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High Fructose Corn Syrup- Friend or Foe?

Just watched another one of those pro-hfcs ads, and it's so...kinda insulting. I feel manipulated, and it leaves me feeling sort of "icky".

There's this good looking, healthy couple picnicking in a park somewhere, and the girl takes out a red popsicle and the guy goes "Isn't hfcs bad for you?" and she's like "no" or something and goes on to talk about how it's good for you "in moderation"...

There used to be an informational ad on Nick or PBS that was really cute. It was a song about how sugar isn't great for you and you should limit the amount of food you eat w/ingredients that end in "ose" as in "gross". So well done. I feel this hfcs ad is a major step backwards in improving our national eating habits.

Or maybe I'm wrong and just too...easily angered?... or something.

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  1. No, I hate manipulative ads too. They backfire on me. They make me more determined not to buy what they are selling. I do my best to keep HFCs out of my home.

    1. Like most slanted ads, they fail to inform you about the quantity you'd need to consume for HFCS to harm you. Just like those Howie Long Chevy ads knocking Honda, they fail to tell you the differences in the quality of the engineering and just focus on gas mileage. We're smarter that that.

      1. Take a gander at this succinct and fairly well researched article and decide for yourself. You can't compare apples to apples when only one of them is supercharged. But, hey, it extends the shelf life of processed foods so it can't be all bad, can it?

        1. I'm delighted that manufacturers are feeling the squeeze of the anti-HFCS movement to the extent of funding a hugely expensive ad campaign. Know what? It's not going to work. Consumers are voting with their wallets and searching for products that do not contain this unnatural stuff.

          1. I love HFCS.

            I eat it straight. Yum.

            3 Replies
            1. re: ipsedixit

              I could send you rail cars of the stuff because I have to wait 15 minutes a few times a week while they shuttle them in and out of the rail siding of a national food brand nearby.

              Watch "King Corn" on Hulu.

              1. re: Kelli2006

                Obviously, it was tongue in cheek.

                But until the science is more definitive, the hysteria over HFCS may go down in infamy in the annals of science along with the frontal lobotomy.

                1. re: ipsedixit

                  I assumed that your reply was tongue in cheek, so I decided that I would play along.

            2. Probably the bigger issue is sugar in general and how much Americans are eating.

              5 Replies
                1. re: ipsedixit

                  Yes, but consider that the cheapness of HFCS (due, in part, to US corn subsidies - your tax dollars at work) and the facts that (a) it is easily added to commercial food processes and (b) sweetness sells, as the food megacartels are well aware, has led to an overall sweetening of the national food supply, including many foods that had fewer sweetening agents added in the past.

                  Agreed that HFCS is not the root of our sugar consumption problem, to be sure, but it's definitely made a bad situation worse.

                  1. re: Striver

                    I am very against sugar in my food. It seems to be everywhere, mayo, bread, hollandaise (ugh, that was nasty...kind of like rancid miracle whip), I don't buy the stuff I had to taste it for an article. Could not get that taste out of my mouth quickly enough. I do read labels and if there is sugar or HFCS in the product, and in traditional recipes I don't buy it.

                2. re: Val


                  Quite frankly, I'm disturbed when the second ingredient in my pasta sauce or plain yogurt is HFCS or sugar.

                  1. re: Mer_Made

                    Another reason to avoid jarred or canned food. You may's well throw in sodium too.

                3. Here is a column from a respected food columnist who says that HFCS is no worse for you than sugar, with several citings to back it up. I have no axe to grind in this dogfight (to mix metaphors) but it does appear that there may be some doubt that it is as bad as some say.


                  2 Replies
                  1. re: DonShirer

                    And here's an M.D.'s opinion of it...for what it's worth...note, he cautions "any added sweeteners"--he is no fan of refined sugar in general but considers the HFCS low-quality

                    1. re: DonShirer

                      I find it fascinating that many folks like to use "natural" substitutes, and then go to honey. Honey is basically hi-fructose corn syrup, with a few flavouring agents added by the bees.

                      The main thing about honey/sugar/high-fructose corn syrup/etc is that high doses are bad for you. They're all basically equivalent, but we shouldn't eat so much of them.

                    2. I watched this recently, and while I think it's a little on the Zealot! line.. it was jam-packed with food for thought. (It's a lecture given by a Dr Lustig, called The Bitter Truth.)


                      I'd consider it a must-watch for anyone interested in how HFCS is "the same as" sugar. Some very interesting information within.

                      1. On the plus side for manufacturers:
                        HFCS inhibits the sated feeling achieved by eating or drinking.
                        HFCS is both sweeter and cheaper than sugar.

                        On the minus side for consumers:
                        HFCS inhibits the sated feeling achieved by eating or drinking.
                        HFCS' molecular structure differs from sucrose (unbound fructose and glucose).
                        The abovementioned difference results in reactive carbonyls.
                        Reactive carbonyls cause tissue damage and exacerbate diabetes.

                        The bottom line is the FDA is supposed to protect the consumer and not release a product for human consumption until it's been sufficiently studied. It isn't supposed to be incumbent upon consumers and health care professionals to take on the deep pockets of the corporations. None of this discussion should even be necessary.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Googs

                          What difference does the unbound nature of HFCS make? Your body cannot absorb sucrose. It has to split it, and that happens early on in the GI track.

                          Has there been any follow upon the 2007 study by Chi-Tang Ho on HFCS in soda and carbonyls? It's hard to find anything on the topic more substantive than news reports of his 2007 ACS presentation (i.e. no paper, no further studies). Did they also study soda with cane sugar? Is this more of a warning about soda or about HFCS?

                          1. re: paulj

                            Let's see if this establishes my nerd cred for today...

                            There IS a paper to go with the ACS proceedings, but the HFCS findings are just a part of it:

                            Methylglyoxal: Its Presence in Beverages and Potential Scavengers
                            Tan, et al. Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci. 1126: 72–75 (2008)

                            The paper seems more concerned with reporting the ability of tea antioxidants to trap the little buggers.

                            It seems that the idea is that reactive carbonyl species are not inherent to the HFCS, but rather produced by the breakdown of the sugars in the acidic environment of the beverage itself. (This professor has also done a lot of work studying the Maillard reaction, and these molecules also show up in overheated oil and participate in the Maillard breakdown of proteins.) They did comparisons with diet sodas, but not sodas with cane sugar in them.

                            The article mentions the high levels of these species in sodas, and that high levels of them in plasma are known to occur in diabetes patients. It does not reference any studies that indicate a causal link between consumption and plasma levels, however. I haven't done much digging beyond this to see what has been done since 2008, or by other people studying diabetes, but there's only so much time on a Sunday afternoon I'm willing to devote to reading journal articles. :)

                        2. Based on the information available at this point in time, I'm inclined to think that HFCS is just about as bad for you as any other refined sugar. Maybe a bit worse, but none of them is a substantial part of a healthy diet.

                          My objection is primarily political. Our tax dollars go to subsidize agribusiness, and those subsidies artificially depress the cost of HFCS, which is then put into processed foods in ridiculous quantities. Case in point: a 2-liter bottle of soda pop has half a pound of sugar in it, and can often be found on sale for under a dollar. Yikes.

                          I can't but believe that the sheer amount of cheap sugar in the typical American diet has something to do with the epidemic of obesity and associated diseases that are such a public health problem. It might be too much to say for certain that people would be thinner if the true cost of HFCS was reflected in the products that contain it, but it seems likely to me.

