FAQs

Get Expert Answers to Frequently Asked HFCS Questions.

Have questions about high fructose corn syrup? See what the experts have to say in our HFCS FAQs. If you do not see a question or topic that you want answered, please let us know and we can provide the information you need.

General Questions

What is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS)?

How the experts answer:

"While the name might imply otherwise, HFCS is very similar to sugar, but it's made from corn instead of sugar cane. Sugar (sucrose) is 50 percent fructose and 50 percent glucose, whereas HFCS is between 42 and 55 percent fructose (calling it high fructose corn syrup is sort of a misnomer), and the rest is glucose." Gina Casagrande, R.D., Director of Nutrition & Health for Imagination to Burn, Imagination2Burn blog, May 23, 2010

"Many consumers mistakenly believe that high-fructose corn syrup is pure fructose. High-fructose corn syrup is composed of either 42 percent or 55 percent fructose and is similar in composition to table sugar [sucrose]." American Heart Association, Dietary Sugars Intake and Cardiovascular Health, Circulation, August 24, 2009

"In reality, HFCS used in the United States contains either 55 percent fructose and 45 percent glucose [HFCS-55] or 42 percent fructose and 58 percent glucose (HFCS-42). This makes HFCS's sweetening intensity and overall composition only marginally different from the 50 percent fructose and 50 percent glucose composition of the sucrose it replaces." Julie M. Jones, Ph.D., L.N., C.N.S., professor of nutrition at the College of St. Catherine, Journal of Nutrition, June 2009

"High fructose corn syrup [HFCS] is a fructose-glucose liquid sweetener alternative to sucrose [common table sugar] first introduced to the food and beverage industry in the 1970s. It is not meaningfully different in composition or metabolism from other fructose-glucose sweeteners like sucrose, honey and fruit juice concentrates." John S. White, Ph.D., Caloric Sweetener Expert and President, White Technical Research, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, December 2008

Is one type of natural sugar worse or better than another?

How the experts answer:

“There are dozens of sugars that the food industry uses and whether it's refined white sugar, brown sugar, or high fructose corn syrup, they're pretty much nutritionally all the same.” Rebecca Scritchfield, R.D., WRCB TV Eye on Health, August 30, 2010

"Added sugars, as found in beverages with nutritive sweeteners, are not different than other extra energy in the diet for energy intake and body weight. Reducing intake of all added sugars, including sucrose, corn sweeteners, fructose, HFCS, and other forms of added sugars, is a recommended strategy to reduce energy intake in Americans.” - Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Use of Nutritive and Nonnutritive Sweeteners, Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, May 2012

“The bottom line is there isn’t a shred of evidence that high fructose corn syrup is nutritionally any different from sugar.” Michael Jacobson, Ph.D., Executive Director, Center for Science in the Public Interest, USA Today, March 2, 2010

How is high fructose corn syrup made? Is it natural?

How the experts answer:

“The idea that HFCS is bad because it’s not natural is simply incorrect … There is no difference between the fructose found in HFCS and that derived from fruit. And, for the record, table sugar is not ‘natural’ either.” Ruth Kava, Ph.D., R.D., American Council on Science and Health, October 24, 2011

“A popular misconception driving the deprecation of high fructose corn syrup is that the corn wet milling process used for its production is more ‘complex’ than the perceived ‘simpler’ or ‘more natural’ processes for sugar, fruit juice concentrate or agave nectar production. In fact, they all share remarkably similar production methods that aim to refine the raw botanical material into a robust and versatile sweetener that can be formulated into a wide range of foods and beverages.” John S. White, Ph.D., Caloric Sweetener Expert and President, White Technical Research, Food Processing, February 19, 2010

“Corn syrup starts as corn starch, which is a long chain of glucose molecules bound together. The first step in making the corn syrup is separating the individual glucose molecules, and this is done using an enzyme. It is a process similar to what goes into our digestive systems when we eat starch.

“The next step uses a specialized enzyme that converts glucose into fructose. Not all the glucose gets converted, and the percentage of fructose in the final product depends on its intended use. The typical corn syrup you find at the store is about 55 percent fructose [45 percent glucose], which is similar to honey. It is called a high fructose corn syrup [HFCS] because standard corn syrup is mostly glucose.” Ed Blonz, Ph.D., Nutritional Scientist, The San Diego Union-Tribune, July 30, 2008

Which is sweeter: sugar or high fructose corn syrup?

