Much controversy and misinformation surround this food additive. It has been accused of causing obesity, diabetes, cancer and liver failure. Many of these allegations are outright ridiculous and are spread by non-scientific, uninformed sources with little to no knowledge of human physiology, nutrition and biochemistry. The additional implications relating to weight gain, diabetes and appetite are often based upon animal studies using excessively high levels of fructose given as the sole carbohydrate. Studies have looked at the metabolism of HFCS, its effect on insulin, appetite, leptin and ghrelin (appetite and satiety hormones) and found no significant differences from sucrose (table sugar) It is important to understand that HFCS is not fructose. HFCS starts as corn syrup, which is primarily glucose. Through an enzymatic process, much of the glucose becomes fructose, making the syrup comparatively high in fructose when compared to regular corn syrup (hence the name high fructose corn syrup). White, granulated sugar is about 50/50 glucose and fructose. HFCS used in beverages or food is either 42% or 55% fructose, not significantly higher and maybe even lower in fructose than regular sugar (sucrose). To imply that HFCS has some unforeseen physiological impact beyond its fructose and glucose content that does not exist in sugar stretches the boundaries of credibility.
The ratio of glucose to fructose in the American food supply has remained quite constant since the 1960s. To truly eat a diet high in fructose, one would have to go out of their way and it would not be easy. It would be convenient and simple if HFCS were the hazardous substance that many want it to be. However, consider that the rise in obesity in the US is mirrored around the world in all developed countries, yet HFCS is not a significant contributor of calories to the daily diet of countries outside of the US. In Latin American countries, for example, soft drink consumption makes up a significant portion of total daily calorie intake, obesity is on the rise and they still use sucrose to sweeten their beverages. There is no impact of HFCS beyond the calories in the food it is contained in. Spending time trying to blame HFCS for Americans' weight gain and poor health is to take the focus off of the true culprit: excess caloric intake, poor food choices and a lack of physical activity.
1 Melanson KJ, Zukley L, Lowndes J, Nguyen V, Angelopoulos TJ, Rippe JM. Effects of high fructose corn syrup and sucrose consumption on circulating glucose, insulin, leptina dn ghrelin and on appetite in normal-weight women. Nutrition 2007. 23(2): 103-112.
2 Forshee RA, Story ML, Allison DB, Glinsmann WH, Hein GL, Lineback DR, Miller SA, Nicklas TA, Weaver GA, White JS. A critical examination of the evidence relating high fructose corn syrup and weight gain. Critical reviews in Food Science and Nutrition 2007. 47(6): 561-582.
3 Popkin, BM and P Gordon-Larsen. The Nutrition Transition: Worldwide Obesity Dynamics and Their Determinants. International Journal of Obesity. 2004: Vol. 28, S2-S9.