Home What Are You Eating? Servings of High Fructose Corn Syrup Deemed More Harmful Than We Thought

Servings of High Fructose Corn Syrup Deemed More Harmful Than We Thought

by Erika Nicole Kendall

I am intrigued.

From Civil Eats:

A new study published last week in the journal Obesity, found that popular sodas and other beverages sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) contain on average 18 percent more fructose than was previously thought.

Researchers from the University of Southern California tested beverages like Coke, Pepsi, and Sprite to determine the amount of fructose in each beverage. All of these beverages use HFCS as a sweetener, which is sweeter and cheaper than table sugar, or sucrose.

Sucrose is a disaccharide composed of half fructose and half glucose, while HFCS, which is manufactured, is composed of two monosaccharides, or separated fructose and glucose.


[A]ccording to these new findings, it turns out the differences are significant due to the higher percentage of fructose found in HFCS. The previous assumption was that HFCS was made up of 55 percent fructose—not substantially different than the 50 percent found in sucrose. However, the study found that Coke, Pepsi, and Sprite contained 65 percent fructose, and Dr. Pepper, Gatorade, and Arizona Ice Tea contained close to 60 percent fructose.

I know this looks like a lot of mumbo-jumbo, but what it means is that there’s more of the “problem” in each serving of high fructose corn syrup than we originally anticipated. The problem being the amount of fructose which, while it is the same kind of sugar in fruit, is problematic for our insides when it is ingested differently from how its found in nature (in fruit.)

Okay. Let’s talk. Three reasons why this is so important:

One: I’ve written about the problems with high fructose corn syrup before, so I’m just going to quote that particular post:

First, let’s look at that ad up there. “My hair dresser says that sugar is healthier than high fructose corn syrup.” Follow that up with the witty retort of, “Wow! You get your hair done by a doctor?” [insert laughter]

You and I BOTH know that it doesn’t require an MD to be able to study and understand a pros and cons list. If I show you a list that says “fattening,” and another list that says “leaves you prone to diabetes, inflates your appetite, and apparently can be linked to high blood pressure,” you’re going to be able to easily identify which one is going to leave you worse off, right?

Do you need to explain to someone that High Fructose Corn Syrup fiddles with leptin, a hormone in the human body that aids in regulating the appetite, in a way that prevents you from being able to control your hunger? Do you need to be able to explain to someone that HFCS screws with your body’s ability to process insulin? (Just in case you’re wondering, that works like this: since HFCS is metabolized as fat quicker than regular sugar once it hits your liver, this process triggers something called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. This process leads to insulin resistance and type II diabetes.) It isn’t enough that you know something makes you uncomfortable and you don’t want to partake in it. You have to be a doctor now to speak ill of it?

Well, let me tell y’all somethin’ – I’m no doctor, and I’ll still be damned if someone tells me that my own bad feelings aren’t enough to justify not wanting a chemistry experiment nourishing my body I was given. Period. You might get the mental judo chop for that one.

So… grossly misunderestimating the levels to which a chemical can affect our bodies (by underestimating the amount of the chemical we’re putting in our bodies with each serving) changes the story a little bit…. especially if all of the studies were being done with the originally estimated amounts of fructose in mind. It means that even with all those studies that said HFCS is a problem, those studies might’ve come up with much worse results had they used the accurate amounts.

Two: A while back, I received this comment:

Hi Erika,
My google alert for HFCS picked up your post. I commend you on your
comprehensive approach. I would ask that, before you dismiss HFCS
as being just another sugar, you visit [Archer Daniels Midland]’s website.
They claim to make three grades of HFCS:
Cornsweet 42
Cornsweet 55 used for soda
Cornsweet 90 intensely sweet used for low-cal diet foods and beverages.
The #’s [reflect] the % fructose in the sweetener.
42% —->90% that’s quite a range.
Calculating the fructose:glucose ratio in each
Cornsweet 42 =42/58 =0.72
Cornsweet 55 =55/45 =1.22(22% more fru than glu in every Coke)
Cornsweet 90 = 90/10 = 9
Sugar, of course, always rings in at 50% fructose, 1:1.
I see the problem as this: There is a wide range of %fructose and
fructose:glucose across the span of sweeteners. I sure you have done
your research on the metabolic dangers of excess fructose.
Since HFCS is only a blend of fructose and glucose, the CRA can monkey
with the ratio anyway they want, since it will always yield a product
that has 4 cal/g. Personally, I think that the name HFCS should remain and the FDA should require that the %fru listed, e.g HFCS-90.
Great Website.
Take care,
Trying to get the HFCS-out,
Cynthia Papierniak, M.S.

For clarity’s sake, I replied:


Yes, I dismiss HFCS as another sugar because ALL sugar needs to be limited. Of course I acknowledge HFCS as harmful – simply on the strength that it is a chemical and NOT natural in origin – but it doesn’t matter if you call it fruity angel lullaby juice. It ALL needs to be as limited as possible, and for the readers of this site, this post served the purpose of reinforcing that.

I don’t do chemical talk simply because I don’t do chemicals. :)

Thanks a ton for sharing, though!

