Is High Fructose Corn Syrup Bad for You?


The answer is yes and no.  

I’ve been hearing the past couple of years that we should avoid High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) because our bodies process it differently from natural sugar.   I started wondering if this is really true.  Do our bodies use HFCS differently from any other sweetener?  The answer from reputable research organizations is a resounding no.  When you examine the chemical properties of HFCS, you’ll understand how this claim is impossible. 

HFCS is a combination of glucose and fructose.  Glucose is the form sugar takes when it is being passed around in our blood to be used as energy.   A blood sugar reading is essentially the amount of glucose in your blood.    Our bodies do handle fructose differently than glucose.  When fructose enters our body it goes to our liver where it is converted into glucose if energy is needed or released into the bloodstream as is.  The real problem is that fructose does not stimulate insulin production like glucose.  Insulin controls the hormone leptin.  Increased leptin levels leads to a feeling of satiety or fullness and tells our brain to stop eating.  You can see where this is leading.  If we consume food and drinks with high levels of fructose, our bodies aren’t registering that we are full, which leads to overeating and, consequently, weight gain. 

But wait.  Remember that glucose is also in HFCS, and glucose does increase insulin levels which will help to tell us we’re full.  It’s also important to know that fructose is half the sugar in sucrose, or table sugar, and it is the sugar that we consume when we eat fruit.  Fructose is a natural forming sugar that we will consume no matter what we eat.  The claims that HFCS is bad for you because our bodies digest it differently started from research studies that DID prove that we have a higher potential to gain weight consuming fructose over other sugars, but you need to remember that HFCS isn’t just fructose.  HFCS with equal amounts of glucose and fructose will have the same effect on your body as sucrose (or table sugar). So, why is HFCS still getting a bad rap?

BECAUSE IT IS IN EVERYTHING!  HFCS is not only found in sugary drinks like soda and juices, but you can find it in bread,  cereal, condiments, energy bars, granola bars, yogurt, spaghetti sauce, etc.  I could go on and on and on, but the takeaway is that HFCS is processed foods, even foods that you wouldn’t think of, it is still there.   The real problem is not HCFS, but the excessive consumption of HCFS.   Try and stay away from as much processed food as you can to avoid excessive sugar intake in general.  It’s impossible to avoid HFCS or sugar completely, but its harmful effects are the same as regular old sugar, so the advice is the same.  Everything in moderation. 

 

*picture source

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Spot on! Really, I think all sweeteners should have the same reputation: everything in moderation. People are just eating (or drinking) too much sugar overall and having HFCS in the oddest of places is certainly not helping. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a nice cheesecake or ice cream every now and then–the key phrase being every now and then.

    Reply

    • Thank you! I think that people are looking for something to blame for the obesity epidemic. The problem is that there are many reasons – not just one. Too much sugar is just one of them.

      Reply

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