What to know about high fructose corn syrup

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the US adult obesity rate stands at more than 40% at the last count, with nearly 20% of children and adolescents considered overweight or obese.

With so many of us dealing with weight problems, many people want to blame someone or something. But is there one food that is more of a culprit than the others?

Some people blame high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), a popular artificial sweetener made from corn starch. With so many conflicting reports about the dangers of consuming too much of the sweet additive, it’s hard to know whether it’s safe.

“There’s a lot of popular press out there that says that high fructose corn syrup is the reason for obesity,” said pediatric dietitian Amy Cantrell, RD, LD. “But it’s been disproven that it’s not true.”

HFCS is not even the most widely used sweetener across the world. Roughly 90% of the nutritive sweetener used worldwide is sucrose (table sugar).

“Japan uses high fructose corn syrup. Europe uses high fructose corn syrup, and we have the obesity issue,” Amy said.

The problem is that Americans eat too much of everything else and activity in general is very low.

Today, the average American adults consume an average of 77 grams of sugar per day, more than three times the recommended amount for women. It’s a heaping serving that equals over 65 pounds of added sugar per year at a time when growing scientific evidence shows that eating too much added sugar is linked to serious diseases like diabetes, heart disease and liver disease.

The American Heart Association recommends

  • Men consume no more than 9 teaspoons (36 grams or 150 calories) of added sugar per day
  • Women consume no more than 6 teaspoons (25 grams or 100 calories) per day

“There’s nothing wrong with fructose. Fructose is in fruits and some vegetables,” Amy said. “But the problem comes with kids drinking a lot of fruit juice (or consuming other foods that contain a lot of sugar). It can cause their blood fats (triglycerides) to be high and contribute to excess weight.”

High triglyceride levels can lead to high cholesterol, heart disease or other illnesses.

So, is it necessary to remove HFCS from your family’s diet?

“Let’s face it, there’s no recommended daily allowance for high fructose corn syrup,” Amy said. “Some of the products that HFCS is in are not good choices, such as sugar-filled sports drinks or regular sodas.”

Extra sugar leads to extra calories. So, helping your family stick to a healthy, low-sugar diet is an excellent way to keep weight down and reduce the risk for health problems.

A healthy diet should include:

  • Plenty of non-starchy vegetables daily
  • Moderate amount of fruit
  • Modest amount of starch-bases foods
  • Moderate amount of protein or meat
  • Two to three cups of lower percentage fat milk a day

For personalized nutrition support, find a dietitian near you.

8 thoughts on “What to know about high fructose corn syrup”

  1. High fructose corn syrup was under tight quota in europe which was relaxed in 2011. So saying that europe uses hfcs is exagerated. in the us, you find high fructose conr syrup in pretty much everything you buy. It is a lie to write that americans are obese because of everthing else they eat. As if hfcs was not ond of the reasons. who writes this article anyway? The hfcs industry? i know i don’t feed my kids hfcs and they are not obese. I stick with non processed food, much better and much healthier.

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  3. To shorten the article, the details of how the metabolism of fructose to the quicker production of triglycerides was not discussed.  This is why in general HFCS, as well as calories in general should be cautiously and judiciously consumed.

  4. GMO is based on genetically altered organisms. Europe and Japan do indeed use high fructose corn syrup.  Corn starch is chemically altered. It is not genetically grown differently or modified in any other way except for processing.

  5. There is no doubt that some people prefer the cane sugar alternatives for some current HFCS sweetened ones.  Just recently the Dr. Pepper plant in Dublin, TX closed it’s doors and people can still get the sucrose sweetened coca cola from Mexico at different places.  I did not read the study that you mentioned so I’m not familiar with the amount consumed.  It may be a matter of taste preference, but yes, if consumed less over the long haul, it would indeed have better health benefits.

  6. There is a new study out in  Metabolism entitled “Effects of high fructose corn syrup and sucrose on the pharmacokinetics of fructose and acuate metaloblic and hemodynamic responses in healthy subjects.  The results between the two were “not signifiantly significant”.  However, slighty more HFCS was consumed,  to result in the same formulated taste and fructose, etc, levels were slightly elevated.  Although the study did not bring it up, I wondered if you are consuming sightly less sugar than HFCS  in a similar product, with a similar taste, over the long haul, wouldn’t this be slightly better?

  7. While we should not solely blame the obesity epidemic on HFCS, I think it is ill advised to ignore the growing data about its potential adverse impact on renal, cardiovascular disease and gout.  I agree that the jury is still out on this controversial topic.  However a few years ago I had the opportunity to hear a Grand Rounds lecture from the author of this article http://ajprenal.physiology.org/content/293/4/F1256.full reviewing not only this data but preliminary data from several rat and human studies he was participting in that demonstrated much higher rates of hypertension, gout and cardiovascular disease with increased HFCS exposure.  It has certainly caused me to limit HFCS intake in myself and my own children.

  8. Japan and Europe have banned GMO foods. The HFCS in the US is derived from GMO corn so it will have different effects on the body. It has already been proven the BT bacterium and its toxin are affecting humans who consume it. So that statement that “they use HFCS, and aren’t obese” isn’t based on an apples to apples comparison.

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What to know about high fructose corn syrup