High-Fructose Corn Syrup & Its Link to Obesity

There are a number of theories that link high fructose corn syrup to obesity, and certainly enough proof out there that it is not doing anything to benefit our diet efforts. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) has been linked to obesity in part because of the foods that they are most prevalent in, because of the way our bodies process it, and partially because our brains don’t know we’re full when we consume it. Sounds like a recipe for diet disaster!

What Is HFCS?

High Fructose Corn syrup is a sweetener made from corn by extracting the glucose in cornstarch and turning it into a combo of fructose and glucose. The chemical makeup is actually the same as the combination that makes up table sugar, and the calorie content is the same.

HFCS, on the other hand, extends the shelf life of foods, and is cheaper than sugar made from sugarcane or beets. Sounds like a great reason to add it to food if you are a manufacturer, right? Unfortunately, food makers have been adding the sweetner to everything from bread to ketchup, sauces, canned fruit, juice and soda. Just check the back of the foods in your pantry. There is almost always a number of grams of “sugars” listed with carbohydrates on the nutrition facts, but sugar itself doesn’t usually appear in the ingredient list. High fructose corn syrup does!

HFCS and Obesity

The rate of obesity in the United States is astounding. There have been many links between HFCS and obesity, in part because the obesity rates in our country more than doubled in the early 1980s when HFCS was approved for use as a sweetner. Some studies suggest that the fructose and glucose don’t trigger the brain to feel satisfied, causing us to stop eating. The nutritional jury is still out on that, though.

As a matter of fact, many experts from the FDA, the American Medical Association, doctors, and dietitians often will agree that HFCS is not a trigger for obesity. In other words, there is no chemical cause for you to become obese because you have consumed HFCS versus sugar. Both substances are highly prevalent in liquid form–sodas, juice, flavored coffee creamer–which don’t register to us as consumption. However, our excessive consumption of HCFS is the problem.

The relationship between HFCS and obesity may not be direct, but the unhealthy processed foods that Americans are indulging in is. Since many food companies are adding HFCS to foods to keep them fresh on the shelf, we’re packing on more pounds thanks to the 150lbs of added sugar or high-fructose corn syrup that they average American consumes every year. Yes–150 lbs. That is more than the weight of the average American woman!

Battle the Bulge

Most of that added sugar shows up in juices and sodas, so switch to fresh fruits or 100% juice and diet sodas if you must have them. Or try fresh squeezing some orange juice and adding some seltzer water for a natural fizzy drink. Whenever possible, stay away from processed foods. Make your own pasta sauce or pizza dough and omit added sugar from the recipe. Buy low-sugar or “no sugar added” foods like ketchup and peanut butter. You probably won’t even miss it. Watch out for low-fat foods as well…HFCS is often added to mask less-than-perfect taste when fat is eliminated. For starters, buy plain yogurt. Just add fruit and honey on your own!


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