The Truth About High Fructose Corn Syrup

Laura Brieser-SmithPick up almost any processed food product and you will very likely find high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in the list of ingredients. From a food manufacturing perspective, this is a great sweetener; it has a nice flavor profile, extends the shelf life of products and is inexpensive to use. Unfortunately, it has been blamed for a variety of health problems, but is it really that bad for us?

When looking at the research, it appears that the problems all lie with the sugar fructose. In moderate amounts, fructose is a perfectly healthy sugar. However, researchers have found that consumption of high levels of fructose may lead to a variety of problems, including obesity, insulin resistance, high triglyceride and cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, fatty liver, and digestive disorders. Various claims have been made that HFCS causes the same effects as pure fructose. The fructose content of HFCS is actually very similar to sugar, so concerns that it provides extremely high levels of fructose are unsubstantiated. Claims that HFCS has been a major cause of obesity have also not proven to be true. While the overconsumption of calorie laden foods containing HFCS has undoubtedly made an impact on American’s expanding girth, it is not fair to single out HFCS as the sole cause. Interestingly enough, consumption of HFCS has decreased slightly since 1999, but obesity rates have not followed suit.

The bottom line on HFCS appears to be that small amounts are not harmful. Unfortunately, because HFCS is so prevalent in our food supply, moderation is harder to achieve than one might think. If possible, try to eat fewer processed foods overall. Also, for the processed foods you do consume, read the ingredients and choose foods that do not contain any HFCS, or at least contain less of it. Finally, don’t be afraid to get fructose in the form of fruit. The extra nutrients that the fruit contains far outweigh any of the negative effects you might encounter from fructose.

Laura Brieser-Smith, RD, MPH, CHFS is the owner of Healthy Designs, LLC which provides nutrition counseling and personal training to clients in their homes or offices. She can be reached at 303-635-1131 or at

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