The Great Debate

Is High Fructose Corn Syrup really bad for you? You decide (information provided below from Sparkpeople):

What is High Fructose Corn Syrup?
High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a calorie-providing sweetener used to sweeten foods and beverages, particularly processed and store-bought foods. It is made by an enzymatic process from glucose syrup that is derived from corn. A relatively new food ingredient, it was first produced in Japan in the late 1960s, then entered the American food supply system in the early 1970s. HFCS is a desirable food ingredient for food manufacturers because it is equally as sweet as table sugar, blends well with other foods, helps foods to maintain a longer shelf life, and is less expensive (due to government subsidies on corn) than other sweeteners. It can be found in a variety of food products including soft drinks, salad dressings, ketchup, jams, sauces, ice cream and even bread.

There are two types of high fructose corn syrup found in foods today:

  • HFCS-55 (which is the main form used in soft drinks) contains 55% fructose and 45% glucose.
  • HFCS-42 (which is the main form used in canned fruit in syrup, ice cream, desserts, and baked goods) contains 42% fructose and 58% glucose.

Sugar & High Fructose Corn Syrup
Table sugar (also called sucrose) and HFCS both consist of two simple sugars: fructose and glucose. The proportion of fructose and glucose in HFCS is basically the same ratio as table sugar, which is made of 50% fructose and 50% glucose. Both sweeteners contain the same number of calories (4 calories per gram).

But the fructose and glucose in table sugar are chemically bonded together, and the body must first digest sugar to break these bonds before the body can absorb the fructose and glucose into the bloodstream. In contrast, the fructose and glucose found in HFCS are merely blended together, which means it doesn’t need to be digested before it is metabolized and absorbed into the bloodstream. Because of this, theories abound that HFCS has a greater impact on blood glucose levels than regular sugar (sucrose). However, research has shown that there are no significant differences between HFCS and sugar (sucrose) when it comes to the production of insulin, leptin (a hormone that regulates body weight and metabolism), ghrelin (the “hunger” hormone), or the changes in blood glucose levels. In addition, satiety studies done on HFCS and sugar (sucrose) have found no difference in appetite regulation, feelings of fullness, or short-term energy intake. How can that be?

Well, the body digests table sugar very rapidly. And both HFCS and table sugar (sucrose) enter the bloodstream as glucose and fructose—the metabolism of which is identical. There is no significant difference in the overall rate of absorption between table sugar and HFCS, which explains why these two sweeteners have the same effects on the body.

HFCS and Obesity
HFCS hit the food industry in the late 1970s, right when the waistlines of many Americans began to expand. During this time, many diet and activity factors where changing in society. It is a well-researched fact that the current obesity crisis is very much a multi-faceted problem. The American Medical Association (AMA) has extensively examined the available research on HFCS and obesity. This organization has publicly stated that, to date, there is nothing unique about HFCS that causes obesity. It does not appear to contribute more to obesity than any other type of caloric sweetener. However, the AMA does encourage more research on this topic.

But Is It Natural?
High fructose corn syrup has received a lot of blame and bad press lately. Recent marketing campaigns funded by the Corn Refiners Association have tried to improve the reputation of high fructose corn syrup, calling it “natural” among other things. However, it’s important to note that the word “natural” doesn’t mean much. This common food-labeling term is NOT regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Let’s face it: Neither table sugar nor HFCS would exist without some human interaction. Both require processing. You cannot just go to a field and squeeze corn syrup out of corn or sugar out of sugar beets or sugarcane. “Natural” or not, too much sweet stuff can’t be good for you—even if it comes from what you might think of as natural sweeteners like honey, agave syrup or raw sugar.

What do YOU think?


25 Responses

  1. Here’s my problem with HFCS: It’s the hallmark ingredient of a cheap product. Nothing has a spectacular, organic ingredient list and HFCS. If you see it there, there’s almost bound to be red dye #40, artificial flavorings, bleached flour, and everything else we shouldn’t be eating. There are just other, less refined sweeteners that, while they have the same amount of calories, are more respectful and usually included in the better products.

  2. My problem with HFCS is that they’re in everything from ketchup to frozen meals and it doesn’t make sense. The corn industry is taking over the food industry and the government isn’t doing anything about it, yet they preach about eating a healthy diet. They should stop preaching and start regulating the corn industry so our diets can actually be healthy.