                          29 Replies
                          1. re: alanbarnes

                            One of my biggest objections is that the stuff shows up in far too many food products that should not be sweet. Even "good" brands of white bread now taste sweet, due to the addition of HFCS. I guess producers add it to everything in sight to take advantage of its shelf-life extension qualities. One more reason I buy mainly organic.

                            1. re: pikawicca

                              Actually... it's because of all the corn that is grown (and wasted). It has to go somewhere!

                              Please read "The Omnivore's Dilemma" by Michael Pollan.

                              1. re: mehtare

                                And you might re-read "The Omnivore's Dilemma". Most of that corn is grown because of US subsidies and other protections to maize ag business; nothing is wasted - most goes to plastics, industrial products, food components, bio-fuels, and products like HFCS.

                            2. re: alanbarnes

                              Protection of cane sugar growers in the US is another part of the political landscape, contributing to the preference for HFCS in the US. But countries that don't have that economic skewing still have problems with high sugar intake and obesity.

                              Regardless of whether corn is artificially cheap or not, there are some qualities of HFCS that are convenient for food manufacturers. For example, bakers can use a lower fructose version to take advantage of the moisturizing qualities of glucose. A custom blend of fructose and glucose has manufacturing advantages regardless of whether it comes from corn, sugar (e.g. Lyle's Golden syrup), agave, or potato starch.

                              1. re: alanbarnes

                                "I can't but believe that the sheer amount of cheap sugar in the typical American diet has something to do with the epidemic of obesity and associated diseases that are such a public health problem. It might be too much to say for certain that people would be thinner if the true cost of HFCS was reflected in the products that contain it, but it seems likely to me."


                                There is very little solid evidence -- scientific or otherwise -- that suggests that the consumption of sugary sodas (be it from pure cane sugar or HFCS) leads to obesity.

                                See http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/boost...

                                It might be appealing to assume that if sugar (or HFCS) was more expensive people would consume less AND ergo lead to skinnier people.

                                As the above link suggests, while higher prices for sugar/HFCS might lead to a decrease in consumption, there is very little evidence to suggest that the decrease in consumption of sugar/HFCS actually then leads to a decrease in the rate of obesity. Which is really what we're after, right?

                                In other words, people just like to eat. Take away sugar, they start eating (for example) more potato chips. Tax salt, then they start eating donuts.

                                People just like to eat. And when they want to eat, they'll gravitate to the most inexpensive, tastiest thing they can find. Plug one hole, they'll find another ... and around we go!

                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

                                  AFAIK there aren't any large-scale epidemiological studies that evaluate the effect of reducing sugar intake. But most of the smaller studies note that cutting back on sugared beverages results in weight loss among some subgroups (typically overweight or obese subjects). And there's a well-established correlation between high levels of sugar intake and obesity.

                                  I'm not claiming that eliminating corn subsidies would solve all of America's public health problem. It wouldn't. But it would be a step in the right direction.

                                  1. re: alanbarnes

                                    We're probably really not disagreeing, although in some respects I don't believe we are in complete agreement either.

                                    Consumption, or overconsumption, of sugar/HFCS is a symptom of the obesity epidemic, not the cause.

                                    (P.S. You wrote: "And there's a well-established correlation between high levels of sugar intake and obesity." Well, we all know that correlation does not mean causation ... right?)

                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                      it's been very well established in medical literature, though, that fructose induces insulin resistance more rapidly than pretty much anything else. That's why they use fructose to induce diabetes in experimental rats; fastest way to cause it.

                                      1. re: mcf

                                        Yes, but it's not like regular sugar is devoid of fructose, right?

                                        As far as I know the breakdown of fructose:sucrose for various sugars are the following:

                                        HFCS: 55:45
                                        Sugar: 50:50
                                        Honey: 52:48
                                        Agave: 75:25
                                        Cane Juice: 45:55

                                        Again, if we are going to demonize HFCS because of its "high" fructose content we need to step back and view it in context.

                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                          We find it in an awful lot of contexts it doesn't belong in. Like within a fiber and fluid and antioxidant rich fruit or vegetable. I think there are numerous micronutrients that, when isolated and/or concentrated beyond the way they're found in nature, become less healthy.

                                          And high fructose syrup is a lot different than sugars containing naturally occurring fructose.

                                          I don't think any of those sweeteners are healthy, for the record, in any but the minutest amounts. But none of them induce diabetes as efficiently as pure fructose.

                                          1. re: mcf

                                            I meant to say that it DOES belong within a whole fruit or veggie, not isolated outside of those.

                                          2. re: ipsedixit

                                            I think that the big problem with HFCS is that fructose doesn't signal leptin like glucose does. Consumption of equal HFCS to sucrose doesn't tell you that you're full like regular sugar, so you tend to eat more of it. HFCS is also more easily converted to fat biochemically that glucose.

                                            While it's true the difference between HFCS and sucrose is *only* a 10 point percentage difference, that's 10 points over the span of weeks, months, years... it makes a difference.

                                            Anyway, everything in moderation. I still love my coke :)

                                            1. re: sockhead

                                              10% difference? Sugar, once split, is equal parts fructose and glucose. The 55/45 split in common HFCS is chosen to mimic the sweetness of sugar. A lower fructose version is commonly used in baking. Any ratio can be produced by blending a 95% fructose syrup with a pure glucose syrup (the base corn syrup is nearly pure glucose).

                                              ""In terms of suppressing your appetite, a calorie from high-fructose corn syrup seems to be no different than a calorie from table sugar or a calorie from milk," explained Monsivais."

                                              1. re: paulj

                                                That's different than I learned in med school. Anyway, jury's out I guess.

                                                1. re: sockhead

                                                  It is important to distinguish between studies that compare fructose to glucose, and those that compare 50:50 solutions to sucrose (which has the same ratio, but bound together).

                                            2. re: ipsedixit

                                              "As far as I know the breakdown of fructose:sucrose for various sugars are the following:

                                              HFCS: 55:45
                                              Sugar: 50:50

                                              Where do you get your information? To my knowledge, it is completely incorrect - standard white sugar is something like 99.5% sucrose. All quick-reference websites confirm this.

                                              Sucrose is a dissacharide molecule formed from combining glucose and fructose in equal parts - but it is still very much its own molecule with its own properties. Perhaps this confused you?

                                              I'm no chemist, so if you have a convincing source, please cite it.

                                              Edit: I just realized that you probably meant to write "fructose:glucose ratios" rather than "fructose:sucrose" - in which case your numbers are accurate once larger molecules are broken down into monosaccarides.

                                              Of course, there's the rub. I'm not sure that ingesting equal amounts of glucose and fructose is the same as the equivalent amount of sugar. I have not seen any especially convincing studies on this matter. It is plausible that ingesting fructose in mono- and disaccaride forms would have different dietary effects.

                                              1. re: cowboyardee

                                                It's fructose:glucose, not fructose:sucrose. But the ratios are right.

                                                1. re: cowboyardee

                                                  Table sugar is sucrose, composed of fructose and glucose. I assume (correct me if I'm wrong) that Ipse meant fructose:glucose breakdown in his list, not fructose: sucrose.

                                                  1. re: chowser

                                                    Yes, alan and chowser are right. Thanks for the correction.


                                                  2. re: cowboyardee

                                                    The 50:50 means that when sugar (sucrose) is split (as happens in your digestive track), the result is equal parts glucose and fructose. So if you want to focus on the simple sugars that your body absorbs, HFCS (of the 55 variety) and table sugar are essentially the same.

