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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

Has anyone done a study on allergic reactions to HFCS such as an itchy rash?

Dan

Anonymous

07/04/2014 - 5:19pm

Hook, line and sinker....read the facts (from the Fructose board, of course). My guess is U.S. mfg. went to HFCS to beat the government interference in the protection of sugar...if we could buy sugar without a tariff, Hershey would probably still be in the U.S. instead of Mexico....just guessing.

Anonymous

07/01/2014 - 7:30pm

I have been a Pepsi drinker all my life, at a younger age my metabolism took care of alot of weight issues,as I got older not so much.and I started to gain weight.when Pepsi introduced the sugar brand again a couple years back, with no difference in any diet or workout I started dropping weight.I'm not saying it is a answer to be healthy but, comparatively if you are a soda drinker and don't want to be a victim of extra weight find a sugar based soda, our switch and lose a little weight..

Anonymous

06/29/2014 - 7:49pm

You guys are all conspiracy theorists. Science says it doesn't matter if its organic or not.

Anonymous

06/04/2014 - 11:48pm

Our brain sends a signal to stop us from eating if it feels that the body has ingested enough sugar, the same break mechanism does NOT apply to high fructose corn syrup. So a sugar is not the same as all other sugars.

Anonymous

05/07/2014 - 12:20am

monk fruit extract by skinny girl is 150% sweeter than sugar but it is really good for you!
80 servings 0 calories 0 sugars
PUT IT IN A SMOOTHIE! its good!

Anonymous

05/02/2014 - 8:27am

It seems difficult to find anything anymore without high fructose corn syrup in it. Not to mention if healthier food wasn't so expensive, it would also be easier to make healthier choices. As for my family and me, I try to buy organic foods as often as possible and try to avoid anything with high fructose corn syrup in it. Occassionally, I will crave a sprite, but eating healthy is very important to me. (Again, it would just be easier if the healthier foods were a little more affordable.)

Anonymous

Anonymous

04/14/2014 - 1:50pm

It sounds like this article was written by the corn industry itself. Since there are so many things about HFCS that are worse than sugar, it appears that Joyce Hendley is a shill for Archer Daniels Midland. How about trace amounts of mercury and other toxins in HFCS? Or the fact that the fructose and sucrose molecules in HFCS are not bound together as they are in natural sugar and therefore are absorbed that much more quickly by the body? Do just the minutest amount of research on Google and you will see why Joyce Hendley comes across as dishonest.

Anonymous

02/26/2014 - 1:13pm

IMO, the general population would way better off if they just moved around a little more and watched their caloric intake a little bit. Whether the sugar is from cane, corn or beets, just take it easy on the sweets and massive caloric intakes in general! Food is cheap and tastes good and tv and Internet are nice ways to sit on our butts and it should be common sense that it will make us fat. It seems like for years, people let the simple phrase "diet and exercise" go in one ear and out the other...it's easier to just blame the food itself. It's kinda funny, America spends a smaller % of their income on food than most other countries because we actually have life pretty good yet I have a vague feeling that we complain about every aspect of life more than most.

Anonymous

11/22/2013 - 3:44am

Well since it's corn, we can assume it's GMO right?

Anonymous

11/04/2013 - 8:24pm

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