Myth 29: High Fructose Corn Syrup Is The Worst Of The Evils

sugarAside from the obvious nutritional benefits of ingesting natural sugars from their source, eating foods created from refined sugar of any kind seems to fall firmly within the jurisdiction of the epithet, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

This article was written by The Corn Refiners Association so many will choose to take this article with a grain of … sugar, but even though it is written by the most interested party, I am satisfied that my parental questions and objections have been answered with a minimal amount of sugar coating.

Just to be clear, for those who tend to skim instead of read (and then make all kinds of angry comments), this article does not claim that high fructose corn syrup is as healthy as natural sugar consumed concurrent with, say, a slice of watermelon.  It simply says that it is no better or worse than any other refined sugar.

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Three top researchers corrected inaccuracies and misunderstandings concerning high fructose corn syrup’s impact on the American diet. They also examined how the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) considers this sweetener in light of the upcoming 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans in a session, High Fructose Corn Syrup: Sorting Myth from Reality, at the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Annual Meeting in Anaheim, California.

“Contrary to its name, high fructose corn syrup is essentially a corn sugar,” stated sweetener expert John S. White, Ph.D., president of White Technical Research. “Recent marketing claims that sugar is healthier than high fructose corn syrup are misleading to consumers.”

“By every parameter yet measured in human beings, high fructose corn syrup and sugar are identical. This is not surprising since high fructose corn syrup and sugar are metabolized the same by the body, have the same level of sweetness and the same number of calories per gram,” noted James M. Rippe, M.D., cardiologist and biomedical sciences professor at the University of Central Florida.

“This is a marketing issue, not a metabolic issue,” stated David Klurfeld, Ph.D., national program leader for human nutrition in USDA’s Agricultural Research Service and editor of the June 2009 Journal of Nutrition supplement, “The State of the Science on Dietary Sweeteners Containing Fructose,” in response to recent reformulations by manufacturers of products that once contained high fructose corn syrup. “The real issue is not high fructose corn syrup. It’s that we’ve forgotten what a real serving size is. We have to eat less of everything,” he noted.

Increased Caloric Intake, Not a Single Sweetener, the Likely Cause of Obesity
Fructose-containing sweeteners — such as sugar, invert sugar, honey, fruit juice concentrates, and high fructose corn syrup — are essentially interchangeable in composition, calories, and metabolism. Replacing high fructose corn syrup in foods with other fructose-containing sweeteners will provide neither improved nutrition nor a meaningful solution to the obesity crisis, according to Dr. White. “In light of similarities in composition, sweetness, energy content, processing, and metabolism, claims that such sweetener substitutions bring nutritional benefit to children and their families appear disingenuous and misguided,” White says.

Growing Body of Evidence
The American Medical Association helped put to rest a common misunderstanding about high fructose corn syrup and obesity, stating that “high fructose syrup does not appear to contribute to obesity more than other caloric sweeteners.” Even former critics of high fructose corn syrup dispelled myths and distanced themselves from earlier speculation about the sweetener’s link to obesity in a comprehensive scientific review published in the December 2008 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

To learn more about the latest research and facts about sweeteners, please visit SweetSurprise.com.

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CRA is the national trade association representing the corn refining (wet milling) industry of the United States. CRA and its predecessors have served this important segment of American agribusiness since 1913. Corn refiners manufacture sweeteners, ethanol, starch, bioproducts, corn oil, and feed products from corn components such as starch, oil, protein, and fiber.

UPDATE: 9/26/10

Commentator “Mark” (below) is passionate about proving what a dimwit I must be to have published this post and his/her point is well taken.  I would assume that my readers accept that I do not have a university degree in Myth Busting. I’m a blogger who encourages parents to do their own research, referring to “primary sources” (look it up) for information instead of listening to people, especially bloggers, about important issues related to parenting.  That is the entire point of this blog. Commentator “Stockholmer” (below — same person as Mark?) is an excellent example of a person who is making a supreme effort to research a topic that he/she thinks I’ve gotten dead wrong and has convinced him/herself and perhaps many of you that he/she is right by also presenting his/her sources (which aren’t half bad as press releases go) in the comments below. Nice work, Stockholmer.  Way to set an example as a proactive critical thinker. A+ for the research and for being more polite and circumspect than Mark (if you are indeed different people).

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30 Responses

  1. I think a lot of this attitude that high-fructose corn syrup is evil is due the appeal to nature logical fallacy. Sugar is natural, but high-fructose corn syrup has a big, scary chemical-sounding name. Many people still assume that natural is always better, even though that is clearly false.