                                                    1. re: paulj

                                                      In the presence of even a weak acid, sugar is split into its components fructose and glucose because the glysosidic bond that holds them together is easily broken. E.g.: In soda pop, the bond is already split -- the two are already separate. Meaning, "sugar" is virtually identical to the most commonly used HFCS (55% fructose: 45% glucose).

                                                      The problem in my mind is
                                                      -- HFCS's ubiquity (it's in nearly every food manufactured)
                                                      -- its deleterious effect on the brain and its reward chemistry -- we become easily addicted
                                                      -- the subsidies the corn industry receives should be given to more worthy recipients
                                                      -- the lack of satiety from the HFCS (because of the fructose)

                                                        1. re: maria lorraine

                                                          As much as I'm trying to not just pile on and say me too,me too - these are excellent points. From your lips to the powers ears.

                                                          1. re: c oliver

                                                            Hey, If I needed another reason to hate this stuff, it's that Sam didn't like them either, for many reasons. 'Nuff said.

                                                            1. re: pikawicca

                                                              I've learned so much from him and there will always be posts where I NEED him to weigh in. We'll just carry the banner higher,won't we?

                                                            1. re: maria lorraine

                                                              "In the presence of even a weak acid, HFCS is split because the bond that holds the fructose and glucose together is a weak one. E.g.: In soda pop, it's already split -- the two are separate."

                                                              HFCS is a mixture of monosaccharides, glucose and fructose. They are not bound together -- ever. Sucrose is the disaccharide. If true that it is hydrolyzed (split) in soda pop then the result would be chemically equivalent to pop made with HFCS (except for a slight difference in the ratio of glucose:fructose).

                                                              1. re: kmcarr

                                                                I typed HFCS and meant sugar. [Forehead hitting keyboard.] Fixed it above. Thanks for the catch.

                                            3. I avoid any and all products that have ANY sweetener that ends in ose. I also avoid any product that has sugar lister in the first 3 ingredients. I do so because I do not want my children to be exposed to a sugar laden diet which will be what they in turn will consume when they are adults. There is no need for my children to consume a pound of sugar a day because its cheaper and easier than a healthy diet. I will not subject them to one of E-Z-MAKE food. My ex however is the opposite, his 4 food groups are Dinty Moore, Oscar Mayer, Drive Thru, and Little Debbie

                                              5 Replies
                                              1. re: gryphonskeeper

                                                >>"I avoid any and all products that have ANY sweetener that ends in ose."<<

                                                You do realize that every natural sweeteners ends in -ose, right? Pure unrefined organic cane sugar is mostly sucrose.

                                                1. re: alanbarnes

                                                  yes, I try to stay away from any sugars because diabetes runs in my family on both sides. The world is full of really good foods that have very little sugar and those are the ones I seek out. I actually read every label of every product I buy. While I cannot eliminate it, and would not attempt to do so, I can curb the amount as much as I can. If there are 2 products, one with and one without sugar, I would tend to buy the one without. (case in point bread... I will not buy any bread that has sugar in it... there is NO reason for sugar to be in bread... seriously!)

                                                  1. re: gryphonskeeper

                                                    gryphon, do you allow yourself any fruits? If so, which ones? I'm just curious about this...thanks!

                                                    1. re: Val

                                                      Fruits don't come with ingredients labels, therefor they don't have any ...-ose'es :)

                                                      1. re: Val

                                                        I am not really big on fruits but I do love apples, mangos, starfuits, and avocados. I don't like oranges, but I like grapefruit. I and hate bananas. There is always a basket of fruit in my house, most of the time it has bananas because the kids like them. I don't ban fruits if that is what you suggest, I do however trim the amount of extra sugar in the diet. Geeze I am not a sugar nazi,

                                                2. 20 years ago I had a multi-millionaire client who said he made his fortune producing HFCS. Didn't know much about it then, but he told me it would replace sugar big time. He's probably one of those behind those pro-hfcs ads.

                                                  1. Without being too provocative, I'd just like to note I was one of those inveterate "health-food" nuts 20 years ago who proclaimed loudly that it was BETTER to use the pure granulated fructose they sold at "health food" stores to replace sugar, because it was sweeter than cane sugar, thereby letter you use less of it.

                                                    The real question is why so much of our store-bought food is sweeter than it used to be, as pikawicca points out. I do think it's too bad that so many breads and snacks are so overtly sweet.

                                                    5 Replies
                                                    1. re: dmd_kc

                                                      EXACTLY! I don't want my kids thinking it is normal for bread and cereals to be sickeningly sweet. I grew up in a house that rarely had sugar because type 1 diabetes in the household, when I first went to Europe the food tasted so pure and delicious it makes me jealous they don't make breads and cheeses like that here in the USA.

                                                      1. re: gryphonskeeper

                                                        >>"when I first went to Europe the food tasted so pure and delicious it makes me jealous they don't make breads and cheeses like that here in the USA."<<

                                                        WTF??? Of course they make breads and cheeses like that here in the USA. There are hundreds of great artisan bakers and cheesemakers all over the country, and their share of the market is expanding while Wonderbread closes factories because of reduced demand.

                                                        Moreover, you can buy crappy white bread and processed cheese in Europe. And the trend there is headed in the opposite direction.

                                                        1. re: alanbarnes

                                                          I should have been more clear alan, Yes they do in small artisans and bakeries. HOWEVER nearly every single place I went to in both Rome and Bantry Ireland had artisan breads and beautiful unprocessed to death cheeses, whereas in USA I have to hunt for it.

                                                        2. re: gryphonskeeper

                                                          "...they don't make breads and cheeses like that here in the USA."

                                                          They do at my house. We hardly ever buy bread anymore, because it's easy to make at home, and the stuff we make is delicious. And you can find fabulous cheeses in the U.S. Maybe not at your neighborhood Safeway/Vonn's/Randall's, but you can find them nonetheless.

                                                          1. re: Indirect Heat

                                                            I need to start making my own breads like my mom used to make. SHe made the most incredible sesame seed laden bread.

                                                      2. Foe, I dont buy anything with corn syrup, dyes, or preservatives. Corn syrup is the worst its in almost EVERYTHING. I also hate it when companies try to say their food products are all natural and they have disgusting corn syrup in their products.

                                                        1. I hate the ads. The problem is hfcs is in only highly processed foods, period. You won't find it in spinach, apples, broccoli, etc. We need to cut back on overly processed foods which means cutting back on HFCS. Just because there hasn't been definitive proof that HCFS is bad for you doesn't mean that that punch filled w/ artificial flavors and colors is good for you. "No proof that tobacco paper is bad for me so pass me that cigarette" is analagous to what the ad is saying.

                                                          1. The possible mercury content is enough to keep me away from it. I have been avoiding HFCS for years... and after a bout with mercury toxicity (courtesy of one meal of way too much great tuna sashimi), I am sensitized enough to the mercury that I will break out in a red rash if I inadvertently consume some HFCS containing products.



                                                            4 Replies
                                                            1. re: karmalaw

                                                              Mercury poisoning from a single exposure to tuna? That must have been one impressive meal.

                                                              Assuming that symptoms occur with a body burden of about 25mg of organic mercury, and overestimating absorption efficiency at 100%, and assuming mercury content of 1 ppm (four times the average for yellowfin tuna), you'd have to eat 100 pounds of tuna sashimi to induce symptoms.

                                                              Then there's the latency period (up to 5 months) between a single exposure to mercury and the development of any symptoms. Although you would probably remember eating a hundred pounds of sashimi at a sitting for at least that long.