  3. I love these informational fact posts! Truthfully, I look down on HFCS, but only because I’ve gotten that vibe from the media. I haven’t properly done my research to take a stance. I think after reading this post, I won’t feel as guilty having something with HFCS as long as it’s not in the top ingredients used. I liked the point about how the label ‘natural’ is used more than what it should be. I hate seeing the words ‘natural’ and ‘wholesome’ when their ingredients list suggest otherwise.

    • I agree that HFCS are not going to be the death of us. I treat it like most things contraversial…everything in moderation. I don’t try to eat them a lot but I am not going to stress out of I do. Make sense? Kind of like alochol. I typically don’t drink but if I have a glass of wine here or there or a beer now and then…eh…oh well!

  4. Eww, I never eat it. I can’t stand that it is in everything like baby formula and it is so bad for you!

    UGH, I could rant on this for hours.

    Great post love, wonderful information!


  5. Evan makes a great point. Anything that contains HFCS usually contains other stuff that I really don’t want to eat.

    I don’t think it’s going to kill me to eat it (hey, I’ve lived my whole life eating it) but it really does gross me out so I just avoid it. But again, avoiding other stuff I don’t like helps me avoid HFCS anyway. 🙂 I haven’t had ketchup in almost a year, though…

  6. I ditto evan’s comment! I admit that in years past i didnt care at all, sugar, brown white hfcs, etc I didnt care. I still use white and brown but also agave, maple, dates, and avoid hfcs.

    Scoby for kombucha. I just posted about it today. ANd update…getting one tonite! If i can ever mail you part of it, i will!


  7. I stay away regardless of the varying claims. If I eat something with it in it, oh well, but I try to avoid it, especially in cereals and Popsicles!

  8. I agree with Evan quite a bit. I won’t touch the stuff to be honest.

  9. I have to agree with your last sentence that it really doesn’t matter b/c too much isn’t good and sugars are in everything even down to peanut butter of all things. We’ve all become so accustomed to everything having to be sweet that we don’t know what natural is anymore – well, those who don’t read labels and purposely try to avoid I should say.

  10. I honestly view HFCS like I do refined sugar- ok in tiny amounts from time to time, but I don’t make a habit of consuming foods full of it. But I agree with an above comment- it seems to be an indicator of cheaply/poorly made junk food…

  11. in all honesty – my motto is just “sugar is sugar”. Do I try to avoid HFCS? Yes, but will I buy separate ketchup from my family to avoid it. No. I just think we need to eat less sugar overall.

  12. Great info! I have really started to look at labels for HFCS lately. I agree with even, normally it is in cheaply made unhealthy foods. My kids now look at the labels for it. Not to say that I don’t allow them to have it, but I limit is just like I do sugar. Everything in moderation!

  13. As a born and raised Iowa girl, it is hard to believe something coming from corn is all that bad. However, after becoming a more informed consumer, HFCS is in almost everything! I think the verdict is still out, but I still always look for ANY added sugars. The added sugars are the important factor and I think that is what consumers need to be looking at.

  14. 99.9% of HFCS is genetically modified. I HATE this stuff. I cut out anything that had this ingredient a long time ago!! I was appalled when I actually realized how many products I ate had this. I am so anti-HFCS, and artificial anything. We should all cut down on refined sugar in general…but the politics behind HFCS really get me fired up.

    Very informative post!

  15. I’m not going to add anything new here, but yeah, I avoid it almost by default. Mostly I just avoid overly processed foods, so when I do get some in ketchup or some other condiment like that, I don’t freak out. I don’t see it as a problem for healthy eaters, but for the average American – they are likely getting WAY too much of it. Among other things. 😀

    • Agreed!! For me I don’t freak out about a little HFCS here and there but since I am conscious of it I don’t eat a lot it. That said, I think the majority of Americans are not as aware of it and are defintiely getting too much…but like you said among a million other things!

  16. I can’t believe how many things have HFCS in it! I was at a barbeque last weekend and happened to look at the ingredients list on the hot dog rolls and they were in them! I couldn’t believe it is in bread products!

  17. I don’t worry too much about it, but I don’t think it is all too great of an ingredient to say the least.

  18. I read an article recently saying the HFCS was as “harmless as table sugar.” Well, since when is table sugar harmless? They also were saying that HFCS is metabolized fine by healthy participants. Also, a nonpoint, really. Of course healthy participants can metabolize it! But what about people with heart disease or diabetes? And healthy participants metabolizing it normally says nothing about the possibility of it having detrimental effects long term. I avoid refined and added sugars period.

  19. I don’t like to eat it but I don’t know why. I think I just believe all the anti-HFCS hype.

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