How the experts answer:

“The HFCS used in most foods and beverages is similar to regular table sugar in terms of sweetness, calorie content and composition.” Frances H. Seligson, Ph.D., R.D. Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of Nutritional Sciences, the Pennsylvania State University, Food, Nutrition, and Science from The Lempert Report, April 30, 2010

“In reality, HFCS used in the United States contains either 55 percent fructose and 45 percent glucose [HFCS-55] or 42 percent fructose and 58 percent glucose [HFCS-42]. This makes HFCS's sweetening intensity and overall composition only marginally different from the 50 percent fructose and 50 percent glucose composition of the sucrose it replaces.” Julie M. Jones, Ph.D., L.N., C.N.S., professor of nutrition at the College of St. Catherine, Journal of Nutrition, June 2009

“A common misconception about HFCS is that it is sweeter than sucrose and that this increased sweetness contributed to the obesity crisis by encouraging excessive caloric food and beverage consumption. HFCS is not sweeter than sucrose.” John S. White, Ph.D., Caloric Sweetener Expert and President, White Technical Research, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, December 2008

Are fructose and high fructose corn syrup the same thing?

How the experts answer:

“Fructose has become the new trans fat. Consumers are trying to avoid it, especially in the form of high-fructose corn syrup. That’s an unfortunate name because the fructose concentration isn’t high.” Julie M. Jones, Ph.D., C.N.S., L.N., Professor Emeritus, St Catherine University, Drug Topics, June 29, 2010

“So it got a bad name, the word fructose. Now you have high fructose corn sweeteners and it says high fructose. So immediately, the public is going to assume this is bad because fructose may not be so great for you. But it’s really close to the same chemical composition as table sugar, sucrose. So it’s really misinformation.” Allen Levine, Ph.D., Dean of the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences at the University of Minnesota, Minnesota Public Radio, May 6, 2009

“Pure fructose is 100 percent fructose and zero percent glucose. HFCS, on the other hand, refers to sweeteners that contain a mixture of fructose and glucose. The most commonly used types of HFCS are HFCS-55, which contains 55 percent fructose and 45 percent glucose, and HFCS-42, which contains 42 percent fructose and 58 percent glucose. In comparison, sucrose—common table sugar—contains 50 percent glucose and 50 percent fructose.” International Food Information Council, Food Insight, July/August 2008

Health Questions

Is high fructose corn syrup safe?

How the experts answer:

In 1983, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) formally listed high fructose corn syrup as safe for use in food and reaffirmed that decision in 1996. In its 1983 ruling, the FDA concluded, “high fructose [corn] syrup is as safe for use in food as sucrose, corn sugar, corn syrup and invert sugar.” Office of the Federal Register, National Archives and Records Administration, US Government Printing Office. Fed Regist, 1983; 48(27):5715

“Its safety was never seriously doubted because expert scientific panels in every decade since the 1960s drew the same conclusion: sucrose, fructose, glucose, and, latterly, HFCS did not pose a significant health risk, with the single exception of promoting dental caries.” John S. White, Ph.D., Caloric Sweetener Expert and President, White Technical Research, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, December 2008

The American Medical Association (AMA) conducted a review of articles and research on high fructose corn syrup. The medical group concluded that “there is insufficient evidence to restrict use of HFCS or other fructose-containing sweeteners in the food supply.” American Medical Association Report 3 of the Council on Science and Public Health (A-08), June 2008

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) considered the use of high fructose corn syrup in the food supply in its position on sweeteners concluding: “… consumers can safely enjoy a range of nutritive sweeteners and nonnutritive sweeteners when consumed within an eating plan that is guided by current federal nutrition recommendations, such as the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the Dietary Reference Intakes, as well as individual health goals and personal preference.” “Use of Nutritive and Nonnutritive Sweeteners,” Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, May 2012

“Just because a product contains an alternative to HFCS—whether sugar, fruit juice concentrate, brown rice syrup or agave nectar—doesn't necessarily make it more healthful.” Robert J. Davis, Ph.D., Emory University, Rollins School of Public Health, Huffington Post, January 3, 2012

Is high fructose corn syrup to blame for the rise in obesity rates in the United States?

