Is High Fructose Corn Syrup Worse for You Than Sugar?

There has been a lot of controversy about high fructose corn syrup over the past few years.  Some people will say that you should avoid any products with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) because it is one of the main causes of the obesity epidemic we are seeing in this country.  It is said that products with high fructose corn syrup are worse than sugar because they make blood sugars rise faster, it tastes sweeter than sugar (which may increase a person’s desire for sweeter foods) and that it is not as satiating (filling) because it does not trigger your brain to recognize the calories that you have eaten.  So are these claims true, is high fructose corn syrup worse than sugar?

Sugar and high fructose corn syrup actually have a very similar composition.  Both of them are made up of about 50% fructose and 50% glucose, and they both have 4 calories per gram.  Because they have a very similar composition, they have a nearly identical impact on our health, our blood sugars, our satiety and our waistline.  So, the research shows that high fructose corn syrup is actually not worse than sugar.

So how did high fructose corn syrup get such a bad rap?  Years ago, researchers found that during a time period where the consumption of high fructose corn syrup went up in America there was also a rise in the rates of obesity.  So, they came up with a hypothesis (a guess) that the high fructose corn syrup was leading to this rise in obesity.  What they didn’t realize at the time is that while the consumption of high fructose corn syrup was on the rise, the consumption of cereals, flour and fat were also on the rise.  Research now shows that it was actually the increase in overall calories that has lead to this weight gain, and there is not one specific food to blame.  However, it was too late for HFCS, its bad reputation was already in place.

So, is high fructose corn syrup healthy?  No, both sugar and HFCS are empty calories (calories with no nutritional value), but you can fit them into a healthy diet in moderation.  So, the bottom line is you want to be more concerned with the amount of added sugars, not so much about the source of the added sugars.  For more information about the myths and facts of high fructose corn syrup, you can visit  Also, see my related post titled “ How Much Sugar Can be Part of a Healthy Diet”.