The Anatomy of High-Fructose Corn Syrup

High-Fructose Corn Syrup has been a topic of hot debate amongst health intellectuals and nutritionists. Correlations between High-Fructose Corn Syrup and obesity, as well as the difference between HFCS in liquids versus its solid form have been established.

The Corn Refiners Association has been instrumental as well as vocal in advocating that there is nothing to be afraid of when it comes to High Fructose Corn Syrup. Research has been conducted to find out if whatever health guru’s really say about the futility of corn syrup is true or not.

So how is corn fructose syrup different from the regular sweet sugar that is used for daily purposes and why do nutrition experts label it as unhealthy? The sugar that’s used for everyday use is a combination of fructose and glucose, a combination which is known as sucrose and is naturally produced by plants.

Corn Syrup is a syrup produced from corn starch. Corn does not contain any naturally occurring fructose in it. But during the mid 1950s, scientists came across a way to convert the naturally occurring glucose in corn into fructose.  The result was a product that was incredibly sweet. The product was then mixed with plain corn syrup and glucose until a 55/45 [fructose/glucose] balance was reached, where the fructose content was a majority. This is the story of the birth of High Fructose Corn Syrup.

Many have wondered why HFCS was so attractive and popular in the food industry.

Here Are Three Reasons:

First, corn syrup is very cheap. A dry pound of Corn Syrup didn’t cost more than 32 cents back in 2007, where a similar quantity of refined sugar cost 52 cents. The less expensive nature of Corn Syrup has resulted in it being used by the food industry in order to keep the costs down. Secondly, corn syrup dissolves easily in liquid and makes it a very attractive choice for the beverage industry.

Every year, it’s becoming difficult to find drinks that don’t use HFCS as a major ingredient during their manufacturing process. The third reason it’s so popular with the food industry is because it acts as a preservative which increases the life of whatever product it’s being used for.  It also reduces the necessity of other preservatives. From the viewpoint of the food industry, corn syrup is nothing short of a miraculous product.  It is cheaper and sweeter than ordinary sugar and acts as a preservative.

The concerns regarding the anatomy of High Fructose Corn Syrup and the results of its usage are mainly centered upon two primary facts. The first major concern is the use of mercury, caustic soda and hydrochloric acid used during processing. Tests conducted in 2005 found that 1/3rd of HFCS products contained mercury [A more recent study in 2009 found that 1/2 of HFCS products contained mercury]. The other major concern is its contribution towards obesity. Many experts believe that because corn syrup contains more fructose than ordinary sugar, it’s become one of the leading causes of obesity. Regardless, it remains a major area of interest in the food industry.

What Are Your Thoughts about High-Fructose Corn Syrup?

[box type=”note”]Editor’s note: Fructose is believed to be more potently lipogenic than glucose. Recently, several researchers have pointed out that the link between fructose and obesity is based on epidemiological studies which don’t establish a cause and effect relationship. Others have attributed the obesity epidemic to the rising use of HFCS.

While both sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup contain the monosaccharides glucose and fructose–they exist in free in solutions of HFCS, but are found in disaccharide form in sucrose. Regardless of whether or not high-fructose is potentially a greater contributor to obesity than sucrose (table sugar), limiting both types of sweeteners which are empty calories is certainly a good idea.[/box]


Ernesto Martinez

Ernesto is an uncertified health nut that enjoys science and learning about the universe. He is also the editor of My Lifestyle Diet where he and his staff provide healthy resources including reviews on popular diets like Weight Watchers.

10 thoughts on “The Anatomy of High-Fructose Corn Syrup

  • August 26, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    I call it beer without the buzz…because HFCS does exactly the same thing as alcohol does to the liver…that’s why we are seeing more and more cases of what is called non-alcoholic hepatic liver in the obese…

  • August 22, 2012 at 10:25 am

    When I found out that HFCS keeps your eat signal in your brain on I
    stopped eating foods with it. I lost 20 pounds by not eaing foods with
    hfcs. I looked back on my eating habits and found that I could drink a
    2 liter bottle of soda and a gallon of ice cream in about 2hours. Now I
    have to THINK about eating something and about what is healthy to

  • January 18, 2011 at 9:06 pm

    My philosophy on the matter is simple. I don’t consume products with HFCS unless I absolutely have no other choice. This is especially true when purchasing food for my family.

