Have you seen (or read or heard) any of the recent ads defending and praising high fructose corn syrup? These ads, released by the Corn Refiner’s Association, were created as part of a public relations and advertising campaign entitled “Changing the Conversation About High Fructose Corn Syrup.” Its purpose was (and I quote):

“To dispel myths and correct inaccuracies associated with this versatile sweetener and highlight the important role high fructose corn syrup plays in our nation’s foods and beverages. The campaign provides science-based information to consumers to enable them to make informed decisions about their food choices.”

Uh huh… OK…

Poppies in the woods

The ads themselves give few actual facts, but the accompanying website is loaded with studies and information disputing high fructose corn syrup’s bad press.

And incidentally, if you have ever wondered how high fructose corn syrup is made, the short answer is that the corn wet milling industry makes it from corn starch. The long answer is a bit more complicated, and again I quote from the website:

“The enzyme alpha-amylase is added to a slurry of starch and water to liquefy or reduce the particle size of the starch to produce glucose polymers… followed by saccharification with the enzyme glucoamylase, which breaks the glucose polymers down to their basic building blocks… A small amount of magnesium is added to the purified glucose solution. Glucose isomerase, an enzyme, is used to convert a portion of the glucose to fructose.”

And the above description is only part of the long and extremely involved process… making it very difficult, at least for me, to believe that the resulting high fructose corn syrup is the natural product the ads and site insist it is.

So why are so many processed food manufacturers putting high fructose corn syrup in their products? It’s now in pasta sauces, crackers, cereals, snack foods, fruit drinks, soft drinks, and juices… bacon, hot dogs, hams, fish and chicken products, ice creams, yogurts, canned soups, jellies, pickles, and cheese spreads, and more.

If it’s a processed food, it’s a good bet that high fructose corn syrup will be a part of the ingredient list. Do people really want to put all that manufactured fructose into their bodies?

The debate goes on about a possible link to obesity and diabetes and other health and safety issues. Each side can trot out a multitude of studies and experts to support its view. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

The American Medical Association says that high fructose corn syrup is no more unhealthy than cane sugar if it is eaten in moderation. Personally, I don’t choose to believe that, and many nutritional studies have concluded that high fructose corn syrup is worse than cane sugar… but isn’t it obvious that when anything is in so many foods, it ISN’T being eaten in moderation? Any person who routinely eats processed foods is ingesting huge quantities of high fructose corn syrup over time, often without realizing it. And even if high fructose corn syrup is no more unhealthy than sugar… would anyone choose to eat an equal amount of sugar?

Is there really any good reason for putting a sweetener… even if it doubles as a “texture enhancer”… in foods that do not need to be sweetened? I don’t think so… unless, of course, you are an industry pushing a high-profit product.

When you make the foods your family eats “from scratch”… even the occasional sweets… you control what goes into that food and you know for sure what your family is eating. That isn’t true with processed foods… and high fructose corn syrup is just another good reason to avoid them.

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Annie P.

Hubs and I decided to stop buying so much process food. I never looked at labels before but I do now and I am shocked at what we have been eating. Your right, corn syrup is in almost every thing. Its’ hard to avoid but were trying very hard. Thanks for another great article.

Doug S.

I saw those TV ads you are talking about but they didn’t change my mind either. I’m a pretty dedicated label reader and when I started noticing so much HFCS on the labels I did some research to see what it was. Natural — NOT! Give me sugar any day.


I was disturbed by seeing a full page ad by this group in Parenting magazine. We don’t watch TV, so I didn’t even realize they’ve been advertising there too. Calling HFCS ‘natural’ is about as ridiculous as calling aspartame a ‘natural’ sweetener (hey, aspartame is made from amino acids found in proteins…). I prefer that my food not come from a chemical processing plant!


I try to make everything from scratch so that I know what we are eating, plus most of the time it is cheaper.


I have always had problems with my stomach and FINALLY after seeing a specialist and getting tested I found out that I am Fructose Intollerant. I cannot have ANYTHING that has HFCS in it. My 1st 2weeks I was trying to read labels and realizing that pretty much everything in our house I could not eat. HFCS a ‘natural’ sweetner, whatever! They told me it was because of that stuff that I can’t digest any kind of sugar…not even fruit and some vegies.


When I pointed the ads out to my husband, it became clear that he was unaware of any concerns about HFCS! As with anything, there can be differing points of view, but he didn’t even know that some people are concerned about it. I was shocked!


Your comment “…. if high fructose corn syrup is no more unhealthy than sugar… would anyone choose to eat an equal amount of sugar?” is what really resonates with me. I don’t know enough about the rest of the chemical makeup or processes to be able to respond intelligently, but I would not put that much sugar in anything. And so often it is one of the main ingredients, if not *the* main ingredient – blek.

I’ve been noting the Cargill ads on NPR, too – amazing how they believe they can market *anything* to us and we’ll just accept it. Unfortunately, it’s often true.

Dionne Obeso

I just discovered your website, and am enjoying the blog very much. This post in particular caught my eye because when the ads started airing when I was away at a conference, and had access to a TV (we don’t watch at home). The ads made me physically sick to my stomach because of the misinformation that they are spreading.

When I stopped eating high fructose corn syrup, without any other changes to by diet, I dropped 20 pounds of excess weight and felt better than ever. I still buy some processed foods, like pasta sauces, but I always read the label and make choices based on what has the most natural ingredient list without HFCS in it. Nothing good can come from having that much chemical sweetener in my body.


The most convincing argument I’ve heard for avoiding HFCS is that it is not processed by the body in the same way that regular sugar is. The body cannot process it – which means that the Serotonin/Tryptophan magic that brings you happy juice is skipped and the sugar is converted directly into fat. So not only does it make fat without the opportunity of processing, but it deprives the body of important brain chemicals.


“high fructose corn syrup is no more unhealthy than cane sugar if it is eaten in moderation.” I’m more inclined to think that the AMA isn’t wrong with this statement – most of us are far too addicted to sugary foods to be sufficiently concerned about the dangers of sugar in the diet – whether it’s from cane or any other source. While there is a chemical difference between the fructose and sucrose content of various sweeteners, the real problem is that people are eating sweetened foods WAY too often.

Fred S.

I agree with you Shirley about high fructose corn syrup. I think it is something to avoid for several reasons. One of them is the “gmo factor” — I want to be able to make my own choice about eating gmo food and I don’t like having it hidden in the food through ingredients like hfcs. Another reason is the “allergy factor” — as far as I know sugar is not a significant allergen, but corn is one of the “big 8” and now thanks to hfcs it is being added to many many foods the same way soybean and wheat are.


Does anyone remember a “butter” commercial from the 70’s – “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature!” Well, I tend to think of it more and more often with all of the new things they want to sell us. I’m currently reading a book on food allergies and it says our government doesn’t make companies prove it is safe for consumption and only reacts when it’s proven, after time. to harm us. I think I’ll stick to Grandma’s old recipes with REAL food ingredients.


I stay completely away from processed foods now, and for the main reason that a lot of the ingredients are corn derived products. Last year I was diagnosed with a food born allergy. When I had an allergy test done, I found out that I am allergic to corn. Now when I go grocery shopping, I spend a lot of time reading labels looking for the obvious and not so obvious corn products, like dextrose and maltodextrin.