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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Fructose also raises the blood pressure, I did not know that so now I have to watch my sugar intake and what kind of sugar I can have. I removed most salt from my diet and am eating more vegetables. I also have to stop smoking all together. That is the hardest thing I have found to stop doing.


10/01/2015 - 4:35pm

Should I really care how healthy HFCS is. My standard is if it's good I eat it.


07/29/2015 - 12:03pm

Eats Austin Peanut Butter Crackers as I read this. Whoops! I mean....


07/07/2015 - 3:02pm

Any educated person in a higher economic bracket will tell you they DO NOT consume anything with HFCS
in it. The facts are out there. Any food label with HFCS in it, is a red flag for highly processed crap.



07/01/2015 - 8:33pm

its hard to eat things with out high fructose corn syrup because its in some much


05/07/2015 - 10:47am

Good comments - I'm 70 yrs old - I pretty well follow the guidelines of no sugary drinks (juice or pop), keep carbs low, no artificial sweeteners - and if high fructose is on the label - just say NO (amazing the ways they sneak it in: "corn syrup" "glucose/fructose" etc.) - BTW just checked a brand of spaghetti sauce - first ingredient - sugar - what!??

I'm just back from a month hiking (and eating) in Europe to hear that yet another of my contemporaries has died (heart - younger than me) food-wise he was "mainstream" - lots of carbs, drank pop, tried to reduce by using diet drinks - his weight and health just got worse and worse - now he's gone. There are others too - I feel sad (and blessed) but I also avoid the foods that "poisoned" my friends - HFCS being the main baddie.


05/02/2015 - 10:08am

What a load of BS. Check your chemistry fool. Natural sugar is made of bonded pairs of sucrose and fructose. HFCS has un-bonded pairing. When you digest natural sugar your enzymes work to slowly break down these chemical bonds and introduce sucrose and fructose into the blood more gradually. When you ingest HFCS the fructose and sucrose instantly bombard your kidneys and liver in a burst shot, that is both physiologically more damaging as well as more likely to induce addiction like behaviors.

Honestly, if you are going to run a website called "EatingWell" at least take five seconds to pretend you have read some actual published research on the subject.


02/18/2015 - 9:44pm

It's all GMO


02/11/2015 - 1:52pm

too much of something is going to be bad for you, doesnt matter what it is


02/05/2015 - 6:27pm

I avoid HFCS as much as possible, and it is possible. My main beef with HFCS is that it often is the first ingredient in so many products that would not ever be made at home (or otherwise??) starting with sugar syrup. Look at any of the big brand BBQ sauces and HFCS is the first ingredient, some even have HFCS 1st and corn syrup second. Since when did you whip up salad dressing at home and make sure that over half its volume was sugar syrup? Fruit juice cocktails almost always start with HFCS as the first ingredient and ketchup, unless its organic or Safeway brand (Im sure there are others) has HFCS before tomato paste. Our foods are packed with HFCS when they dont even seem sweet and it makes up the bulk of so many processed foods. HFCS is made from GMO corn. Corn is one of the most highly GMO'd foods available and the corn used to make HFCS is not edible in its raw form. With so much of many people's diets coming from corn through HFCS and other corn products you have to start wondering what such a high degree of inedible corn in your diet, withouth ever actually eating corn, is doing to us. If you buy things with sugar look for cane sugar, or raw cane sugar that is processed minimally, not HFCS which is highly processed and refined.


01/13/2015 - 5:18pm

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