I received that comment on September 24th, 2010. Weeks before this study.

Three: Having said that… let’s look at that Princeton study. Y’know, the one that said that rats who were fed HFCS gain significantly more weight than rats who were fed table sugar? Yeah, that one:

Rats with access to high-fructose corn syrup gained significantly more weight than those with access to table sugar, even when their overall caloric intake was the same.

In addition to causing significant weight gain in lab animals, long-term consumption of high-fructose corn syrup also led to abnormal increases in body fat, especially in the abdomen, and a rise in circulating blood fats called triglycerides. The researchers say the work sheds light on the factors contributing to obesity trends in the United States.

“Some people have claimed that high-fructose corn syrup is no different than other sweeteners when it comes to weight gain and obesity, but our results make it clear that this just isn’t true, at least under the conditions of our tests,” said psychology professor Bart Hoebel, who specializes in the neuroscience of appetite, weight and sugar addiction.

“When rats are drinking high-fructose corn syrup at levels well below those in soda pop, they’re becoming obese — every single one, across the board. Even when rats are fed a high-fat diet, you don’t see this; they don’t all gain extra weight.” – [source]

So, if the chemical is more harmful than we originally anticipated, and the chemical – at the level we thought it was being ingested – causes THESE problems… I’m just sayin’ this explains a lot, if it’s 100% for sure.

As I responded to the commenter above, I don’t do chemical talk because I don’t do chemicals. Beyond a basic understanding of chemistry, I don’t profess to know the intricate details of each chemical off the top of my head. I also don’t think I should have to know that just to eat. It shouldn’t be a guessing game of whether or not a specific food will shave years off my lifespan because of unnecessary chemicals. It shouldn’t be so complicated to understand the food I’m eating. I shouldn’t need to worry about whether or not I’m getting sensible amounts of nutrients in my system. It shouldn’t take a scientist to help us understand what we’re putting into our bodies, and it shouldn’t require professional intervention to help me understand how to eat.

All of that… consequences of processed foods. I just.. I can’t deal with that. So no, I don’t do chemical talk because I resent having to know about glucose, sucrose and fructose ratios. I resent having to swallow this “good chemicals vs bad chemicals” argument being shoved down America’s throat. I resent that even in the face of all of this information, the respective industries are going to still tell us “Heyyyyy… it’s okay. Just keep eating it. You’ve been fine thus far, right? You’ll still be fine! Just keep exercising. That’s the real reason why you’re all overweight.”

And I resent that so many of us will still accept that.

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Biolobri November 5, 2010 - 12:38 PM

How awful is it that the Google ad at the bottom of my article (which appears in my inbox, as I subscribe) is for SweetSurprise?

What Does Scientific Research Really Say About HFCS?


I mean, I get how google ad works, but I love the juxtapositioning here!

Erika November 5, 2010 - 12:49 PM

LMAO Click it! Let me get those few pennies! LOL!

I’ll take care of that, though. LOL! Thanks for telling me!

T.R. November 5, 2010 - 1:02 PM

HERE HERE!!! *claps with standing ovation* We never had to know chemistry before to eat we should be free not to know now. What I’m flabbergasted about is how big the ratio is for *drum roll* diet foods/beverages. Is it just me or does anyone get the irony in that. The chemical that makes us fat is higher in the foods that are supposed to make us skinny. LAWD now I know why they say the revolution will not be televised. LOL.

DK November 6, 2010 - 7:59 AM

Great article. It’s sad for me to state that I love sugar, can’t get enough of it. But even with that dilemma, I like to think of myself as relatively healthy. So when I decided to cut out all manners of sweets from my diet (except for fruit, which I never really ate that much of to begin with) I lost about 24 lbs (w/ exercise as well). When I started eating sweets again, it came back little by little. This article is just more proof that sugar was made by the Devil.

Cynthia1770 November 6, 2010 - 9:12 PM

Hi Erika,
I’m back. Noticed you “reposted” what I wrote.
I am quite interested in the results from the USC study that measured the fructose in national brand sodas. I find the fact, that three different brands, Coke, Pepsi, Sprite all had 65% fructose, quite concrete and alarming. I know you don’t like numbers, but if this is true, there is now 30% more fructose than soda had in 1984 when real sugar was being used. One can only imagine why the CRA has monkeyed
with the forumula.
I sure hope some other academic institution picks up the gauntlet and
repeats the analysis.
Take care,

Erika November 6, 2010 - 9:19 PM

Yes ma’am! I think at this point, you DO kind of have to look at the numbers… at the very least, you have to understand the quantities as they relate to the research, you know? And like I wrote in my post… I resent that I “have” to do this.

I’m sure we all know why they messed with the formula – it makes the product more “enjoyable” – as in, addictive – for the public, making them purchase more of it. It’s to be expected – they’ve got a job to do and products to sell. We just need to do what’s in our best interests and cut our intake. Down to zero. That’s what’s preferred. LOL

Thanks for coming back! 🙂

Adrienne July 8, 2012 - 10:51 PM

HFCS has a longer shelf life so it’s cheaper to use than real sugar… ,and combined with products that use trans fatty acids is recipe for absolute disaster!

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