Advertisement

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!

COMMENTS POSTEDsort icon

If I eat something with high fructose corn syrup in it I generally throw up a bunch of phlegm in the next 20 minutes call it an allergy or whatever but I call it trashy food. HFCS is in nearly every soft drink, it's in chocolate milk much of the time. At mcdonald's it is in nearly everything from pancake syrup to orange juice. There is nothing appealing about corn syrup other than it's cost and every manufacturer seems to be skittish about why they have it in their product.

Try this:

Pick your favorite soft drink and write the manufacturer or try to internet research to find out the year they switched from sugar to corn syrup in their product. You will NOT find any information about this. It seems to me that if it is not a bad practice they would not be so adamant about hiding the year in which they started doing it.

What I do is simply stop buying cheap, processed, junky food with high fructose corn syrup in it because it makes me sick and often contains mercury which is a neurotoxin.

regards

Anonymous

12/24/2011 - 1:59pm

I have a HFCs intolerance. It's were the monocles are to big for my body to process. So if it's so good for you why do some peoples body's not process it right and I think it's a little fish how the obesity rate has gone up since they they have started adding it to everything. And yes I have been told of my HFCs intolerance from a doctor after a series of test.

Anonymous

01/18/2012 - 11:50pm

I stopped buying foods that contain hfcs, about a year and a half ago. I weighed 267 lbs , and i was trying everything to lose the weight. I can proudly say, ive lost nearly 40 lbs. Im not sure if taking hfcs foods out of my diet helped with the weight loss, but it sure feels like it did. And you definitely taste the difference in your food when you finally decide to ween yourself off of hfcs foods.

Anonymous

01/23/2012 - 11:03pm

This article is horribly irresponsible! Way to contribute to diabetes and obesity Joyce. Although, I don't see a MD or any credentials on her name...so I can just assume she is just sitting at home with her box of corn syrup ridden cookies right now trying to defend her love of such!

Anonymous

01/29/2012 - 12:04pm

The person that write this nonsense knows nothing about science or research. "Sugar is not sugar"!

Anonymous

02/02/2012 - 6:42pm

There's nothing irresponsible in this article (as claimed by some comments below); it's actually just facts! I know those get in the way of passions and opinions sometimes, but that doesn't change the FACTS. Sugar is sugar, keep your consumed quantity under control, eat some other healthy foods and get some exercise, and everything's fine!!

Anonymous

02/03/2012 - 12:40pm

a LOT of processed foods contain HFCS so if you eliminate it all from your diet, of COURSE you're going to lose weight... you've stopped eating crap!

I love how people are judging and criticizing this (for lack of credentials... md... etc.) so i'd like to know, how many of these extremely harsh critics are molecular biologists, nutritionists, doctors, chemists... you now... everything you're in a huff about this woman not being. if anyone does their research and knows a little about chemistry and biology, you'll see that she actually is right. and this is coming from someone who doesn't really eat much sugar of any kind (raw, processed, or otherwise) strictly because the more sugar and dairy you eat with bad skin, the worse it will become. i may have no reason to be invested (aside from showing my mother arguments from both sides that aren't words coming from my mouth) but i just don't like to see smug, arrogant people belittle someone who's done their research. if you're so sure and certain that it's so bad, why on earth would you come to an article that discusess it's equal relationship to sugar, not that either are better or worse, and stating that both are equally as bad? do you just go searching for someone to vent your inner frustrations to, regardless of what medium you use and what it may pertain to? geeze

Anonymous

02/10/2012 - 5:10am

I am a weightloss surgeon, the author is stating an overwhelming fact..... a third of the worlds populuation is now overweight, and will be diabetic by 2020. You dont need to a degree or M.D. to see the obvious.

Anonymous

02/12/2012 - 5:28pm

Actually The article is not entirely correct. Sugar is not sugar is not sugar as they imply. Your brain has glucose receptors and releases several peptides which signal either hunger or full. Those receptors do not recognize fructose, high fructose, corn sugar or whatever you want to call it. Yes, you have to watch calories, that part is true. But, especially kids will be hungry all the time if they have a diet high in high fructose corn syrup regardless of caloric intake because their brain will not signal full.
This gives them a tendency to snack.
Try this all of you. drink a large diet coke.
Now drink the same size coke with sugar in it (those glass bottled ones from Mexico). You will be able to tell the difference.

I challenge all of you to eat the same caloric intake with only sugar, no high fructose corn syrup and no diet sugar substitutes. First you will feel full and eat less, then you will lose weight. I have taught metabolism and biochemistry at a University for 32 years. On average, my students who take this challenge lose about 30 pounds in a 4 and a half month semester.

One other thing, the person who wrote the article should also be aware that fructose does not go across the gut like glucose does. It passes through the liver and tends to get metabolized to glycerol which is the backbone of a triglyceride. This causes a fatty liver and it is what contributes to metabolic Syndrome, also known as a pre-diabetic condition. Hope this helps you all to be healthy. from Dr. Dee Takemoto

Anonymous

02/22/2012 - 12:45am

Corn (where HFCS comes from) is used in the beef industry to FATTEN cattle! So...

Anonymous

02/25/2012 - 5:24am

Connect With Us

20 minute dinner recipes
Advertisement

EatingWell Magazine

more smart savings
Advertisement

Today's Favorites

20 minute dinner recipes
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