                                                              1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                Your willingness to try to discredit what I experienced is unwarranted. Be that as it may, it might help you to understand better to place the meal in the perspective of the "one small, thin wafer" that caused the dam to break. I am, perhaps more sensitive than many people (my reaction to contact lenses that were cleaned in a thimerosal preserved solution back when such things were the norm was extreme -- it felt like someone had poured liquid fire into my eyes). But, that doesn't negate the mercury levels in certain foods and their cumulative effects.





                                                                1. re: karmalaw

                                                                  I'm not trying to discredit anything. And I definitely empathize with the difficulties you've been through.

                                                                  But no matter how much we all love convenient cause and effect, post hoc isn't necessarily propter hoc. If you were on the verge of mercury poisoning and ate a high-mercury meal, it may well have caused symptoms. A few weeks or months later. Maybe.

                                                                  Odds are it isn't that simple, though. No matter how much Jeremy Piven detests ambiguity, epidemiologists spend their careers trying to sort out the signal from the noise. Regardless of the sincerity of your belief that A led to B, causative effect is pretty hard to establish.

                                                                  If you want more info regarding the short-term effects of high doses of mercury, there are a number of studies that followed the health of the indiginous people of the Amazon basin as their waterways became contaminated with the heavy metals that are the byproducts of mining. Of course, none of those studies (or any others) will provide convenient black-and-white answers.

                                                                  If your primary goal is to be sure of yourself, don't go any further. But if you're ineterested in understanding what actually happened to you, there's a lot of interesting information out there. It's your call whether you choose to examine it.

                                                              2. re: karmalaw

                                                                That report came out a year ago. Here's a thread about it:
                                                                Has there been any further testing or reports? Did anyone do similar tests on items that do not have HFCS? Keep in mind that the detection limits for mercury (something like parts per trillion) are well below dangerous levels.

                                                              3. Another study was just released that indicates that High Fructose Corn Syrup may be a significant factor in Fatty Liver Disease :


                                                                Of note:

                                                                "Compared to subjects who drank the least fructose beverages, those who drank the most were significantly more likely to have the hepatic scarring that will more often progress to cirrhosis or liver cancer. And older subjects who regularly consumed fructose beverages showed more signs of liver inflammation. "

                                                                12 Replies
                                                                1. re: karmalaw

                                                                  It looks like a rather poorly designed study. What they have shown is that consuming high levels of fructose results in an increased risk of certain types of liver problems. But they are comparing high levels of fructose to non-sugar consumers. They're not comparing HFCS consumers to table sugar consumers. I would bet there would be a similar problem amongst people who consume too much sugar.

                                                                  HFCS is bad for you in high doses - just like table sugar.

                                                                  1. re: Indirect Heat

                                                                    "HFCS is bad for you in high doses - just like table sugar."


                                                                    Is there anything that isn't bad for you in high doses [rhetorical question, of course]

                                                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                      ipsedixit, I don't mean this in a bad way, but... do you work for the corn industry?

                                                                      1. re: shanagain

                                                                        No. I just don't believe in the supposed evils of HFCS.

                                                                        Don't forget that some genius won the Nobel for the frontal lobotomy ... Thank you Dr. Egas Moniz.

                                                                        1. re: shanagain

                                                                          I'll make a confession - I just bought something that lists corn syrup as the first ingredient - Korean sunchang gochujang (hot pepper paste).

                                                                          However it might not qualify as the horrible stuff we are talking about here. It is from Korea; it is hot enough that I'm going to be using small amounts at at time; and it might be the high glucose form (chosen for consistency and body rather than sweetness). Still, it is corn based, which to some minds is bad enough.

                                                                      2. re: Indirect Heat

                                                                        Here's the paper itself (not just a newspaper article or abstract)
                                                                        The fructose consumption was estimated from self-reporting:
                                                                        " Total energy consumption (kcal/day) from daily fructose intake was estimated based on reporting (frequency × amount) of kool-aid, fruit juices, and non-dietary soda per week..... Each patient was asked to recall their routine daily consumption fructose containing beverages over a 3 month period."

                                                                        At several points they use the phrase " daily consumption of HFCS or sugar containing beverages ". Given the current prevalence of HFCS as a beverage sweetener, most of the fructose in the subjects' diets probably came from HFCS, but the study does not try to distinguish between the two sources.

                                                                        So switching to a diet of Mexican or kosher Coke, and homemade cookies isn't doing your liver any favors. :)

                                                                        1. re: paulj

                                                                          The exploratory study is well designed and executed. The statistical findings were self limited to the goals of the study and are sound. The study by no means excuses cane sugar as part of the problem of NAFLD, but provides a focus on fructose and its particular role and mechanisms leading to NAFLD. That focus was correct and in part driven by documented increases in fructose/HFCS over past recent decades. The researchers correctly acknowledge - as a preliminary study - the limitations of small samples and of reliance on dietary recall information. Had I been an initial reviewer, I would have passed the paper for publication.

                                                                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                            "...well designed and executed."

                                                                            Well, they're a little bold in their abstract. They include only one type of negative control - low sugar diet - but don't include a high sucrose diet. And yet they try to nail their effect on fructose. It's an effect of sugar. Might be an effect of fructose. Or sucrose. Or glucose. Controls. Don't ever let someone talk you out of including controls.

                                                                            It's classic M.D. science. Poorly designed experiment. Poorly-interpreted data. Can't believe the conclusions.

                                                                            1. re: Indirect Heat

                                                                              Yes, they compared a small sample of persons with NAFLD to a sample without NAFLD, reconstructed the dietary intakes of each group, and found high fructose intake in the former group. They claim no more, no less. It is difficult to screw up such a simple, limited, and admittedly preliminary study. There is a lot of verbiage that could have been further edited to make their message clearer - such that a careful reading is required. Of course, the grand majority of M.D.s are not research scientists.

                                                                              1. re: Indirect Heat

                                                                                "It's classic M.D. science. Poorly designed experiment. Poorly-interpreted data. Can't believe the conclusions."

                                                                                Did you read the conclusions? Are the interpretations you refer to the study's or your own?

                                                                                Neither their methods nor conclusions try to distinguish HFCS from sugar. The study just associates non-alcoholic fatty liver disease with high intake of sweetened beverages. The conclusions do NOT advise people to use sugar as a HFCS replacement or imply that one should. The study was NOT about the difference between sugar and HFCS and should not be read as such.

                                                                                This is a common problem - many studies find useful data (that should be verified, reevaluated, and kept in scale) and that data gets misrepresented by the media, or by those with an axe to grind, or simply by people who misunderstand the study's methods or implications. There is a major tendency for people who have nothing to do with research to extrapolate more from a study's conclusions than that study is capable of supporting. This is not a science problem.

                                                                                On the other hand, the name of this study is a bit misleading. Goes to show - a researcher can go to great lengths to create a meaningful experiment, painstakingly sort out and interpret data, and have the whole thing dismissed because the title under which the study was published was imprecise.

                                                                                1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                  Yes, I read the whole thing. Read the *abstract* and *title*. They're *extremely* misleading. They are trying to associate fructose consumption with fatty liver disease. And they show nothing of the sort. They show that sugar consumption is associated. I don't think that's even a novel finding.

                                                                                  1. re: Indirect Heat

                                                                                    Point ceded - the title and abstract are misleading.

                                                                                    I just meant that shouldn't discredit an otherwise decent study. The experiment was not poorly designed or poorly interpreted. Whether or not its findings are new is beside the point as confirming or adding to older data is also scientifically useful.

                                                                      3. "A Princeton University research team has demonstrated that all sweeteners
                                                                        are not equal when it comes to weight gain: 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."