    • It’s more the fact that HFCS is straight fructose and Cane sugar is both Sucrose and Fructose. The only natural sugar that the body can completely break down properly in the liver is Glucose… Which ironically enough isn’t actually sweet.
      All sugar is “Bad” for you but straight fructose is worse on the liver than the others. Think about the effects of Ethanol on the liver, well Fructose has many of those same bad effects….

  2. I like that regular ol’ refined sugar, which is making a comeback. It’s hip right now, until it’s evil again.

    I have fond memories of that 70’s/80’s commercial, “Pure cane sugar, that’s Hawaii!”
    :)

    I like all sugar — high or low fructose corn syrup, refined, brown, powdered etc., hence, why I’m chubby. It’s called overconsumption. (And that’s why the terrorists hate us.)

  3. I think the HFCS issue should not be whether it’s better than “natural” sugar or not. The issue is that it shows up in the darnedest places. Places where you didn’t even expect to find sugar! Like tortilla chips! Or tomato soup.

  4. :-) Blotz, I like your comment and hear what you’re saying, but don’t we all expect tortilla chips and canned tomato soup to be less than healthy? High fructose corn syrup never shows up in bananas.

  5. I’m not a fan of HFCS, but mainly because it’s a poor taste substitute for cane sugar or white sugar. Ever try a Coke made with all sugar instead of HFCS, or a chocolate bar? Tastes totally different. Scientifically they may not be the same, but if we’re talking about quality of food, which is largely based on taste, then my preference is for the white sugar. You use less to achieve the same flavor as HFCS, and it’s tastier.

    I am concerned over how HFCS is made, since there is a large amount of mercury used in the synthesis process by several manufacturing sites in the US. While not all sites use the mercury-containing caustic soda to make HFCS, some are and independent tests are showing that its appearing in foods that kids and teens commonly eat. It may be sugar, but it is good for you? It would appear not.

  6. A new study of rats by researchers from the University of Florida suggests that a diet high in fructose may lead the body to develop a resistance to a protein called leptin, which helps control appetite. Some studies indicated HCFS does not metabolize like sugar and contributes to insulin-resistant diabetes.

    The problem is that High Fructose Corn Syrup is still a huge unknown. And it’s ubiquitous. Getting information about it from Corn Refiners is tantamount to getting information about tobacco safety from Phillip Morris. I can’t believe you referred us to sweetsurprise.com.

    Many flags have been raised that it may not be safe. I am not going to sit around waiting for proof that it is bad for me. At this point, I have to see proof that it isn’t bad for me.

    You know that there is a possibility that this stuff is very dangerous. If you continue feeding it to your kids, you’re rolling the dice. We all know it is unknown. The question is how much we are willing to risk.

    And nobody is saying it is the worst evil.

    The worst evil is Trans Fat.

    I’ve not seen a single person say HFCS is anywhere near as bad as trans fat.

  7. What about the mercury?

    And the fact that they are using it to sweeten things that just don’t need to be sweetened?

    I prefer to skip the added sweeteners and at the very least steer clear of the artificial ones.

  8. I’m sorry, but you are wrong about HFCS not being any worse than any other refined sugar. Like your Myth about Natural Birth, you failed to do your research before writing this. Please go back and read about the differences between fructose and glucose and some of the studies that are showing the dangers of consumption of fructose,especially in the form of HFCS. Dr. Rippe is wrong as all sugars are NOT metabolized the same and it seems he never took a basic nutrition course. The list is long of adverse effects, obesity being the most obvious but it also contributes to high blood pressure, kidney & liver disease, insulin resistance and more. You might want to again correct this article and start your research here:

    http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2006/07/22/debate-about-dangers-of-high-fructose-corn-syrup.aspx

    • Mercola has been repeatedly called a fraud. As I recall, the FDA told him to stop making illegal claims.

  9. I think the changing nature of science and what is considered good, bad or ugly changes enough that we all should live by a very commonsense practice….. everything in moderation.

    Your kids, even if you don’t allow any HCFS in your house, are going to eat it elsewhere anyway. Possibly by choice, and if you’re real scary about your ban, they’re at their friend’s house gorging themselves while their friend’s parents shake their heads at your nonsense.

  10. “Growing body of evidence”: Tee-hee!

  11. HFCS is metabolized in the body the same way as Sucrose (table sugar). HFCS is 55% Fructose and 45% Glucose. Sucrose is 1 Fructose molecule bonded to 1 Glucose molecule, and enzymes in your stomach break it apart, equaling 50% Fructose and 50% Glucose — essentially the same as consuming HFCS.