How the experts answer:

“After studying current research, the American Medical Association [AMA] today concluded that high fructose corn syrup does not appear to contribute more to obesity than other caloric sweeteners …” American Medical Association press release, June 17, 2008

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recent studies “consistently found little evidence that HFCS differs uniquely from sucrose and other nutritive sweeteners in metabolic effects…” - Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Use of Nutritive and Nonnutritive Sweeteners, Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, May 2012

“So what exactly is in the sweetener? A combination of fructose and glucose, the same ingredients in plain old table sugar, except in different proportions. That similarity makes it unlikely that high-fructose corn syrup promotes weight gain any more than regular sugar, according to many nutrition experts. What's more, a host of studies have by and large failed to prove the obesity claim.” Robert J. Davis, Ph.D., Emory University, Rollins School of Public Health, Everwell.com, May 17, 2012

“Table sugar and high fructose corn syrup have the same exact effect on obesity and diabetes and on heart disease. It's not that one is better.” Barry M. Popkin, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Nutrition, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, The Wall Street Journal, March 8, 2010

“Excess body fat results when people do not balance their energy [caloric] input with energy output. No single food or ingredient is the sole cause of obesity. Rather, the combination of too many calories and too little exercise is the primary cause. Extra calories can come from all caloric nutrients—proteins, fats, alcohol, and carbohydrates, including starches and sugars, such as HFCS.” International Food Information Council, Fast Facts about High-Fructose Corn Syrup, April 19, 2011

“HFCS has been blamed by a few people for the obesity epidemic, because rates of obesity have climbed right along with HFCS consumption. But that’s an urban myth. There isn’t a shred of evidence that HFCS is any more harmful [or healthier] than sugar. We’re consuming way too much of both.” Center for Science in the Public Interest, Food Additives

Does high fructose corn syrup confuse the body and make it impossible for it to process?

How the experts answer:

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), “HFCS can range in percentage fructose from 42%, which is most often used in baked goods to 55%, which is used in beverages and has a similar composition as sucrose.”
AND states that recent studies “consistently found little evidence that HFCS differs uniquely from sucrose and other nutritive sweeteners in metabolic effects…” Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Use of Nutritive and Nonnutritive Sweeteners, Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, May 2012.

“There’s not a shred of evidence that these products are different biologically.” David S. Ludwig, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School, Crain’s Chicago Business, September 7, 2009

“White sugar, brown sugar, sucrose, honey, maple syrup, even high-fructose corn syrup are all roughly the same mix of the simple sugars called glucose and fructose.” Joy Bauer, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., “Get Smart About Sugar,” Woman’s Day, May 1, 2010

“There is no difference in how the human body handles HFCS and sugar. The two sweeteners are equivalent metabolically.” James M. Rippe, M.D., Cardiologist and Biomedical Sciences Professor, University of Central Florida, The Wall Street Journal, May 7, 2008

“Well, the body digests table sugar very rapidly. And both HFCS and table sugar [sucrose] enter the bloodstream as glucose and fructose—the metabolism of which is identical. There is no significant difference in the overall rate of absorption between table sugar and HFCS, which explains why these two sweeteners have the same effects on the body.” Becky Hand, R.D, L.D, M.Ed., Lead Advising Dietitian for SparkPeople.com and BabyFit.com, SparkPeople.com, September 1, 2009

Is there any evidence that high fructose corn syrup fools the body into feeling hungry?

How the experts answer:

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), recent studies “consistently found little evidence that HFCS differs uniquely from sucrose and other nutritive sweeteners in metabolic effects (ie, circulating glucose, insulin, postprandial triglycerides, leptin, and ghrelin), subjective effects (ie, hunger, satiety, and energy intake at subsequent meals) and adverse effect such as risk of weight gain.” Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Use of Nutritive and Nonnutritive Sweeteners, Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, May 2012.

“On balance, the case for fructose being less satiating than glucose or HFCS being less satiating than sucrose is not compelling.” Timothy H. Moran, Ph.D., co-director of the Center for Metabolism and Obesity Research at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, The Journal of Nutrition, June 2009

“However, research has shown that there are no significant differences between HFCS and sugar (sucrose) when it comes to the production of insulin, leptin (a hormone that regulates body weight and metabolism), ghrelin (the “hunger” hormone), or the changes in blood glucose levels. In addition, satiety studies done on HFCS and sugar (sucrose) have found no difference in appetite regulation, feelings of fullness, or short-term energy intake.” Becky Hand, R.D, L.D, M.Ed., lead advising dietitian for SparkPeople.com and BabyFit.com, SparkPeople.com, September 1, 2009

“There’s no evidence to date that HFCS affects appetite any differently than sucrose.” Karen Teff, Ph.D., Associate Director, Institute for Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, University of Pennsylvania, Eating Well, May 2009

Is high fructose corn syrup detrimental to the liver?