                                                                        26 Replies
                                                                        1. re: mcf


                                                                          Here is a link to more info about the study itself.

                                                                          1. re: mcf

                                                                            From the news summary:
                                                                            "This creates a fascinating puzzle. The rats in the Princeton study became obese by drinking high-fructose corn syrup, but not by drinking sucrose. The critical differences in appetite, metabolism and gene expression that underlie this phenomenon are yet to be discovered, but may relate to the fact that excess fructose is being metabolized to produce fat, while glucose is largely being processed for energy or stored as a carbohydrate, called glycogen, in the liver and muscles. "
                                                                            It is unclear, from the summary, whether the crucial difference between HFCS and sugar is the in-balance of fructose and glucose (55/45 v 50/50), or the bound nature of sucrose (and that extra metabolic step). Seems they need to take the tests to another level, and use a 50/50 HFCS, or even the 40/60 version often used in baking, and also look at invert sugar syrup (split sucrose).

                                                                            1. re: paulj

                                                                              If you delve into the paper, you find the data are not so clear. Indeed, female rats show no such weight gain relative to sugar. And male rats don't see an increase in weight over long periods, just in short periods (and the difference is marginally stastitically significant.

                                                                              So, to believe the authors - female rats are immune to the evils of HFCS. And males are susceptible - but only marginally, and only for a short time. It's interesting. When paper after paper shows no difference, there isn't anything in Google News about it. But when one paper of marginal statistical significance shows an effect on only one of several time scales measured, it gets play in the media.

                                                                              Methinks the world would be a better place if news editors were required to take just one short statistics course.

                                                                              1. re: Indirect Heat

                                                                                There's a good book I read called The Healthy Skeptic that I think many people, including news editors, would benefit from reading. It's about many mainstream studies, how they're conducted (and the source of funding), how they're interpreted and how they're filtered down to the general public. Dairy doesn't help you lose weight faster, despite what one study, out of many by the same researcher even, has said. You can find a study to show almost anything you want.

                                                                                1. re: chowser

                                                                                  Yep. I also think it's sad that newspapers largely present scientific conclusions, rather than the actual experiments and how they reached those conclusions. People are smart enough to handle data. And properly presented, they can understand data in all kinds of fields.

                                                                                  Whenever I read a headline about science, I tend to think it's probably not true. And looking up the primary data, I'm almost always right. (There are good science journalists out there - they're just painfully rare. Check out Carl Zimmer - fantastic science journalist).

                                                                                  1. re: Indirect Heat

                                                                                    Maybe Hounds could start reading real (and common in each field) scientific journals and papers rather than relying on Google or "science journalism". A lot of Hounds would need, however, a bit of brushing up on basic science and elementary statistics.

                                                                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                      Sam, I really agree with you. I have enough medical background that, when looking for information on a medical topic, I think I USUALLY can separate the wheat from the chaff. But just because it's from the internet or from a "published paper" doesn't mean a damn thing. There's so much bad "science" and "medicine" out there, it's scary as hell.

                                                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                                                        I think one problem is, unlike you, too many people throw out the wheat and keep the chaff. I read all "studies" as a skeptic. People change their lives based on sensational headlines from poorly conducted studies with poorly deduced results.

                                                                                        1. re: chowser

                                                                                          So much better said than I did, chowser. Fox News, anyone?

                                                                                          1. re: c oliver

                                                                                            LOL, I won't get political, as tempting as it might be! But, I did read a study that said 90% of studies are poorly conducted... I haven't read details to know which side that study falls under.;-)

                                                                                            1. re: chowser

                                                                                              Tee hee! We deal with a couple of elderly relatives on a regular basis. They're always touting the latest "health tip."

                                                                                          2. re: chowser

                                                                                            There are of course some studies that are dishonest, fudged, or so sloppily executed that their results should be discarded.

                                                                                            There are also studies whose conclusions are not adequately supported by their results. In most of these cases, their data is still useful.

                                                                                            But IMO the big problem is often not in the studies themselves but in the media's and public's tendency to treat all studies as more or less equal and all results as definitive. The above article is a pretty good example - there is no real hint in the article that the study is not definitive, or that the observed effects are marginal (or even that a study on rats might not translate perfectly humans, though maybe readers could be assumed to know that already). And this is from the Princeton University news - i would think it were less sensationalistic than many other media outlets.

                                                                                            I'd love if people were reading their science directly from well reputed journals, and evaluating studies for validity and reliability - but have you priced a subscription to the New England Journal of Medicine recently? More responsibility in the media would be equally nice. I don't know which one is less realistic to hope for.

                                                                                            1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                              I actually think there are quite a few studies that are poorly conducted, too. My father was a scientist (chemistry) and he and some of his colleagues have looked into how poorly conducted many studies have been. Added to that, the results, as you said, are not adequately supported and then the general population takes it to another level. I think people need to become skeptical of all they read and look at it w/ a more analytical eye. I thought the book I mentioned above, The Healthy Skeptic, broke it down well into layman terms. People don't understand statistical significance, correlation vs causality and they should. I don't think everyone needs to read the original study but at least understand how the original study was conducted (and for what purpose) and what the actual results were, not the media interpreted results.

                                                                                          3. re: c oliver

                                                                                            As a research scientist, I review papers submitted for publication in my field(s) all the time. We generally try to do a fair job. Those submitting work are not trying to defraud or fool anyone. Each and any topic of current research interest has 100s of research projects and papers being developed at any one time. Most are "good" in the sense of being soundly designed, steady and, generally incremental, contributors to whole bodies of knowledge and understanding.

                                                                                            Now and then some publication will somehow come to the attention of the ChowHounds: many responses are thoughtful and insightful. But many, on the other hand, are presented in a self-rightous offended air, and reflect a general lack of understanding of research, basic science, and of the use and application of simple statistics.

                                                                                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                              Yep, I think dishonesty in science is generally pretty rare. Reason being that dishonesty is a career ending move. Incompetence is much more common. As is people making conclusions that simply aren't warranted. The pressure to make every finding mind-blowingly novel is too great. People end up having studies (like the one above about rats gaining weight) where the statistics suggest there might be a small difference (if any) under one circumstance, and rather than re-test to ensure that they are correct, they rush to publish and treat it like they have something important. It's sad to see scientists getting ahead this way, but it is what it is.

                                                                                              1. re: Indirect Heat

                                                                                                Well, in my experience we generally blow such submissions out of the water. We don't want to allow publication of trivia and nonsense. And researcher/authors generally agree: they too would rather eventually have a strong publication rather than an instant weak and insignificant one.

                                                                                              2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                Have you found funding of the research has any play in studies? The one foremost in my mind is one by Dr. Zemel from the University of Tenessee, funded by the Dairy Council about weight loss. I can't remember the details of it all since it's been years but I remember a few points brought up (iirc, Dr. Zemel had financial incentive for some reason to show the connection, it was never shown in a follow up, previous studies had shown no correlation...) that questioned the validity, if not of the study itself, of the conclusion.


                                                                                                "These data indicate an important role for dairy
                                                                                                products in both the ability to maintain a healthy weight and the management of overweight and obesity."

                                                                                                I've read similar idea with a study funded by the beef industry on conjugated linoleic acid in beef and weight loss. Those type of studies are the one I'm most skeptical about, as I read the studies.