    Fructose is really really bad for the body. In small quantities with natural fiber (a.k.a. FRUIT), its not so bad.

    Fructose overconsumption leads to fat deposits in the liver (a.k.a. Fatty Liver Disease) which is a precursor to non-alcoholic cirrosis of the liver.

    The true evil that is HFCS is that is it amazingly CHEAP (through US Farm policy) — which gives food processors an incentive to include it in everything – Salad Dressing, Soda, Bread, Sauces, etc. It increases flavor, and increases profits.

    Fructose without fiber causes overconsumption. Drink a 32 ounce Triple Thick Shake at McDonalds with your meal and you can still down the burger and fries DESPITE the shake being 1,110 calories and 168 grams of sugar.

    Over half of your daily calories are in 1 drink and over 6 TIMES the American Heart Association’s recommended sugar intake for a woman (25g/day) are in that shake, yet it does NOT tell your body to be full! That is the Fructose messing with your insulin, leptin and grhelin hormones.

    The obesity problem in America is not simply a matter of overconsumption, our food has been poisoned with an oversupply of Fructose thanks to cheap HFCS.

  12. Another point to consider, since the contention is that HFCS may be no worse than refined sugar, are we assuming that refined sugar is not damaging? There are dozens of negative impacts that refined sugar (and refined anything for that matter) has on the human body. Our bodies were designed with the intention of being the processing plant for food. It was not designed to handle the mass quantity of instant sugar to the blood stream that we have started introducing in the past 50 years or so. Can there really be so much confusion as to why there is such a spike in childhood diabetes? Low glycemic diets are the way to go. Or more simply as close to out of the ground, off the tree/plant, or off the animal as possible.

  13. Gov’t buys farmer’s corn surpluses then offers incentives to companies to sweeten their products in order to get the money back. We don’t have to sweeten things so much. But in most foods you find HFCS even if the foods didn’t need them. It’s an unhealthy practice that has to stop.

    Calling this a myth is a campaign of lies.

  14. We now know that this is not a myth.

  15. Are you kidding me? This “myth buster” article cites the corn syrup’s website as a source? Why don’t you go to government of Iran’s website to find out facts about the nuclear weapons they are not making while your at it.

  16. Apparently the authors didn’t see http://www.princeton.edu/main/news/archive/S26/91/22K07/, which is a Princeton study released just 4 months earlier and notes that HFCS DOES have different metabolic properties because the Fructose in HFCS is “free and unbound” unlike sugar’s binding with glucose and therefore is immediately ingested.

    This article is IRRESPONSIBLE and more should be done to vet out the facts before publishing. Mommy Mythbuster is a FAIL because by allowing this to remain incorrect you are only perpetuating yet another “myth”.

    You would garner more respect from your readers, well certainly this reader, if you followed up with your own correction and clarifications.

  17. Cancer cells slurp up fructose, US study finds

    http://www.reuters.com/article/idAFN0210830520100802

    Study shows fructose used differently from glucose

    * Findings challenge common wisdom about sugars

    WASHINGTON Aug 2 (Reuters) – Pancreatic tumor cells use fructose to divide and proliferate, U.S. researchers said on Monday in a study that challenges the common wisdom that all sugars are the same.

    Tumor cells fed both glucose and fructose used the two sugars in two different ways, the team at the University of California Los Angeles found.

    They said their finding, published in the journal Cancer Research, may help explain other studies that have linked fructose intake with pancreatic cancer, one of the deadliest cancer types.

  18. High Fructose Corn Syrup promotes obesity and liver damage

    http://www.naturalnews.com/029403_high_fructose_corn_syrup_liver_damage.html

  19. High Fructose Corn Syrup Linked to Liver Scarring, Research Suggests

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100322204628.htm

  20. @Mark
    Although I wouldn’t have thought this post needed any clarification beyond that I clearly stated at the outset that it was WRITTEN BY the The Corn Refiners Association and that there is no such thing as a certified “Myth Buster”, I have made the addendum to my post as you have requested. Hopefully that will help comfort those of my readers, like yourself, who need to have the hammer placed firmly on the nail for them…however antithetical to the purpose of this blog that may be. Be well in your future endeavors writing a blog entitled, “Busting Myth Busters”.

