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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

The so called " Food Police" are out to condemn high frustose corn syrup, sugars, fat etc.... the government wants to tell people what they should eat, and how much they should eat. The government wants to control how much soda you drink, what kind of lights you have in your house and what kind of toliet you should have in your house. My question is what ever happened to personal responsibility in this country??......do we really need the government telling us what is good and bad for us? This country has become the nanny state from cradle to grave with the government now in every part of your life. The real reason kids are obese is because they sit at home on the computer playing computer games and watching TV and eating junk food.....we no longer have physical education and gym classes in schools, and the kids are driven by their parents to every event instead of walking. Lifestyles for kids have changed over the years the reason the kids are fat is because they no longer play or exercise like kids did when I was young...kids would rather stuff their faces with fast food and watch TV. The parents are letting the government do the job they should be doing....turn off the TV and computer games, kick them out of the house and make them go outside and fix healthy meals and stop depending on pizza as a meal. No the problem is not high fructose corn syrup, the problem is the parents of these fat kids.

Anonymous

06/07/2012 - 1:43pm

well i used to think that it was bad for you but now i look at it and i see sugar .but what about hydroginated oil.

Anonymous

06/11/2012 - 7:31pm

I'm doing this project on HFCS and this really helped. I never knew about this stuff. I mean it's really that bad for you?! :( I'm really going to start eating things without HFCS. THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous

06/12/2012 - 10:44am

Throwback: i was so excited about 'throwback' then my son pointed out that it has artificial sweetener, I had bought 10 cases, an I was to buy more, but when I knew it had artificial sweetener, I stopped. I have no hfcs in my house but licorice. Im addicted to Redvines.

Anonymous

06/12/2012 - 9:49pm

To the person who made the comment about the "food police":

You just said that we don't need government intervention because all we need is personal responsibility. Then you proceeded to say that there is no personal responsibility in this country anymore. Well if people aren't going to be responsible for themselves, someone's got to make them responsible. Not commenting either way on HFCS because I don't know if it's worse than sugar. The point is they're both bad.

Anonymous

06/13/2012 - 3:28am

Yes, it is. It doesn't make a person gain weight, but it can cause diseases that are related to a sugar overload. Like diabetics. Stay away from it. But, just remember, everything eaten in proportion isn't "really" that bad for you.

Anonymous

06/13/2012 - 6:07pm

I look at all products I buy ... if it's in there I won't buy it or use it. I'm removing this poison from my diet and feel better about it ... Furthermore it is supposed to be cheaper to purchase raw for products sold, so why haven't they reduced prices on items that it contains ... I am sticking with real cane sugar! And I believe it's a slow poisoning to keep the medical system operating as less people smoke today ... and without problems with health, there would be a large medical community ... Let the future behold the truth ... for no I'm staying away from it ...

Anonymous

06/18/2012 - 11:15am

good grief.. You should avoid any type of sugar. not just corn syrup. It's not any more 'poisonous' than cane syrup or fructose. And people who believe so are nut jobs. Limit all sugar (in any form) and you'll feel better/do better/lose weight/etc.

Anonymous

06/20/2012 - 3:27pm

As if HFCS isn't bad enough, most likely, HFCS is derived from biotech/gmo corn!

Anonymous

06/21/2012 - 12:49am

HFCS actually makes a person want to eat more. For some reason it makes us feel like continuing to eat.
I am not sure if it has something to do with the brain to stomach to cravings not being coming satisfied?
I have read this and I avoid HFCS at all costs. I like Stevia or natural cane crystals Organic of course.
Corn anything makes a person and animal FAT. Why do you think it is fed to cattle to fatten them up is why.

Anonymous

06/22/2012 - 7:09am

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