                                                                                                1. re: chowser

                                                                                                  Science and research is for the most part very transparent in terms of funding. I've worked mainly with some of the 16 international agricultural research centers, all funded by perhaps a 100 donors - countries, international donors and agencies ranging from the World Bank to the FAO to Spain, the Netherlands, you name it. Lately I've donme more with the Global Environmental Facility of the World Bank. We apply a great deal of caution in our alliances with the private sector: and preconditions in our working with the private sector are always to preclude influences from biased interests. Scientists working within/for the private sector generally feel the same way. Researchers working for universities but publishing rubbish (your "Dr Zemel") in return for financial gain have a high incentive not to do so: they quickly get drummed out of science and research by their peers when caught.

                                                                                                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                    Thank you--your insight is very helpful.

                                                                                                    1. re: chowser

                                                                                                      You're supposed to include conflicts of interest in your publications (for most journals these days). You might find that people with financial conflicts are more likely to interpret things in favour of their benefactor, but ultimately, the data are what they are. Other people may interpret them differently.

                                                                                                      Fraud is relatively uncommon, and punished pretty harshly when found. Ultimately, your findings need to be replicated by others. If no one else can replicate them, it shows you out to be incompetent or dishonest. Hard to keep publishing after that.

                                                                                                      I think where financial issues become more important is with think tanks and PR firms. For example, the majority of global warming denialists are not publishing scientists, but are in fact former scientists (or not) that don't publish. They spend their time and energy trying to get into the news media. While they have enormous effects on the public debate, they have zero to no effect on the state of the science in general. What happens within the scientific community and what gets reported on by newspapers are very different things.

                                                                                                      1. re: Indirect Heat

                                                                                                        I looked into Dr. Zemel's research because, as you've said, the media ran with the story about dairy and weight loss, as did the Dairy Council. There was, as you might suspect, no notice about conflict of interest, previous studies that he'd done that showed otherwise, etc. from either. When I looked into it, it seemed suspicious (in other words, I wouldn't recommend adding a couple of glasses of milk to anyone's diet to lose weight). But, it's good to hear from you and Sam that these cases aren't the norm.

                                                                                                    2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                      It's true that the "rubbish publishers" get drummed out of serious scientific circles pretty quickly. But the mainstream media does a poor job of distinguishing between articles from peer-reviewed journals and self-serving corporate press releases describing the "findings" of the company's lackeys.

                                                                                                      Look hard enough and you can find a PhD who'll say anything you want. It would be nice if the general public would ask tougher questions, but we're apparently too busy, lazy, disinterested, and/or uninformed. The least a so-called journalist can do is vet the information being repeated before splashing it all over the headlines or airwaves.

                                                                                                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                        Yabbut, that's just not true in the U.S.. In fact, publishers of major peer reviewed journals have lamented it, staring with Marcia Angell, former publusher of the NEJM.

                                                                                                        NIH researchers refused to sign onto strong ethics requirements that would more severely limit their pocket stuffing by private drug and medical equipment manufacturers.

                                                                                                        We have a lot of evidence in the literature of overly positive findings for unhelpful and even deadly drugs in trials, particularly where investigators have a stake financially. Our FDA reviewers have been ostracized when raising legitimate concerns that prevent drug approvals.

                                                                                                        Researchers also face huge pressures to bring in dollars by showing the results the funding sources want.

                                                                                                        That's the kind of science by still prestigious researchers that got us Vioxx, Celebrex, Rezulin, LymeRix, 25 years of claims that HRT protected against hte very things it *causes* in women, and decades of overlooked infanticides mischaracterized as SIDS.

                                                                                                        Once a researcher has prestige and grant dollars, one who challenges the dogma and orthodoxy finds himself frozen out of the high profit club, and of less value to his university.

                                                                                          4. re: Indirect Heat

                                                                                            Having just read the study, the differences were barely -- stress, barely -- statistically significant.

                                                                                            I'd like to see this same exact study (or studies) replicated with another population of rats to see if there is a greater correlation between HFCS and weight gain.

                                                                                            Or better yet, how about the same study using human beings ...

                                                                                            Interesting study nonetheless, but abstracts and published reports of studies that are at best marginally relevant and/or interesting should be noted as such.

                                                                                            1. re: Indirect Heat

                                                                                              Is this another case where the university PR department is 'sexing up' a research paper, making it sound more certain and ground breaking?

                                                                                          5. re: mcf

                                                                                            I keep getting confused as to who has said what because the Princeton study is being discussed at the Snopes forum where I was lurking.

                                                                                            1. re: Beckyleach

                                                                                              Actually, that's the same study discussed above. It's just that the article is more sensationalistic.

                                                                                              1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                I went searching around for a while since some have raised legitimate issues about the role of HFCS in the study and how small it appeared. What a lot of research appears to show is an effect on copper metabolism which may have a cumulative effect over time that doesn't show up completely in short duration studies. I haven't read far enough or deep into the issue of copper metabolism to know if this is the case, but that appears to be the presumed mechanism.

                                                                                                1. re: mcf

                                                                                                  I am curious, mcf, about these studies.

                                                                                                  Do you know if any involve human subjects? And, if so, are they anything more than observational?

                                                                                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                    I don't have time to research fructose metabolism right now, but I saw references indicating that both mineral homeostasis and copper metabolism are dysregulated by HFCS as compared to starch. Sucrose apparently has a similar copper depleting effect. Copper deficiency apparently leads to deficiencies in pancreatic function. If the alteration of pancreatic enzymes or beta cell destruction is behind the effect, there may be differences between the rate/amount of effect between sucrose and HFCS. If so, they may not show up strongly in short term studies as well as in longitudinal ones. But that's my speculation, haven't spent the time to make any assertions.

                                                                                                    1. re: mcf

                                                                                                      'dysregulated by HFCS as compared to starch' - is the comparison between HFCS and starch or fructose v glucose (starch is broken down into to glucose)?

                                                                                                      According to one source, the original 1984 Fields study was looking at sucrose (sugar) and copper deficiency, with later research narrowing it down to difference between fructose and glucose, both of which are found in sugar.

                                                                                                      This copper issue might be a reason to choose bread over a sweet drink, but says little about the choice between the drink and organically sweetened cake.

                                                                                                      1. re: paulj

                                                                                                        Avoiding fructose/HFCS/etc. for fear of copper deficiency is pretty extreme. I think there are more dangers in the overly processed foods where you might find HFCS than in a spoonful of sugar so Mary Poppins is fairly safe there.


                                                                                                        High fructose diets have exacerbated copper deficiency in rats but not in pigs whose gastrointestinal systems are more like those of humans. Very high levels of dietary fructose (20% of total calories) did not result in copper depletion in humans, suggesting that fructose intake does not result in copper depletion at levels relevant to normal diets (2, 5).


                                                                                                        Clinically evident or frank copper deficiency is relatively uncommon.

                                                                                                        1. re: chowser

                                                                                                          I did find research demonstrating effects in men, at least for mineral balance dysregulation, which is an endocrine function.

                                                                                                          1. re: mcf

                                                                                                            I'm curious--what effects? What level of change? How detrimental? What level of injestion? HFCS or fructose/what other sugars?

                                                                                                            1. re: chowser


                                                                                                              The link takes you to an abstract and links to related articles on the right side.

                                                                                                              For the record; I'm not advocating a particular conclusion, but it is clear that sucrose and fructose follow different metabolic pathways, and could presumably have very different effects, especially over time.

                                                                                                              1. re: mcf

                                                                                                                "but it is clear that sucrose and fructose follow different metabolic pathways, and could presumably have very different effects, especially over time."

                                                                                                                Not really. Sucrose is glucose and fructose covalently linked. When you metabolize glucose, it gets converted into fructose. So ultimately, the main energetic pathway that you use to metabolize all sugars passes through fructose.

