Look at the ingredients on your bottle of ketchup, your favorite soft drink, or your cup of yogurt. Unless your product is "organic," high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) will most likely be listed among the ingredients. For a time, ubiquity of this product got many American health organizations questioning if HFCS is, in part, responsible for our increasing obesity epidemic.

First produced in the United States in 1957 and refined for production in Japan in the late 60s, HFCS was seen as a cheaper option of naturally occurring sugar. Only recently has the food additive come under fire.

The Argument Against High Fructose Corn Syrup

The campaign against the consumption of high fructose corn syrup seems to be backed by a litany of scientific research. A 2012 animal study conducted at UCLA and published in the Journal of Physiology found that diets high in HFCS adversely impacted the learning and memory of the rats in the study. A study published in the journal Global Health found that countries using high fructose corn syrup had rates of diabetes that were about 20 percent higher than countries that didn't mix the additive into foods. And those are just two studies outlining possible adverse health effects of HFCS consumption.

The Argument for High Fructose Corn Syrup

On the other side of the debate, the Corn Refiners of America, the folks who represent producers of high fructose corn syrup and other corn products, claim that "is almost identical to table sugar and honey" and that HFCS is "basically the same as table sugar." Moreover, the American Medical Association, in the report "The Health Effects of High Fructose Syrup," suggests "it appears unlikely that HFCS contributes more to obesity or other conditions than sucrose."

Some studies do support this. One such study, published in the Nutrition Journal, found that low-calorie diets that included HFCS produced the same progress in obesity indicators as diets with the same amounts of sugar.

Should You Consume High Fructose Corn Syrup?

So, what does it mean when you're provided seemingly contradictory messages from a variety of sources? Essentially, the jury is still out on HFCS. What you can takeaway, however, is that overconsumption of any sugar, HFCS or otherwise, can be detrimental to your health. Recent research suggest that diets high in added sugars may increase your risk of type 2 diabetes and obesity. Limit your daily intake of any sugar and you're making a healthy choice.

Alison Massey MS, RD, LDN, CDE, reviewed this article.



American Medical Association
The Health Effects of High Fructose Syrup

The Facts about High Fructose Corn Syrup

This Is Your Brain On Sugar: Study Shows High-Fructose Diet Sabotages Learning, Memory

High Fructose Corn Syrup Consumption Linked With Type 2 Diabetes Prevalence

Lowndes et al.: The effects of four hypocaloric diets containing different levels of sucrose or high fructose corn syrup on weight loss and related parameters. Nutrition Journal 2012 11:55.