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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HFCS is used in US soda, and not in Mexican soda because in the US sugar is more expensive than HFCS. In Mexico the opposite is true. How can that be?

Simple, the sugar lobby in the US was able to get crippling tarrifs placed on imported sugar. This is the same reason the Brachs candy company (and many others) moved their manufacturing from Chicago to Canada. It is cheaper to import the candy back to the US without the sugar tax once it has been manufactured.


02/17/2013 - 8:59am

the reason everyone is obese is not because of HFCS its their poor diet and them being lazy. All you people just sound like a bunch of hippies.


02/16/2013 - 7:15am

HFCS was created in the laboratory to make pigs and cattle fat for the market. They found it was sweet and decided to feed it to humans. It is not metabolized by the lever and goes directly to fat cells. The plant is located 11 miles from the FDA national headquarters. Seems odd?


02/05/2013 - 5:05am

Eat more vegies this cut be your answer for alot of you


01/24/2013 - 4:02pm

HFCS was created because it is a cheap subsitute for sugar. The corn industry claims that it is the same as sugar, but compared with HFCS sugar is a health food; both may make you fat, but at least natural sugar does not go right to your liver, like HFCS , alcohal and drugs. HFCS also contains mercury that is not regulated by the FDA and is one of the most toxic substances in existance; research also shows that comsuming HFCS will result in arthritis and gout, and many other health issues; beware the internet postings and TV commercials that the corn industry have spent millions of dollars on trying to claim that HFCS is the same as sugar, becuse that is just a lie, so they can continue using this cheap, harmful substance in so many products.


01/20/2013 - 12:21pm

Ever wonder why HFCS is banned in Europe? Meanwhile, in the good ol' USA, industries, the FDA, and our government pretend that nothing's wrong... Once again, WAKE UP AMERICA


01/10/2013 - 1:28am

The FDA and government don't care about your health. They're in on the corruption in the food industry. In the end, it's all about money. Always has been, always will be. Get informed, get educated, make responsible decisions for your health. Stay away from the processed junk called "food" - you need to control what goes into your body, not manufacturers putting artificial chemicals that neither they, you, nor I can pronounce into our food.


01/09/2013 - 11:46pm

Since sugar comes from many sources and HFCS ultimitly comes from one source the reason its in even with sugar is so somone makes a buck. If sugar was the only thing in the foods the the ones that distribute HFCS would go broke.


01/09/2013 - 6:21pm

I have become allergic to all corn except organically grown corn. I suspect that it is the GMO corn that is the problem. It may also be the GMO corn that is made into hfcs that is a problem.


01/05/2013 - 9:44pm

I'm 36 yrs old now and last year I was told that my sugar was high. I've been getting my blood work done every year for a long time,and all of a sudden my sugar is up.I have been drinking water for a week now,and my glucose level has went from 200+ to 300+ all the way down to 136 from not drinking sodas.Look I was drinking diet sodas for a while too,and that was not helping my sugar levels at all,and if you didn't know "the aspartame in diet sodas and other diet products causes cancer"look it up , you will be shocked at what the FDA has been letting food and soda company's put in what we eat and drink.I'm sorry to tell my fellow Americans that our gov't and other country's are using these things to keep the population under control.And what are we going to do about it,we have to eat,maybe we all could start growing our own veggies and livestock,but most of the population can't do that,so we are stuck eating food that will end our life yrs. early. In the Bible it says that our life could be 120 yrs,why is there hardly anyone in the world getting close to that age? Think about it Anonymous


01/04/2013 - 4:16pm

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