                                                                                                                That's why most scientists are skeptical that there is anything worse about HFCS than table sugar. They're very, very similar.

                                                                                                                1. re: Indirect Heat

                                                                                                                  Isn't the glucose the more 'universal' simple sugar, used through out the body, while fructose is processed first by the liver?

                                                                                                                  The fructose article in Wiki looks interesting. Being Wiki the info isn't 100% reliable, but the overall gist is that fructose metabolism is complex, and still not full understood.

                                                                                                                  1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                    Glucose is more universally transportable. Fructose is what it gets turned into early on in glycolysis (the pathway that turns the sugar into ATP - the energy currency of cells).

                                                                                                            2. re: chowser

                                                                                                              "Avoiding fructose/HFCS/etc. for fear of copper deficiency is pretty extreme."


                                                                                                              Yeah, and besides I'm more of a bronze person anyways ...

                                                                                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                IF HFCS leads to lower blood glucose because it keeps the liver busy with conversion, but promotes a higher percentage of VLDL vs. healthy, large, bouyant LDL, and higher triglycerides (and I haven't read enough to know how much more, if at all it does it) that would be very persuasive to me of its harm.

                                                                                                                  1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                    In this case, compared to other types of sugar; glucose and/or sucrose. Or starches, most of which cause a similar serum glucose response as sucrose does.

                                                                                                                  2. re: mcf

                                                                                                                    Are you basing that on the conclusion from the most recent study you posted? That study compares higher fructose intake to high glucose intake, showing that high fructose causes more visceral fat gain while triglyceride concentrations rose more in high glucose diets. There was nothing about HFCS. I did find it interesting that fructose caused visceral fat gain more than glucose.

                                                                                                                    1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                      I think the lower LDL particle size combined with more visceral fat is extremely indicative of high risk. But I'd like to see inclusion of HDL lowering and TGL raising by each type of sugar; low HDL and high TGLs are the most predictive markers for cardiovascular mortality, and when they're high, LDL is harmless large particles. So if either sugar type lowers HDL more and raises TGLs more, that's the bad guy. Haven't found it yet, no time to spend on it right now.

                                                                                                                  3. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                    I'm not much of a material girl anyway. Besides, Dr. Perricone claims there are sudies that prove HFCS causes wrinkles so I avoid it like the plague.;-)

                                                                                                                    1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                      I low-carb to avoid the whole mess and lower my triglycerides & bad cholesterol.

                                                                                                                      I've been fascinated by the discussion all the way around. I have to admit it does strike me as funny that a community that can burst into spontaneous gnashing of teeth & wailing at the mention of Applebees would come to the defense of HFCS.

                                                                                                                      1. re: shanagain

                                                                                                                        It's not so much a 'defense of HFCS' as a defense of good science. Just because a study shows there are possible problems with fructose, compared to glucose, does not mean that HFCS is worse for you than table sugar. Keep in mind that the High in HFCS is relative to plain corn syrup, which is the primary source (in the USA) for pure glucose. Most of the 'defense' postings are trying to separate substance from hype.

                                                                                                                        1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                          I understand that this is "about the science.'

                                                                                                                          Considering what HFCS is - and what a large part it seems to play in the Applebeeing of America - the thread in its entirety is still quite amusing.

                                                                                                                          1. re: shanagain

                                                                                                                            I still think you're missing the point. No one is defending HFCS so much as questioning the actual evidence in the study cited.

                                                                                                                            I've eaten extremely low carb for over a decade, too, so my interest has nothing to do with any HFCS in my diet, either.

                                                                                                                            1. re: mcf

                                                                                                                              Aye, I also have been defending good science.

                                                                                                                              I think you should avoid high levels of HFCS in your diet. Just like you should avoid high levels of table sugar in your diet, and honey, and agave syrup.

                                                                                                                              I'm not arguing HFCS is good for you. I'm arguing it's no better or no worse than all of the sweeteners we use.

                                                                                                                              1. re: Indirect Heat

                                                                                                                                "Aye, I also have been defending good science."

                                                                                                                                My pet peeve is sensationalized sound bites that incorrectly summarize studies. While I dislike the HFCS ad, I've yet to read anything that I find proves HFCS is worst for you than sugar. FWIW, I would rather just try to avoid foods w/ HFCS, as I've said, because they're overly processed. You don't find in oranges and our bodies process an orange differently than a Hostess hoho.

                                                                                                                        2. re: shanagain

                                                                                                                          "I have to admit it does strike me as funny that a community that can burst into spontaneous gnashing of teeth & wailing at the mention of Applebees would come to the defense of HFCS."

                                                                                                                          As has been pointed out, this discussion is about proof that HFCS is bad for you or not, not about how chow-worthy it is. It's about science and not taste. As I've maintained, I generally don't eat many foods w/ HFCS because they're the more processed foods, for the most part. But, I do dig into a home made pecan pie once in a while, made with light corn syrup and do it without guilt.

                                                                                                                          I saw a TV segment about how high the bacteria is in ice tea from chain restaurants. I don't drink ice tea from chain restaurants but I decried their "study" because it was so poorly conducted and obviously meant to rile the public. It's about accuracy of information but hey, if you find that amusing and laugh, that'll lower your cholesterol, or so say some studies.

                                                                                                                          1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                            Does it help to know that overall I find Chow-fights amusing?

                                                                                                                            1. re: shanagain

                                                                                                                              Hmm, I don't know if there have been any studies done on LOLing or ROTFLing during chow-fights but it couldn't help. I know I use my abs when I laugh.:-) Seriously, though, I thought this was more of a discussion than a fight, after all, it has nothing to do w/ tipping or children in restaurants.

                                                                                                                              1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                                I don't know either, but I literally laughed out loud at your last comment.

                                                                                                                                I didn't mean to come off as.. I don't know, mocking. I'll happily admit to teasing, though - thanks for getting that.

                                                                                                      2. paulj said...
                                                                                                        "Keep in mind that the High in HFCS is relative to plain corn syrup, which is the primary source (in the USA) for pure glucose."

                                                                                                        My wife and I are starting to notice more and more food labels that list ingredients in this fashion:

                                                                                                        INGREDIENTS: tomato concentrate, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, distilled vinegar, salt, less than 2% of: onion powder, garlic powder, natural flavors

                                                                                                        Knowing that ingredient lists are listed in descending order of quantity included, it is interesting to question whether this ketchup is made primarily of tomatoes or corn syrup. By splitting the corn syrup into two ingredients, they are able to list tomatoes first.

                                                                                                        6 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: jerryc123

                                                                                                          But the first ingredient is tomato concentrate. Without knowledge of how concentrated that is, it is difficult to meaningfully compare the tomato content with the sweetener. Quite a few tomatoes go into making a small can of tomato paste. The sugar grams in the nutrition label is a more useful number.

                                                                                                          1. re: paulj

                                                                                                            I think you took my first example much too literal.

                                                                                                            INGREDIENTS: water, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, artificial flavor, xanthum gum, betel palm extract, BHT to preserve freshness.

                                                                                                            What is the main ingredient? Water or Corn Syrup?

                                                                                                            1. re: jerryc123

                                                                                                              As a percentage of its calories and the portion having metabolic/hormonal effects, it's
                                                                                                              HFCS and corn syrup. Virtually 100% of its calories. Volume? Hard to say, but probably water.

                                                                                                              1. re: mcf

                                                                                                                Not hard to say, impossible to say. I think that's jerry's point.

                                                                                                                This imaginary stuff could be 99% water, in which case water is the main ingredient. Or it could be 33% water and 64% corn syrup (32% each HFCS and regular corn syrup), in which case corn syrup is the main ingredient.

