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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

When I drink HFCS i get sweet body highs...

Anonymous

03/24/2012 - 8:14pm

thanks for that jann in ohio. i'll look you up at the HFCS processing plant in ohio.

Anonymous

03/29/2012 - 5:39pm

I am NOT a doctor BUT I do know that I hardly ate anything and was gaining, and gaining, and gaining. I stayed away from sodas and most of the time "other" junk food, but blew up like a helium balloon. I cut out high fructose corn syrup by 99%, and by the end of the first week, I lost FOUR (4) dress sizes. I am still losing weight. I am convinced that high fructose corn syrup does affect people negatively. I eat products that contain real sugar, and I do NOT blow up like a helium balloon like I did with high fructose corn syrup. I am NOT looking to get those of you who support high fructose corn syrup all bent out of shape BUT, you need to consider the possibility that some humans can not consume your "fake" sugar. Like there are people who are gluten intolerant, others allergic to seafood and shellfish, others lactose intolerant, some allergic to peanuts, I do believe there are those who can not consume YOUR product and I AM ONE OF THEM.

YOUR.... I AM ONE OF THEM.... NOT......

Anonymous

03/30/2012 - 12:23pm

Did you know that the entire pork carcass is injected with corn syrup at the slaughter house? Used as a tenderizer it allows the farmer to let the pig grow older and larger. Hence more valuable. A a result all pork products have corn syrup in them. Larry

Anonymous

04/02/2012 - 8:52am

but mountain dew tastes so good! moderation people!

Anonymous

04/03/2012 - 4:06pm

You can't quit all sugars, you would die, your brain needs sugars to function.

Anonymous

04/04/2012 - 9:55pm

If this high fructose corn syrup isnt doing damage then how come when you quit drinking sodas do you lose weight and feel better?
Sugar is a sugar is a sugar - THAT IS BULLSUGAR

Anonymous

04/09/2012 - 12:20pm

One thing that people dont consider is the processing table sugar goes through. It's not like we scrape it straight out of the cane.

Anonymous

04/10/2012 - 12:55pm

Stevia is wonderful!! And yes, one does lose weight, avoiding diet pops and foods and drinks containing high fructose and corn syrup.

Anonymous

04/10/2012 - 6:21pm

When you stop drinking soda, you tend to lose weight because you have cut out all of the extra calories that are in soft drinks and those calories mainly come from the sugar in them. If you stopped eating sweet cereals, didn't drink sweet tea, didn't add sugar to your cereal...you would have the same metabolic response. I have stopped drinking soft drinks for months and months, drinking nothing but water and didn't lose an ounce...so it really depends on the person, their metabolism, daily physical activity and the other things they eat and drink on a daily basis.

Period.....

Anonymous

04/11/2012 - 11:03pm

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