president comment. I'd like to see anyone else try doing the job. truth is you can't please everybody. The hard thing to do is be in the lime light and to try. Cause no one cares that you're trying all they see is that you're not doing a good enough job for them. Wake up not everything is handed to you. You got to step up and take initiative. As much as we'd like too we cant always blame someone else for all the problems..

Want to eat healthier? Eat sugar, no matter what type, in moderation. or not at all as the article hints to.

Don't take this post too personal. It's just my opinion as I see that you have one of your own.

Anonymous

05/24/2010 - 7:37am

high fructose corn syrup CLOGS YOUR VEINS!!

Anonymous

05/20/2010 - 10:50pm

All the HFCS commericials are made by HFCS workers!

Anonymous

05/19/2010 - 6:05pm

I think that the food is bad

Anonymous

05/04/2010 - 12:13pm

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