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.

Download a Free Cookbook with Our Best Healthy Dessert Recipes!


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.


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.


05/24/2010 - 7:37am

high fructose corn syrup CLOGS YOUR VEINS!!


05/20/2010 - 10:50pm

All the HFCS commericials are made by HFCS workers!


05/19/2010 - 6:05pm

I think that the food is bad


05/04/2010 - 12:13pm

HFCS is bad...mmkay.

Read the ingredients people, they put HFCS in almost all processed foods. As has been noted HFCS isn't metabolized as easily as sucrose(sugar) so you eat more before you are full. Although we can't blame HFCS for America's obesity problem, it surely has contributed to it.

A few companies that still use sugar in their products:
Langers juices, Ocean Spray, Quaker Oats, Hansen sodas

I have noticed more companies switching to sugar recently, I think consumer outrage is starting to work.


04/13/2010 - 7:31pm

Here's a link to the Princeton article: Here is another article where the author of the Princeton report addresses specific questions about HFCS: This sentence is quoted from an EPA comment on HFCS: "The main reasoning for manufacturers to use HFCS as opposed to other sugars is that it is cheaper." citation:

If you put all three articles together you might say that manufacturers use HFCS because its sweeter and people ingest more of the product made with HFCS and it is cheaper to produce so PROFITS are higher........and the manufacturers don't worry about healthcare costs........Cheers.


04/13/2010 - 12:48pm

HFCs is like putting gasoline on a fire. Making somthing already bad worse, and this socialist government doesn't give a hoot because they have their heads in their asses of global warming and all. America is going down the drain with the snob, unqualified pig of a president. my advice, move to Australia before Obama locks us all in.


04/07/2010 - 12:44am

high frutose is REALLY BAD for you !!!!!!!!!!


04/04/2010 - 5:09pm

Actually, HFCS takes away the feeling of fullness, causing people to eat until they are literally full to satisfy their appetite, and also has several bad effects on the liver. (Both effects have been shown in studies.) Don't be fooled by these new ads claiming it's the same as regular sugar. They're all made by the corn companies in attempt to keep making money off of it.

Of course, it's not the only artificial ingredient hurting our health (no, HFCS is not natural, you have to make it). Most companies will turn to any money-saving alternative (you can look up what they are) without a care for the health of their buyers. (So I guess they're partly right here in that HFCS shouldn't be THE taboo ingrediant.) So there are almost no health smart alternatives to organic foods. This article is right about the fact that you can't be healthy eating too many sweets and not enough healthy food regardless of the ingrediants, but unlike with organic sugars, you take a big step backwards eating HFCS. (It might be okay on special occasions only, but I say go for the newer organic versions of snacks, sodas, ect. They're much better health wise and still taste good.)


03/31/2010 - 4:48pm

Get a full year of EatingWell magazine.
World Wide Web Health Award Winner Web Award Winner World Wide Web Health Award Winner Interactive Media Award Winner