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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My daughter is actually allergic to corn--corn on the cob, corn from a can, corn syrup, corn starch. . .
Sometimes when I tell people that she breaks out in rashes if she has the least amount of a corn product (like a tiny bit of ketchup on a french fry, or gravy on meat--even Gerber baby food that has corn starch in it) they act like that is so strange and that it is just not possible that corn could be bad for a person. Well, it definitely is for my daughter. But I wonder if some people (not all, of course) are really affected by this idea that corn syrup (as my main concern) can't possibly be bad for you if it is just used in moderation. I think that yeah, that might be true. But for my daughter, it isn't. Even the tiniest amount affects her. I really wish there were more companies who make foods that would just use regular cane sugar if they have to sweeten something at all. And if more food companies would exclude corn products it would make it a whole lot better! Even Cheerios has corn in it! Most yogurt. Hot dogs. Bologna. Often in canned fruit. Pretty much all cereal that isn't organic. Any kind of frozen food that is made in the midwest or around Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa. . . almosts always has some kind of corn in it. Is corn syrup and other corn products just the cheapest ingredients for companies to get? I usually have to make all of my daughter's food from scratch. And yeah, this is fine. But it sure would be nice to once in a while grab something that everyone else can eat and is even sometimes actually nutritious for other people and be able to give it to my daughter without her having an allergic reaction.
I personally think that corn is used way, way, way too much in America's food. Yeah. There may be a place for helping corn farmers and all, but do we have to put some kind of corn product in practically everything we eat?


05/28/2010 - 4:34am

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 - 12:49pm

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 - 6:37am

high fructose corn syrup CLOGS YOUR VEINS!!


05/20/2010 - 9:50pm

All the HFCS commericials are made by HFCS workers!


05/19/2010 - 5:05pm

I think that the food is bad


05/04/2010 - 11:13am

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 - 6:31pm

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 - 11:48am

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.


04/06/2010 - 11:44pm

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


04/04/2010 - 4:09pm

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