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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

corn syrup is so bad for you as it comes from corn, but it's NOT natural corn but GMO corn which the latest studies show that it leads to cancer
(just search on google or youtube)
you will be shocked

Anonymous

03/10/2013 - 3:55am

A difference of 10% is not "identical." Where does the extra 10% go that cannot be metabolized? Don't listen to propaganda from processed food companies that would have you sick and obese so the pharmaceutical companies will get richer.
Give up high fructose corn syrup and anything that it is in. Give up artificial chocolate with PGPR (Polyglycerol Polyricinoleate). Say goodby to Hershey's and any other company that thinks making things artificial will make them richer.
We need to love our children enough to feed them real foods.

Anonymous

03/09/2013 - 9:21pm

I agree with the rest of the anonymous commentators. It may be chemically equivalent to normal sugar or sucrose; however if the corn that the HFCS derives from is GMO corn then it can cause a hormone imbalance* which even though may be the same calories as regular sugar causes are bodies to act abnormally. Delete this article, you were probably paid to post this.

Anonymous

03/06/2013 - 2:53pm

Your body does NOT process it like it is sugar. It doesn't know how to deal with it since it is foreign. What happens is it sits inside you and becomes cellulite. Look at the saddlebags on everyone these days. The boobies on men. There is fat in strange places. The world is drowning in the folds of their own bodies.

Anonymous

03/06/2013 - 1:06pm

Sugar is not so bad - in small quantities; however, with HFCS you can add the sugar to most everything and thereby greatly increase the total ingestion of sugars. This may be good if you are engaged is strenuous physical activity, but if your activity is video games, you will gradually be transformed into part of your couch and take a potato shape. Sucrose is composed of dextrose (glucose) and fructose. The dextrose can be readily used by your cells for energy, but the fructose is a bit different. Fructose must first go to the liver for modifications before it can be utilized. Excess fructose is also more readily incorporated into fat than is dextrose. Too bad! The corn syrup stars out as potentially dextrose, but then the dextrose is not sweet enough, so the corn industry enzymatically converts about half of the dextrose to fructose. (Fructose is much sweeter than Dextrose). Recently, work has been published to the effect that the obesity epidemic is more close tied to our consumption of sugar - that it is to our consumption of fat.

Anonymous

03/05/2013 - 4:11pm

If you have HFCS you will gain a lot of weight
-Anonymous

Anonymous

02/28/2013 - 9:56am

Don't eat HFCS!

Anonymous

02/26/2013 - 2:41pm

People don't understand that every time you put table sugar in your food you raise the risk of many health problems. Eating whole foods ,growing your own so that your not getting GMOs is the first step. 80-90% of ALL corn, soy and cotton grown in the USA is genetically modified. Look that up. And also check out all the u tube videos on GMOs nasty stuff. Washington state will be voting this fall on labeling all foods that contain GMOs . If you live in Washington please vote yes that all GMOs be labeled. We want real seeds not fake.

Anonymous

02/21/2013 - 1:32am

Uh-huh
I've also heard that GMO corn causes cancer and has been banned in some countries in Europe
We should go back and live like the old ways. No pesticides. No GMO's. NO artificail preservatives -cause cancer and lower IQ's. NO livestock injected with growth hormones -kids are becoming adults faster.
No chemical fertilizers -destroys the soil.
If you're thinking the government, and the FDA will take care of all this in America, WAKE UP.
Why do you think all the harm causing stuff in banned in Europe FIRST?
The answer is simple. The way we were brought up. Not caring about others. Living in the present and not looking towards the future. IF THERE'S EVER GONNA BE A CHANGE, IT'S YOU
WAKE UP AMERICA AND GET OUTTA YOUR DREAM WORLD
WE DO NOT HAVE ENDLESS WATER AND RESOURCES TO WASTE
STOP THINKING EVERYTHING CAN BE YOURS
CHANGE YOUR WAYS, THEY AIN'T GONNA WORK (you too fellow Canadians, no miracle's gonna happen)

-ms.hackmetopeices

Anonymous

02/17/2013 - 3:54pm

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.

Anonymous

02/17/2013 - 8:59am

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