    Unfortunately, most consumers don’t know or just don’t care about what’s in their food.

  • January 18, 2011 at 8:53 pm

    Hi DB,
    Stick with your anti-HFCS crusade. Here are some facts
    that might interest you. HFCS-55, which you know
    is 55% fructose: 45% glucose is the prime sweetener for national brand soda. Now to the casual observer this looks pretty close to sucrose 50:50 until you do the math. 55%:45% = 55/ 45 = 1.22. This means that in every American Coke, there is, compared to glucose, 22% more fructose. Now multiply that by 40 years of drinking that excess fructose. Could there be a metabolic problem? But, it gets worse. Dr. Goran’s team from Keck Medical School at USC surveyed the %fructose in locally obtained naional brand soda. Three samples of bottled soda had 65% fructose. I read the paper. Their internal standards had a 4% variance. They also tested Mexican Coke and found that to be 52% fructose (which is pretty close to the 50% mark). HFCS-65 has 18% more fructose than HFCS-55 and and a whopping 30% more fructose than sucrose. Could the CRA be manipulating the %fructose?
    It makes sense. If you make something a little sweeeter, the end manufacturers needs to use less.
    Now here is the real kicker. Go to ADM’s website. They
    make Cornsweet90, HFCS-90, which is 90% fructose and directly used for human consumption. The product blurb states that the intensely sweet HFCS is used for low cal prodcuts. I pity the poor person, who in a desperate attempt to shed a few pounds, reaches for a bottle of low-cal, low-sugar, low-fat product not
    realizing that he will receive a bolus of fructose his liver doesn’t need and probably circumvent his weight loss efforts.
    My big beef with the CRA is they didn’t play fair.
    Sucrose is 50:50. If only the CRA had stuck with simulating sucrose’s ratio. But they didn’t. When you see the ingredient HFCS it can be 42-90% fructose. And now they want to lump all these HFCSs under the
    friendly rubric, corn sugar. Did you know that citizens can submit an opinion to the FDA on the CRA’s petition to change HFCS’s name.
    Take care,
    Cynthia Papierniak, M.S.

  • January 17, 2011 at 5:50 pm

    LOL. Ok, let’s all agree with the president of the Corn Refiner’s Association’s copy-and-paste response to newly emerging research that will hurt the paycheck. I’m sure everyone will enjoy a friendly trip around “” or “” Those are some of my favorite propagandist websites on the net. I have to admit that Big Corn is putting up a good fight even in the face of clear scientific evidence. I’ve ever read some nonsense research papers funded and written by these guys. As a medical student, I have made it my business to research High Fructose Corn Syrup. Let me make it perfectly clear. People are finding out what is going on. It is only a matter of time before you are found out regardless of the phony research papers. It’s over, you have poisoned america long enough…..

    • January 18, 2011 at 4:36 pm

      @ZB Can you share with us what scientific evidence you are talking about? There have been questions and concerns in regard to studies that have been done using pure fructose, which in turn has created lot of misinformation online. These recent studies have examined pure fructose and have inappropriately applied the results to high fructose corn syrup. As you may know, not only does high fructose corn syrup always contain glucose which is missing from pure fructose, but the studies that cause confusion examined artificially high levels of pure fructose not found either in high fructose corn syrup or in any normal diet.

      You don’t have to believe us if you feel our efforts are propaganda. You can see third party point of views at . I am sure as a medical student you have great knowledge of research, but you can also see an article by Brian Dunning that speaks to this

      Therese, Corn Refiners Association

  • January 16, 2011 at 5:50 pm

    It may be similar, but it’s not the same. During all my forays into dieting over the years, one thing is certain, if I include HFCS products such as soda into my diet I do not lose as much weight even when all calories are accounted for.

    This is not just the carbonation or other components in soda, as I can drink cane sugar based drinks and as long as I account for the calories I do fine, I can also drink artificial sweetened soft drinks and do fine. HFCS and fructose in general slows down my fat loss every time, even when I am doing rather extreme caloric restrictions combined with exercise.

