There have been two TV ads about high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) that have been airing on a regular basis since 2008 (click here and here to watch them). I was reminded of these ads because one of them aired during a show I was watching this past weekend. Basically the TV commercial is telling people that HFCS is natural and not unhealthy in moderation, just like regular sugar. Is this true? Hardly!

So what is HFCS? HFCS come from corn, but it is definitely not natural. There is an elaborate process to turn corn into HFCS. The basics of it is that it takes many steps, chemcial processes, in the lab to produce HFCS (for a more detailed explanation of the process see The Murky World of High-Fructose Corn Syrup, click here). The result is a sugar that is about 55% fructose and 45% glucose. This is similar to regular table sugar which is typically 50% fructose and 50% glucose. It is similar but different in a way that makes it worse.

What makes it worse is the increase in fructose. I know that fructose sound healthy, reminds us of fruit, but the fact is it is the worst type of sugar you can ingest. The reason fructose consumption has the potential to cause negative effects is because the body is not well equipped to handle large amounts of it. The following are some of the negative effects associated with high fructose consumption, whatever the source;

  • Weight gain
  • Accelerated aging
  • Insulin resistance
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
  • Elevated triglycerides
  • Elevated uric acid
  • and more

This does not mean that eating some whole fruit is bad, but anything over small amounts, probably 2 to 3 pieces a day, is not good for many people. This typically translates to about 15 grams of fructose a day. For a comparison, a 12 ounce regular soda has about 40 grams of sugar typcially from HFCS. Therefore, this single soda will have about 22 grams of fructose. For those of you drinking fruit juice I am afraid you are not doing any better. One 12 ounce serving of unsweetened orange juice has about 36 grams of sugar and about 18 grams of fructose.

What about the moderation aspect? The first problem is that it is a processed simple sugar and has not redeeming nutritional quality except having calories. It has no vitamins, minerals, protein or essential fats. There is no need to ever ingest HFCS or regular sugar. Second, what is moderation? This is an ambiguous term. Again, there is no need to eat any amount of processed sugars, regular or HFCS. There is nothing good about them and they are typically added to foods and drinks that have no redeeming nutritional qualities to them.

The bottom line is that processed sugars, this includes HFCS, should be avoided at all costs. There is nothing natural or healthy about them. Can you eat a little bit everyday and be healthy, probably. But for the millions of people who are unhealthy and/or have a weight problem these substances should be avoided. Don’t be fooled by the slick marketing, which, by the way, is paid for by the Corn Refiners Association. HFCS is not natural and it can contribute to health and weight problems.

P.S. There is a very good lecture on this topic called; Sugar-The Bitter Truth by Robert H. Lustig M.D. Click here to watch it.

Have you seen the high-fructose corn syrup TV ads?