Sugar Question & Answer

High Fructose Corn Syrup versus Table Sugar

Corn Syrup is in far more than cola

What do you think of the Corn Refiners Association website ( and their commercials claiming high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is natural and nearly identical to table sugar?

This public relations campaign is of little surprise. You can imagine what is at stake for this organization if consumers' demand for HFCS continues to decrease. Although FDA policy does not object to labeling high-fructose corn syrup as "natural.", HFCS simply doesn't exist in nature, so by most anyone's standards, it obviously cannot be considered natural.

They state that HFCS is metabolically the same as table sugar (sucrose), which is essentially true. Both HFCS and sucrose are both made up of glucose and fructose. HFCS can range from 42% to 90% fructose. Sucrose is consists of one glucose molecule and one fructose molecule. The molecular bond between glucose and fructose is instantly destroyed once sucrose enters the gut. Chronic consumption of refined fructose in both HFCS and sucrose have the same negative health consequences.

Diets high in refined fructose increase appetite and chronic consumption have been linked to a host of health problems collectively known as metabolic syndrome.

Since glycogen replenishment takes precedence over triglyceride formation, those who regularly exercise vigorously or those in a state of calorie deficit may be somewhat protected, since limited amounts of fructose (whether from HFCS or table sugar) are more likely to be utilized as a fuel substrate or stored in the liver as glycogen after vigorous or prolonged activity (what I like to call the 'Athletic Exemption'). The problem is most people are relatively inactive or at least typically do not have depleted liver glycogen stores when they consume sugars.

Actually, the underlining problem with HFCS is that it is so inexpensive, largely due to US government farm subsidies, that it has found its way into most foods we find in the grocery stores (see Finding Sugar on Food Labels). Foods that you would not have even guessed, often include HFCS. HFCS also keeps the price of sugar low. Several authorities have suggested that the induction of HFCS (and sugar) is one of the leading causes of the obesity epidemic in addition to the various other metabolic disorders mentioned above.

Interestingly, fructose in its natural state (i.e in fruit) does not appear to have these negative health consequences. See Fiber's effect on Insulin.

For further information, see a video seminar by Dr. Robert Listig, MD, Sugar: The Bitter Truth video, which I strongly recommend.

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