The Burning Question: Is High-Fructose Corn Syrup Bad For You?

corn-syrup-high-fructose-bottle
James Worrell
YES: It has not-so-sweet health effects.
Andrew Weil, MDDirector, Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center
  • It may promote obesity
    Animals that ate a high-fructose diet for six months ate more and gained more weight than those that werent exposed to high fructose levels.
  • Research shows it could cause cancer
    HFCS is high in compounds thought to trigger tissue damage that can lead to type 2 diabetes, a study on soda suggests. And another study shows that some types of cancer cells may metabolize fructose to increase their growth.
  • Were eating more of it than ever
    HFCS is the main sweetener in drinks and is found in many foods; its consumption in the United States went up by more than 1,000 percent between 1970 and 1990. Meanwhile, kids are routinely being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes—once seen only in adults.

NO: Too much sugar is just as bad.
Marion Nestle, PhD, MPHPaulette Goddard Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University
  • Biochemically, its almost the same as table sugar
    The American Medical Association has concluded that HFCS isnt any worse for you than other caloric sweeteners. The 55:45 ratio of fructose to glucose in HFCS is almost the same as the ratio in table sugar and honey—50:50. HFCS has 4 calories per gram, just like table sugar.
  • Blame calories for weight gain
    All sugars have calories. And all sugars may be metabolized by the body as fat instead of energy.
  • Cut back on sweets, period
    People who eat lots of sugary foods and drinks of any kind tend to be heavier. The average American consumes about 60 pounds each of sugar and HFCS a year. That leaves plenty of room for us to cut down.
The Takeaway:
For the sake of your health, limit all added sweeteners, including sugar and HFCS. Try not to get more than 40 grams (about 10 teaspoons) of added sugars daily. Got a sweet tooth? Opt for fruit, a natural sugar source high in key nutrients.