  21. I worked with a research team for a while, and I know that supported research tends to come out in the favor of the supporter. One way is to run the statistics through different programs–and the comparisons will vary. There are many, many other ways. I did not stay because I am an ethical person.
    High Fructose Corn Syrup and the corn processors remind me of NAZI Germany’s propaganda. They want to ignore the fact that they are hurting people and children. I really feel that someday, such propaganda and harm will be called the “Fast Food Holocaust.”
    Would NAZI Germany go down in history as “the bad guys” if they had won and taken over the world. Would we all be blond haired and blue eyed?
    Well if the current corporate trends continue, we will all be obese, diabetic, and sick.
    Ignoring the facts while profiting is very dangerous.
    I tell my students that during the US times ofslavery, the slaves were very aware that they were slaves.
    However, if your mind is enslaved (and your natural cravings addicted to crap), then you don’t know that you are a slave.
    The corn manufacturers are much smarter than NAZI Germany because they are not using force (extreme violence) yet, but their current trend is much more dangerous.
    Protect your minds. Protects your bodies. Do not eat corn syrup in any way. There were German people who did not agree with NAZI Germany’s regime, but they did not have any choice because of the domineering powers. However, we as a people have a choice to choose healthy foods (as healthy as we can get in today’s polluted market). Don’t choose corn. Perhaps we should boycott King Corn altogether. All rebellions start small but can have an avalanching affect.
    Stop Slavery! Choose Healthy! Slaves, rebel against the corn manufacturers enslaving of your minds and tastes!

    • Really? Can we quit with Nazi Germany comparison WindyD. Irrelevant from the issue I wish these people that always brought Hitler and Nazi Germany in to the equation would just go away or at the very least pick another despot. There has been more than one throughout history. Then again I’m certain they don’t know much about history, because any fool that would compare a food product to the Nazi’s and what they did is a complete and utter moron.

      • WindyD’s point, however stated, is that the very same mass-psychology, advertising, and group social controls usd by NASD Germany are used by powerful forces today to promote their interest..

        In this case it is a coporatist elite using manipultion to encourge group think, stigmatization of dissent, and use of their horrid product.

        The same tactics were used to sell such disparate things as the WMD lies that drove the USA into Iraq, as well as eugenics from the 1890’s to the 1930’s which led to the forced sterilization of millions thruout the USA, Europe, and other parts of the world. This leads us full-square back to Herr Hitler.

        2 sides, same coin, same tactics.

        The impact of the horrific American diet foisted upon the nation since the 1950’s will kill more than the gas chambers ever did, be it diabetes (which half of the US will have or well on the way to having by 2020) http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/11/23/us-unitedhealth-diabetes-idUSTRE6AM0NH20101123

        or the explosion in cancer and other diseases caused by the corporate-induced diet. Meanwhile big pharma, the for-profit medical industry, and the big agra laughs all the way to the bank. They make you sick thru diet and lifestyle, then financially rape you to treat it.

        for a seminal book on advertising, mass psychology, and social conditioning see Edward Bernays (he was Sigmund Freud’s nephew) 1928 clssic work “Propoganda”. Bernys was the founder of the PR (Public Relations) industry, and seminal to the modern advert industry.

        cheers from Sweden

    • I’m going to have to agree with John T on this one. Are we really going to compare people who want us to eat their foods to someone who went on to force millions of people into harsh labor, watching their family members be murdered in piles of dead bodies, and that were starved to the point of being literally just skin and bones? Thank you though for helping prove Godwin’s Law.

      • It is not the person (btw Hitler’s name was NEVER mentioned by the original poster), it is the psychological methodology being employed that is the same. Reread the posts, it will become clear. If you still cannot see the similarities, I would suggest taking a basic logic course.

        As an aside, (and totally non-germane to this conversation other than the Godwin mention you made) I so wish AIPAC and the rest of the supporters of Israeli genocide against the Palestinians were held to Godwin’s Law, as they pull out the ‘swazi card’ of justification whenever they are proven to be acting in an unlawful and immoral manner.

  22. Hello, i have been doing quite i bit of digging on this topic and i want to update this blog with a recent college study at UCLA.

    http://newsroom.ucla.edu/portal/ucla/this-is-your-brain-on-sugar-ucla-233992.aspx

    Dont get me wrong, sugar is still sugar and less of it will help reduce societies obesity level, However, there are other illnesses on the rise that may be linked to processed foods them selves. I have grandparents that have reached a 100 years of age and their diets did not consist of boxed cereals and jarred speghetti’s it was all made from scatch. Our only marker for knowing if processed foods will put us in the ground sooner is by waiting for the gen-X’ers to mature to the ripe old ages. Only time will tell on this one becuase that is the only factor that can not be repoduced in a lab.

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