September 20, 2010

High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) - misconceptions and misinformation

Unless you've been under a rock lately, you've heard lots about how high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is bad for you. Like for instance that it practically singlehandedly is responsible for obesity.

That, if you'll pardon the expression, is baloney.

I just watched a very informative webinar about HFCS and it cleared up a lot of misconceptions and misinformation. Take for example: HFCS and table sugar are equal to the body metabolically speaking. During digestion, the body can't tell the difference between beet sugar, cane sugar, high fructose corn syrup, honey, or molasses. They are all metabolized the same way.

Nor is there much difference in calories. Honestly, I don't get why HFCS has taken such a beating in the marketplace (key word: market) except that it created a mild scare among consumers to attempt to ditch HFCS from their diets in favor of more "natural" sugars.

HFCS is natural. It should really be called "corn sugar". It is virtually indistinguishable from table sugar, except in form. Table sugar is crystallized and must be dissolved in liquid. High Fructose Corn Syrup (not to be confused with corn syrup that you buy on the shelf to make your pecan pies!) comes in a liquid form that is more easily utilized in manufacturing food products that we see on our supermarket shelves.

HFCS is the "liquid sweetener alternative to sugar". HFCS is used to manufacture food products because it promotes browning, retains moisture and delays staleness, provides microbial stability, provides texture, is fermentable (think breads), protects frozen fruit, and the list goes on. Being in a liquid form makes it more easily used in food manufacturing.

HFCS is a mix of fructose and glucose. Table sugar is pure sucrose. Replacing HFCS with table sugar will not reduce obesity or improve health. They are the same to the body.

So forget what you've heard about HFCS being "bad for you". That's simply not true. It's no more "bad" than table sugar. Both are clinically virtually identical.

The American Medical Association and the American Diabetic Association both say that HFCS and sucrose (sugar) are indistinguishable to the human body.

Harvard Medical School calls the recent brouhaha over HFCS "overreaction".

The Children's Hospital of Boston says "The decision to switch from HFCS to cane sugar is 100% marketing and 0% science."

And the USDA says "This is a marketing issue, not a metabolic issue. The real issue is not HFCS. It's that we've forgotten what a real serving size is. We have to eat less of everything."

Pretty eye-opening, wouldn't you agree?

The name HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) is confusing, therefore not clearly understood. There is nothing "high" about the level of fructose. In fact, it is on the same par with honey and molasses. The Corn Refiners Association believes that "corn sugar" is a more apt name than "high fructose corn syrup" and more accurately describes this ingredient. HFCS and table sugar have the same amount of calories and equal sweetness. There is no metabolic or health issue - no reason to dodge HFCS except caloric issues for maintaining proper weight.

HFCS doesn't lead to obesity. Overeating leads to obesity. Sugar and HFCS have the same calories, same sweetness, and are absorbed by the body in the same way. There is no difference between them. There is nothing unique about HFCS regarding obesity or health.

So now that we've cleared up some misinformation and misconceptions, find out more by going to or ask questions on the HFCS blog at and you can find them on Twitter at @Sweetfacts.

You owe it to yourself and your family to have the facts at your disposal so that you can make rational and informed decisions about the foods your family consumes. Don't be misled by marketing hype or hysteria. Educate yourself and then make up your own mind based on the facts.

As for me, I no longer get that gut reaction when I see "high fructose corn syrup" as an ingredient in so many food products that I purchase. It is no worse than plain table sugar. Cutting down all sugars, though, can help counteract obesity.

And that's a goal we should all work toward to lead healthier lives, don't you agree?

The information shared was provided by the Corn Refiners Association. I have been compensated for writing this blog post. All opinions are my own.


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