                                                                                                                1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                  How about this comparison, all for 1T
                                                                                                                  generic pancake syrup (corn syrup and HFCS) 20g carb, 10g sugar, 80 cal
                                                                                                                  TJ raw agave syrup: 16g carb, 16g sugar, 60 cal
                                                                                                                  TJ organic ketchup: 3g carb, 2g sugars, 15 cal.
                                                                                                                  Yeos chile sauce for chicken (Singapore): 11g carb, 10g sugar, 45 cal
                                                                                                                  (ingedients of Yeos, sugar, water, chile etc)
                                                                                                                  Thai spices mixes often list the percentages of various ingredients.

                                                                                                                  1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                    Heinz and generic ketchup: 4g carb, 4g sugar
                                                                                                                    (a bit sweeter than the TJ organic, but not significantly so)

                                                                                                        2. My good friend, Dr. Ricky, has written a very sensible post describing the poor quality of the rat obesity study, including showing some of their data, here:


                                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                                          1. I loathe those commercials, and the folks who say that HFCS is fine in moderation. That may be true, but given its prevalence and ubiquitous inclusion in nearly everything that isn't a pure product (e.g. fruits, vegetables, meat), it is very difficult to eat HFCS in moderation.

                                                                                                            19 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: vorpal

                                                                                                              Can you make an estimate of how much HFCS you consume, compared, say, to sugar? For example, what does that tablespoon of Heinz ketchup contribute?

                                                                                                              The big source is soda pop and other sweetened drinks. I suspect that simply avoid those drinks would qualify as moderation. And you could still get your sugar fix from frosted flakes!

                                                                                                              1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                I estimate my HFCS intake at near 0, but that's because I rarely eat anything that I don't prepare myself (and I live in Canada, where the use of HFCS is, I suspect, considerably lower, although still commonplace albeit under the moniker "glucose / fructose"). This is largely due to me having an autoimmune disease which imposes significant dietary restrictions on my life (Crohn's Disease); because of it, I prepare most of my food from basic ingredients and consume little prepackaged products or drink much other than water. I do eat moderate quantities of sugar, though, and am not shy about using it when my cooking warrants! (I doubt it's excessive, as I'm not a big dessert person and only eat dessert perhaps once or twice a week.) Were I completely healthy, I'm sure my HFCS consumption wouldn't even occur to me and I'd probably be eating around an average quantity.

                                                                                                                I agree that pop is probably the main culprit in HFCS consumption, but drinking pop seems to be so commonplace in our society and I doubt that that's going to change anytime soon. My grandmother's doctor told her to drink eight glasses of water a day and she balked, replying, "I don't drink eight glasses of water a year!" She achieves about 90% of her hydration through Pepsi.

                                                                                                                1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                  It's in all sorts of packaged foods it has no business being in, from worcestershire sauce to breads, mixes, etc. It's just so ubiquitous.

                                                                                                                  1. re: mcf

                                                                                                                    Agreed. I can't find leavened bread of any type that doesn't contain it.

                                                                                                                    1. re: vorpal

                                                                                                                      The glucose in HFCS gives better shelf life to baked cooks.

                                                                                                                      Have you looked at breads like baguettes and other European style white and rustic breads? Especially if there are locally baked or artisinal they won't have sweeteners. But they also go stale quickly.

                                                                                                                      My favorite long keeping multigrain bread is a 9-grain from Trader Joes. No corn syrup, but it does list honey as its 3rd ingredient.
                                                                                                                      According to
                                                                                                                      70% of the sugars in honey are fructose and glucose (listed as levulose and dextrose). Their ratio, 55/45 is the same as the HFCS used for sweeteners. The HFCS used baking is often higher in glucose.

                                                                                                                      1. re: vorpal

                                                                                                                        I haven't looked lately but Pepperidge Farms Honey Whole Wheat didn't have when I looked.

                                                                                                                      2. re: mcf

                                                                                                                        What's wrong with it being in worcestershire sauce? Many condiments like that play off sweet and sour. Tamarind and vinegar are the sour. Would you prefer one that has just molasses as the sweetener?

                                                                                                                        1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                          A quick google showed that Lee & Perrins, known for their Worcestershire, IS flavored with molasses.. and HFCS. (Though only for the American market.)

                                                                                                                          Wouldn't you rather it was flavored with just molasses? And if not, why on earth not?

                                                                                                                          1. re: shanagain

                                                                                                                            The molasses flavor would be too strong at the right level of sweetness. If you were weary of HFCS and you otherwise like the way your Worcestershire sauce tastes, plain sugar would be the best substitute.

                                                                                                                            1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                                              My bottle of L&P lists molasses ahead of HFCS.

                                                                                                                              1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                Of course I didn't mean to say that they should do away with molasses. Just pointing out that adding HFCS also functions in flavor balancing, not just as cheap filler.

                                                                                                                                1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                  Yes. Molasses, and HFCS. So what do you think you're getting out of that addition?

                                                                                                                                2. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                                                  You mean the right level of sweetness for American tastebuds, which are used to HFCS-levels, right? Because I'm sure L&P does a smashing worcestershire business in the rest of the world, where the molasses only version is sold.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: shanagain

                                                                                                                                    I'll take your word for it. Personally most processed foods taste far too sweet to me and I don't eat em much. My point was more academic than anything else.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                                                      The point I'm trying to make is that it probably IS too sweet in comparison to what worst. sauce is supposed to taste like - if you use the original version as the yardstick - because it's got added HFCS to *make it sweeter. So why? We didn't just emigrate to America and suddenly not like what we were brought up eating - it's happened over time.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: shanagain

                                                                                                                                        Sweeter sells in the US.

                                                                                                                                        But a product does not have to be overly sweet by your/historical standards to benefit from the addition of sugar or HFCS rather than a more assertive ingredient.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: shanagain

                                                                                                                                          Americans aren't the only people who like sweet foods. If any thing Asian cooks, especially Japanese and Vietnamese are more generous in the use of sugar (or mirin or other sweetener) in the savory cooking. Consider, for example, the seasoning for sushi rice (5T vinegar, 5T sugar, 4t salt). How many Americans put sugar in their rice (other than a pudding)? If there isn't sugar in your fish sauce, there is sure to be dipping sauce made with it.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                            I mostly have to avoid Korean and Thai foods because they're so sugar heavy, and a lot of Szechuan, too. Sometimes I can order in a way to prevent added sugars, but most sauces and marinades are already prepped.

                                                                                                                                3. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                  Yes, that's what I would prefer.

                                                                                                                          2. Hmmm ... sort of skimmed thru all of this ... here's a totally unscientific study using one test rat ... me.

                                                                                                                            I moved to Guatemala recently and live in the middle of miles of sugar cane fields. So everything here is with sugar.

                                                                                                                            The bottom line is that everything tastes better to me with sugar. It doesn't have that overly-sweet cloying taste. Everything has a more, uh, refined flavor. It is not as in your face.

                                                                                                                            But here's what I find interesting. I have a weight problem and I simply need to stay away from sweet stuff. It sets me off and increases my appetite.

                                                                                                                            However, I'm finding that with sugar, this isn't happening. I can have one glass of 7UP, Pepsi, or Coke and be satisfied with it and I don't get the hunger rush afterward.

                                                                                                                            I mean everything here is only sugar ... catsup, ice cream, baked goods.

                                                                                                                            So this has no basis in anything but me. However, the fact that I didn't get the munchies anymore when eating or drinking sweet things just seemed interesting.