What is Wrong With High Fructose Corn Syrup?

A comment from a reader about High Fructose Corn Syrup reminded me about just how harmful this sugar really is. Let’s take a look at this super-sweetener that has not-so-slowly crept into all of our lives.

High Fructose Corn Syrup

What is High Fructose Corn Syrup?

If you are under the impression that everything you eat contains High Fructose Corn Syrup, you are not alone. With a combination of government subsidies and increased crop yields, the cost of corn had dropped dramatically making the production of High Fructose Corn Syrup cheap and readily available. As short as 40 years ago, there really wasn’t much of this sugar in existence. Since that time, consumption of High Fructose Corn Syrup has increased over one thousand percent making it the most popular sugar on the block.

High Fructose Corn Syrup comes from (of course) corn. The corn is processed to produce almost all fructose and then is mixed with about 40 percent glucose to create the combined product called High Fructose Corn Syrup. This sugar is much sweeter than sucrose (table sugar) and much cheaper, so manufactures can use less while still tickling your taste buds.

How Much do We Eat?

If you walk the isles of your grocery store and start picking up packages, you will be surprised to learn how many products contain this sugar: From the obvious cereals, cakes, cookies, ice creams, to the not-so-obvious ketchups, salad dressing, and salsas. Soda manufactures use High Fructose Corn Syrup almost exclusively.

In America, we consume around 60 to 80 pounds of High Fructose Corn Syrup per person. If you are typical, somewhere between 10 and 20 percent of all calories you eat come form of this super-sweetener.

What is Wrong with High Fructose Corn Syrup?

There is a lot of research being conducted on what eating a high amount of fructose does to our bodies, and while there is much more research to be done, here is some of what scientists have found out:

  • High Fructose Corn Syrup is converted in the body before it gets used. This conversion takes place in the liver. The choice the liver has to make is either to turn the fructose into glucose that the body can use, or turn it into fat. The liver chooses the conversion into fat first for all of the fructose and then, depending on if the body needs energy or not, will convert glucose into fat – adding to our already increasing waistlines.
  • Fructose appears to create harmful body proteins called “glycated proteins”. These proteins may be the underlying cause of a wide variety of diseases including heart disease, kidney disease, macular degeneration and many more.
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup appears to lead to insulin insensitivity more easily than other sugars. This means that fructose may be partly responsible for our diabetic epidemic.
  • Fructose may also contribute to hypertension or high blood pressure through a number of mechanisms.

While I would have to agree that the jury is still out on High Fructose Corn Syrup, I think it is best to avoid this sugar in any form possible. As I’ve said many times before in this blog: At the very least you should avoid sodas whenever you can, your health depends on it.

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About the Author

I'm Dr. Scott Olson ND. I'm a Naturopathic doctor who specializes in diet, health, nutrition, and alternative medicine. I've written numerous books and articles on health, medicine, and alternative medicine I want to help you get healthy! Take a look at my blog and make sure you join in the conversation!

9 Comments on this article. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. K Livy May 16, 2011 at 9:28 am - Reply

    It seems that many of the reader did not pay attention in both chemistry and biology in High school. HFCS is a man-made form of honey. Honey is 50% fructose and 43% glucose, HFCS is 55% fructose and 42% glucose. Both honey and HFCS are processed in the Liver identically.

    The body does not know the difference. The health problem that the American public is experiencing is not due to HCFS, it is from eating 60- 80 lbs of sugar. Eating sugar would not be that bad, if humans actually exercised off the energy they consume in the form of food.

    It is strange, that people who promote eating fruits (oranges, berries, honey) are the same to eschew HFCS. The enemy of American health is neither the makers of fructose, honey, HFCS nor the seller of glucose — it is the American consumer that does not think before she eats.

    • Dr. Scott May 18, 2011 at 8:20 am - Reply


      Thanks for your comments and you are correct: honey and HFCS are very similar. Fruits, however, are a different story. When you have fiber in a food, it slows down the absorption of the sugars (fat and protein will do the same). So while a certain fruit may have a sugar profile close to honey (or HFCS) the real question is how does that food affect our blood sugar. That is why I believe that using the glycemic index as a guide is a great idea.


  2. Dave June 6, 2010 at 11:28 pm - Reply

    If the belt don’t get you the buckle surely will.I do remember when pure fructose was to be the best natural sugar on the market. It was to maintain a insulin level that did not drop like other sugars. It did not cause the insulin spike,gradual longer kept the brain from cravings. And took longer for the fructose to brake down into simple sugar, etc.etc.etc. Now you here just the opposite how bad it is what it dose to the arteries and how it causes obesity’s, whats next.

  3. Ethany April 29, 2010 at 5:57 pm - Reply

    High fructose corn syrup is a lab-created derivative of corn found in many processed foods, including soda, salad dressings and juice drinks. Its prevalence in our diet causes concern for how exactly the body processes this sweetener and how elevated levels of fructose can affect the body.
    .Comparison to Sugar
    Regular table sugar is equal parts glucose and fructose, while high fructose corn syrup is anywhere from 55 to 80 percent fructose with the remainder in glucose. The modification has chemical and hormonal effects on the body.
    Fructose and the liver
    Fructose is only metabolized through the liver, while glucose breaks down in every cell in the body. A diet high in fructose can result in a fatty liver or even cirrhosis.
    Fructose and appetite
    Since fructose does not go the brain or the stomach, the hormones that make you feel full (leptin and ghrelin) are not stimulated. Without feeling full, it’s easy to overeat.
    Fructose and cholesterol
    High fructose corn syrup can actually scar the internal walls of the arteries. The body produces cholesterol to heal the walls of the arteries, creating an ongoing cycle of damage to the arteries. This leads to heart damage.
    Fructose and copper
    Fructose interferes with copper metabolism, which helps collagen and elastin production, two components of healthy, youthful-looking skin. Poor copper metabolism can affect the physical appearance of skin.
    Fructose and diabetes
    Proven contributors to diabetes are overeating and a poor diet. Since

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