High-fructose corn syrup

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High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a sweetening agent. It is basically corn syrup that has been processed to increase the level of fructose.

Until the 1970s most of the sugar, came from sucrose derived from sugar beets or sugar cane. HFCS was first developed in 1970. Known as HFCS-42, it comprised 42% fructose and 58% glucose. Technological developments in late 1970 have permitted led to the formation of HFCS-55. Then sugar from corn--corn syrup, fructose, dextrose, dextrine and especially high fructose corn syrup (HFCS)--began to gain popularity as a sweetener because it was much less expensive to produce. The commercial use of HFCS increased after 1980, when Coca Cola started using it as a sweetener. Pepsi Cola started using HFCS in its soft drinks in 1982.


Why should I be aware of this?

  • HFCS is not same as corn syrup.
  • HFCS is not fructose either.
  • Corn syrup is essentially all glucose and it is less sweet
  • HFCS has 42-55% fructose. Its sweetness profile is that of sucrose.
  • Coca Cola contains 50/50 solution with sucrose and so does Pepsi Cola.
  • There is no difference between sucrose and HFCS with respect to metabolism at the site of absorption.
  • The dramatic increase in HFCS consumption in the US since the 1970s coincides with the dramatic increase in obesity in the country during that period. This has raised concerns about HFCS being responsible for obesity.
  • Products containing high fructose corn syrup cannot be considered 'natural' and should not be labeled as such, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has said.[1]
  • With almost twice the fructose content, HFCS delivers a double danger compared to sugar.
  • Fruit have 50% fructose and 50% glucose. The dietary fibre in fruit slows down the metabolism of fructose and other sugars, but the fructose in HFCS is absorbed very quickly.
  • Most commercial fruit juices have HFCS added.
  • In 1980 the average person ate 39 pounds of fructose and 84 pounds of sucrose. In 1994 the average person in the US ate 66 pounds of sucrose and 83 pounds of fructose, providing 19 percent of total caloric energy. Today approximately 25 percent of our average caloric intake comes from sugars, with the larger fraction as fructose.[2]

All about high-fructose corn syrup

High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a liquid sweetener that is widely used these days in the manufacture of foods and beverages. In technical terms as FDA says, "HFCS is prepared from a high dextrose equivalent corn starch hydrolysate by partial enzymatic conversion of glucose (dextrose) to fructose using an insoluble glucose isomerase enzyme preparation".[1]

HFCS is made up of almost half glucose and half fructose, the most common form being HFCS-55, which contains 55% fructose and 45% glucose. Though sucrose (50%fructose and 50% glucose) and HFCS have similar sweetness, and HFCS can be tolerated and absorbed as well, the problem arises with the excessive use of HFCS in various foods.

  • It is a sweetener designed to mimic profile of sucrose
  • HFCS is formed by enzymatic isomerization of glucose in corn syrup to fructose, then blended back with glucose to get desired glucose-fructose blend
  • The name “high fructose corn syrup” distinguishes it from other corn syrup

Reasons behind popularity of HFCS

  • Retains moisture and prevents drying out
  • Controls crystallization
  • Helps control microbiological growth (osmotic pressure HFCS > Sucrose or MIS)
  • Blends easily with sweeteners, acids, and flavorings
  • Provides controllable substrate for browning and Maillardreaction.
  • Sweetness equivalent to invert liquid sugar
  • Low viscosity
  • Lower cost than sucrose in the USA

Foods Containing HFCS

A wide variety of manufactured foods contain HFCS as a sweetener. It is present in soft drinks, fruit juice concentrates, sports energy drinks, packaged foods, candies, jam, yogurt, canned food, cakes, biscuits and other sweetened foods. Some surprise sources of fructose are mentioned below.

HFCS and health

As is the case with any other refined food, a little fructose does not hurt a peron's health. The problem comes with the sheer quantity of "hidden" fructose being consumed through the HFCS and sucrose in processed foods. For example, conventional and "new age" soft drinks almost universally contain 11 percent HFCS by weight which is 2.2 pounds per case.

Fructose has been touted for years as a safe sugar for diabetics because it does not trigger a rapid rise in blood sugar. That is true, but the cardiovascular consequences may outweigh the benefits for diabetics, who already face a higher than average risk of developing heart disease.

Which is worse for my health – HFCS or sugar?

HFCS is worse than sugar and leads to more weight gain for the same calorific intake! According to research done by the Princeton University, all sweeteners are not equal when it comes to weight gain. A study done by Princton showed that rats with access to high-fructose corn syrup gained significantly more weight than those with access to table sugar, even when their overall caloric intake was the same.


  • High fructose corn syrup and corn syrup are different products with distinctly different functions. Corn syrup, which is mainly glucose, is used as a non-sweet thickener. High fructose corn syrup, on the other hand, is made of almost equal portions of fructose and glucose and is used as a sweetener. Fructose is a naturally occurring sweetener found in fruits and honey.
  • Since HFCS is derived from corn it is propagated as a natural substance. HFCS is highly processed and does not exist anywhere in nature.

90 degrees -- What we do not know yet

  • Some claim that HFCS affects obesity via an effect on appetite. But no studies have investigated HFCS and appetite directly.[3]
  • Researchers have found new evidence that soft drinks sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) may contribute to the development of diabetes, particularly in children. In a laboratory study of commonly consumed carbonated beverages, the scientists found that drinks containing the syrup had high levels of reactive compounds that have been shown by others to have the potential to trigger cell and tissue damage that could cause the disease, which is at epidemic levels.[4]
  • High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) has been singled out as having special properties that make Americans fatter than sugar and other energy sources with identical calorie contents. But an analysis says there isn't enough research to conclude that high fructose corn syrup contributes to weight gain any more than any other energy source, including sugar and fructose.[5]
  • A recent study showed that diabetics' total cholesterol rose an average 7 percent, and their "bad" low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol rose almost 11 percent with fructose consumption showing fructose might increase their risk of heart disease."[6]


  • HFCS and sucrose are very similar in composition and components.
  • Since refined sweeteners lack bulk, it is easy to consume large quantities of them.
  • With fructose being perceived as the natural sweetener, it sometimes leads to unusually high consumption as an alternative to other artificial sweeteners.

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Additional information


  • Why High-Fructose Corn Syrup Causes Insulin Resistance
  • The Double Danger of High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup Myths
  • Fake "Myths" propagated by the Fructose Industry
  • Fast Food Nutritional Info book
  • Did you know? Why IS High Fructose Corn Syrup bad for your health?
  • HFCS:Health Risk or Hype?


  1. 1.0 1.1 HFCS is not 'natural', says FDA
  2. The Double Danger of High Fructose Corn Syrup
  3. HFCS: Health Risk or Hype?
  4. Soda Warning? High-fructose Corn Syrup Linked To Diabetes, New Study Suggests:ScienceDaily
  5. Not Enough Evidence To Indict High Fructose Corn Syrup In Obesity: ScienceDaily
  6. [http://www.thenutritionreporter.com/fructose_dangers.html Fructose Maybe Not So Natural...and Not So Safe]