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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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.


02/07/2010 - 12:03am

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 - 12:39pm

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 - 4:08pm

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 - 1:02pm

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 - 2:39pm

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 - 11:57pm

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 - 4:13am

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

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

not if you don't eat it


12/10/2009 - 4:42pm

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