How the experts answer:

“When fructose is consumed in excess, animals and humans typically experience abdominal cramping and diarrhea, sometimes severe diarrhea. There is no evidence that reasonable consumption of fructose in a typical diet has any adverse effect on the liver or that it produces more body fat than sucrose or glucose.” Maureen Storey, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Food, Nutrition and Agricultural Policy at the University of Maryland, Food Processing, July 2007

“Those who contend that fructose leads to increased fat deposition and fatty livers do so based on highly prejudicial experiments in which fructose is fed as the only carbohydrate source and at excessive concentrations. There is no one on Earth who eats such a diet. Indeed, any nutrient fed in excess of the body's ability to process it or in excess of the body's caloric need must end up somewhere—fat storage is typically the end result.” John S. White, Ph.D., Caloric Sweetener Expert and President, White Technical Research, Food Processing, July 2007

“I am not suggesting that people should consume high levels of any refined sugar. However, to single out HFCS and somehow suggest that it may be responsible for liver damage is not supported by available science and may cause people to be needlessly concerned about this hypothetical but completed unsubstantiated issue.” James M. Rippe, M.D., Cardiologist and Biomedical Sciences Professor at the University of Central Florida, Consumer Reports Health Blog, November 30, 2009

Economics Questions

What are the economic benefits of using high fructose corn syrup?

How the experts answer:

“Recently, US HFS has been trading at just 40 percent of the value of US refined sugar compared to an average of 53 percent over the last decade.” LMC International, Sweetener Analysis, January 2012

“Switching to using sugar as a sweetener instead of high-fructose corn syrup in baked foods may increase formulary costs 50 percent to 80 percent.” David Guilfoyle, founder and owner of Half Baked Innovations, BakingBusiness.com, December 16, 2010

“HFCS is predissolved and can be transferred automatically from truck or railcar to storage and production using pumps. More stable than liquid sugar, HFCS can be stored longer, and compliance with sanitation requirements, such as tank and pipe sterilization and warehouse pest control, is simpler and thus less costly.” John S. White, Ph.D., Caloric Sweetener Expert and President, White Technical Research, Food Product Design, July 12, 2011

Besides cost, what are the advantages to using high fructose corn syrup?

How the experts answer:

“Functions of HFCS in foods:

  • Provides sweetness intensity equivalent to sugar.
  • Enhances many fruit, citrus and spice flavors in beverages, bakery fillings and dairy products.
  • Preserves and protects food by reducing water activity in products such as jams and jellies.
  • Preserves texture of canned fruits and reduces freezer burn in frozen fruits.
  • Provides soft, moist texture, allowing production of chewy cookies, snack bars and other baked goods.
  • Provides body and texture in beverages.
  • Imparts browning and flavor to baked goods, including breads, cakes, cookies and breakfast cereals.” International Food Information Council, Fast Facts about High-Fructose Corn Syrup, April 19, 2011

“In addition to providing sweetness, HFCS acts to preserve and protect food from water activity, improves texture and reduces freezer burn. It imparts browning to breads, cakes and cookies and provides a soft, moist texture in the production of items like snack bars. And liquid HFCS blends easily with other ingredients.” Phil Lempert, The Supermarket Guru®, Food, Nutrition, and Science from The Lempert Report, April 30, 2010

“HFCS fulfills nontraditional roles in food systems aside from its expected role as a sweetener. Consumers express surprise at finding it unexpectedly on product labels without realizing that this occurs largely because of the unique functionality of the free fructose molecule. HFCS replaces an earlier generation of less desirable food ingredients (e.g., propylene glycol for moisture retention) by providing the following functional benefits: flavor enhancement with fruit and spice flavors; colligative properties such as freezing point depression and osmotic pressure, useful in ice cream and frozen fruit; fermentable solids, necessary in yogurt and yeast-raised baked goods; reducing sugars, responsible for the pleasing brown colors, appetizing flavors, and aromas of baked goods and cooked meats; resistance to crystallization, enabling soft-moist cookies and eliminating “sticky caps” in pharmaceutical elixirs; and for moisture retention, improving palatability in low-moisture granola bars.” John S. White, Ph.D., Caloric Sweetener Expert and President, White Technical Research, The Journal of Nutrition, June 2009

Will I lose sales if I don’t switch to sugar and label my products prominently?

How the experts answer:

“Overall, consumer demand for the HFCS-free ketchup was not as strong as expected.” ConAgra Spokeswoman, FoodNavigator-USA, May 31, 2012

“Food and beverage marketers have the opportunity to develop sweetener strategies that focus on overall nutrition rather than singling out specific ingredients. Our research with thousands of consumers found that only 4 percent are reducing or avoiding HFCS, which indicates a major gap between what people say and what they really do.” David Lockwood, senior analyst, Mintel Research Consultancy, PreparedFoods.com, January 19, 2012

“An analysis by the association of six products that had made the switch from high fructose corn syrup to sugar found that none had had any notable sales growth.” Melanie Warner, Food Industry Reporter, The New York Times, April 30, 2010


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