The Rise and Fall of High Fructose Corn Syrup


(HFCS Commercial Spoof on Saturday Night Live)

High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is considered worse than the devil by many consumers today. The liquid sweetener, which has been an integral part of our food system since the early 1980′s, has been blamed for  skyrocketing obesity and diabetes rates in this country.

High fructose corn syrup is derived from surplus corn, and costs half the price as table sugar. That has made it very popular with food and beverage manufacturers for over 30 years.

But it seems that the good times for HFCS are about to end.

Many manufacturers who used HFCS in their products are switching back to sugar. And they’re telling consumers about it too. Today, 1 in 50 products in the supermarket is labeled “No HFCS”. That’s a ten-fold increase compared to just 5 years ago. (Source: Food Navigator, May 11, 2011). Examples include Sara Lee, Some Pepsi drinks, Newman’s Own, and Hunt’s.

Although the current scientific consensus is that HFCS is nutritionally identical to sugar, at least one study has shown otherwise.

Regardless of the science, the public consensus is that HFCS is not a good ingredient to have in food. 35% of consumers look for HFCS when choosing foods, compared to only 20% in 2006.

The Corn Refiners Association has made numerous attempts to convince America that HFCS is safe, but they all seem to backlash.The most recent attempt, changing the name HFCS to “corn sugar” is meeting with lawsuits from the sugar industry.

[Image via The Daily Green]

What to do at the supermarket:

Whether HFCS is different from sugar or not, the fact is we are consuming way too much of both. So instead of worrying about your soda being sweetened with sugar or HFCS, how about switching to water?

More than anything else, a highly sweetened product is not something you want to consume regularly. When you see HFCS on a product label, it usually is indicative of a cheap processed food. Try to limit the number of products like this that you put in your shopping cart.

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  • http://twitter.com/lauren_015 Lauren Smith

     I love how your advice always comes back to drinking water. Amen!

  • http://profiles.google.com/bodynsoil Bodyn Soil

    This is a great article, very informative and well stated. I love the closing argument that Americans consume much too much of both sugar and HFCS.

  • http://profiles.google.com/dm.lilith Elizabeth Courts

     I’ve noticed that even though they say “no high fructose corn syrup” on the container, they might still contain corn syrup. Just another caveat to watch out for!

  • Jim Cooper

    “Regardless of the science, the public consensus is that HFCS is not a good ingredient to have …”

    In other words, we’re going to keep flogging this dead horse right after we said there’s nothing  bad about HFCS.

    The important point is too much sugar is being consumed.
    Larger portions may also be playing a role.

    • 1_4Kabby

      I don’t know how they can make the statement that “your body doesn’t know the difference.” In a multitude of animal studies HFCS increases abdominal adipose tissue, the amount and types of hormones and enzymes produced in adipose tissue and the liver, and increases obesity. These in-depth studies just haven’t been performed on humans. A search of PubMed will yield you plenty of reading material on the subject.

      Of course, people should not be eating tons of any type of sweetener, but HFCS should not be consumed at all. Also, it is often contaminated with mercury and other toxins.

  • Joe Wheeler

    The American Heart Association has recommended no more than 6 tsp of added sugar a day for women and 9 tsp a day for men.  Added sugar (the kind in processed foods) is different from natural sugar (the kind found in fruits and vegetables).