    Now, don’t get me wrong I don’t recommend anyone drink soda of any form, but it’s a weakness of mine and while I have gone up to a ½ year without it I still tend to get drawn back in (I grew up on the stuff, unfortunately).

    Besides my experience, it seems that fructose of any kind converts to fat easier than other sugars:

    So anyone trying to lose fat would do good to avoid fructose of all forms, including HFCS, honey, molasses, and so forth. Fruit is not as terrible as you have a lot of nutrients and less fructose packed into a small container, but you will still do better losing all fructose if possible until you’re at a more ideal weight. Soda and other foods that contain a lot of HFCS are surefire ways to end your fat loss when dieting, they pack so much fructose into such small packages it’s virtually impossible for the body to use them for fuel before they will be stored as fat.

    I personally feel we will have one of those moments in history soon, like when the tobacco industry finally admitted tobacco was harmful to your health. Obesity is slowing down but it’s still on the rise, the CDC chief says obesity is the top health threat:

    At some point when we start to face this, a closer examination of our diet will bring about information that will indicate increased intakes of fructose as one of the major culprits, some studies already indicate this:

    Why do you think they feed corn to animals? It is simply because it fattens them up, grain fed animal meats are less healthy for you then grass fed, because grains do the same thing to animals it does to people…it fattens them up and makes them unhealthy:

    Just be aware of what you are eating!

    • January 18, 2011 at 4:35 pm


      There are differences, such as origin and how they are bonded, but according to the American Dietetic Association (ADA), “high fructose corn syrup…is nutritionally equivalent to sucrose. Once absorbed into the blood stream, the two sweeteners are indistinguishable.”

      You mention fructose, but fructose is not just a component of HFCS. Both sugar (sucrose) and high fructose corn syrup contain roughly 50 percent glucose and 50 percent fructose.

      As I mentioned in my comment to ZB a lot of the studies that have caused confusion have been done with pure fructose and have inappropriately applied the results to high fructose corn syrup.

      We agree that there is an obesity epidemic, but I think it is important to also acknowledge that obesity is becoming a more global problem each day, yet high fructose corn syrup is used very little—or not at all—in many countries where obesity is rising. Sugar is the primary sweetener in most parts of the world. Please see Table 52—High fructose corn syrup: estimated number of per capita calories consumed daily, by calendar year-

      You may also be interested in reading some of the differences between corn-fed and grass-fed beef at

      Therese, Corn Refiners Association

  • January 14, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    High fructose corn syrup is simply a kind of corn sugar. It has the same number of calories as sugar and is handled the same by the body.

    According to the American Dietetic Association, “high fructose corn syrup…is nutritionally equivalent to sucrose. Once absorbed into the blood stream, the two sweeteners are indistinguishable.”

    Also, the American public can rest assure that high fructose corn syrup is safe. Safety is the highest priority for our industry, which is why we immediately commissioned external testing as well as independent expert review of claims concerning mercury and our corn sweetener.

    Woodhall Stopford, MD, MSPH, of Duke University Medical Center, one of the nation’s leading experts in mercury contamination, reviewed the results of total mercury testing of samples of high fructose corn syrup conducted by Eurofins Central Analytical Laboratory in February and March 2009. Dr. Stopford concluded that no quantifiable mercury was detected in any of the samples analyzed and high fructose corn syrup does not appear to be a measureable contributor to mercury in foods. You can read more about the mercury tests at

    As many dietitians agree, all sugars should be consumed in moderation as part of a balanced lifestyle.

    Consumers can see the latest research and learn more about high fructose corn syrup at

    Audrae Erickson
    Corn Refiners Association

    • March 28, 2011 at 6:47 pm

      I’m sick and tired you greedy people. You have several years back said that HFCS in moderation is OK. Now you have put it in all the food and it is in everything and you are responsible for killing our chidren and My Grandchildren.

      Why should you be able to do this without any reprecusions?

      People are sick of these large corportions just ruining our country. It’s time for someone to step up to the plate and put and end to it.

      What should the people do to you bunch of greedy bastards? You are amoral. You are beyond help.

      It is time that you people are held up some type of law. You have bought all the politicians and goverment.

      You control the FFA.

      You are worse than the Cigarette Companies. It time to have a protest in front of the White House. I think I’m headed there to do just that.


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