Wednesday, February 11, 2009

What's the deal with High Fructose Corn Syrup?

As I was watching tv the other night with the spare time i don't have, I witnessed the following commercial from the corn refiners of america (see bottom of page for link.) Basically, they believe (and desperately want us to believe) that HFCS is "made from corn, has the same calories as sugar, and like sugar is fine in moderation." In other words, we shouldn't worry about the fact that HFCS is in everything everything we eat these days. Obviously, I was a bit skeptical and decided research this bold claim a bit more.

According to wikipedia, HFCS is simply corn syrup that has undergone enzymatic reactions to increase the fructose content and then this is mixed with pure glucose. Typically, the HFCS found in soft drinks is 55% fructose, 45% glucose. HFCS is found in many products, ranging from soft drinks, certain types of juice, salad dressings and even bread. HFCS is also used in low fat snacks in order to make them taste better. Now that we know that HFCS is everywhere, what does this mean for our health?

This past tuesday in Science Times, Jane Brody wrote a piece enititled "America's Diet: Too Sweet by the Spoonful" in which she analyzed the potential contribution of sugar and HFCS to America's obesity epidemic. I will post the link at the end of this, but to sum up her story, humans should take in (at maximum) 8 teaspoons of sugar a day. (By comparison, a 20 oz soda has 9-10 teaspoons). She argues that all of America's weight problems can be explained by our massive intake of sweetened products. In this way, she views sugar and HFCS as simliar enemies, with both causing equal destruction. Does this mean the Corn Refiners Association is the correct in its assertion? I will let you all decide.

HFCS Commercial:

Jane's Article:


  1. One difference between "regular" sugar (glucose) and fructose are the detrimental effects of fructose on the body's energy stores. Fructose takes much more time to break down (metabolize). During this metabolism, the body loses valuable minerals harmful oxides are created.
    Another point, eloquently made by Michael Pollan in his book The Omnivore's Dilemma, is the monoculture promoted by a culture dependent on corn products.

  2. Great point Ben. I guess I should have also included that fructose is preferentially metabolized by the body when compared glucose. This could also explain its ill-effects. Secondly, I loved the Omnivore's Dilemma. Very eye-opening in terms of the food we eat and our diet in general.