High-Fructose Corn Syrup: Dietary Scourge or Unfairly Maligned Sweetener?

From Epicurious:

When I went back and reread some of Pollan’s and Schlosser’s work, I discovered that they never actually said that replacing high-fructose corn syrup with sugar (as Hunt’s brand ketchup recently did in response to consumer demand) would solve the obesity problem. The problem with HFCS is more about the ubiquity of highly sweetened products as a whole. The corn crop is subsidized by the U.S. government, making HFCS much cheaper than sugar. This makes it easy for companies to produce extremely cheap, extremely unhealthy junk food, which then becomes the cheapest and easiest source of calories for people on a budget. This is why, in many underprivileged neighborhoods, you’ll find a glut of fast-food restaurants and bodegas selling processed snacks, but a dearth of (more expensive) fresh produce.


  1. Here in Canada, we have ‘glucose-fructose; on the labels of our pop, instead of HFCS.
    It’s more accurate. Why? Because the ‘HFCS’ put in pop is a blend of glucose and fructose, at 60-40 proportions.

    Now for a bit of basic chemistry. The sugar in cane sugar or table sugar is sucrose. Sucrose is a compound sugar. It is, in fact, a glucose molecule binded with a fructose molecule. This bond is easily broken by mild acid.

    So what winds up in your stomach is, for all intents and purposes, THE EXACT SAME THING., ie, roughly half glucose and half fructose –in other words HFCS.

    The real problem is that people like sweets, love sweets, can’t get enough sweets. This was a very good thing in earlier, caloric-deficient times, but not such a good thing now as we are wired to have a sweet tooth.

    Blaming HFCS is just a molecule witch-hunt. In truth, what we need to do to stop the obesity epidemic is to teach people to fight that wiring in our brain, and practice restraint. That or go back to feast-or-famine societies.

  2. If one looks at the actual results of the study, they are nowhere near as dramatic as the article suggests:

    (numbers on the right are final weight, in grams)
    Experiment 1

    Males: 8 weeks on diet

    Four groups:

    1. 24-h HFCS + ad libitum chow 470
    2. 12-h HFCS + ad libitum chow 502
    3. 12-h sucrose + ad libitum chow 477
    4. Ad libitum chow 462

    Experiment 2
    Females: 7 months on diet
    1. 24-h HFCS + ad libitum chow 355
    2. 12-h HFCS + 12-h chow 323
    3. 12-h sucrose + 12-h chow 333
    4. Ad libitum chow 328

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