High fructose corn syrup – don’t be afraid, it’s just sugar

One of the most frustrating things I’ve observed in nearly six years of writing (here and in other locations), is that those who want to create a negative myth about a new technology (especially in food or medicine), one of the best ways to do it is mention “chemicals.” And if the chemical sounds unnatural, the assumption is that it is unsafe. The so-called Food Babe has made a lot of money endorsing a belief that all chemicals are evil, ignoring the fact that all life, the air, and water are made of chemicals. And so it is with high fructose corn syrup.

People have demonized monosodium glutamate (MSG), a food additive that makes people run away in terror if a Chinese restaurant doesn’t have a huge flashing sign in neon that says “NO MSG.” Of course, in just about every randomized study about MSG, researchers find no difference in the effects of MSG and non-MSG foods on a random population.

Another current satanic chemical is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which has evolved into one of the the most “chemicals” of the food industry. Even the name sounds a bit chemical, unnatural, dangerous. But is it?

That’s where we need to look at the science, because the answers to the questions are quite complicated and quite simple.

Let’s define what is a “sugar”

This could be heavy science. But it helps understand what sugars are and do, instead of myths.

Before we can even start talking about HFCS, we need to really talk about sugars. So, what exactly is a sugar? For most people, it’s the white stuff on the table, and according to everything we hear today, it should be avoided. However, like most things, sugar is much more complicated than that.

There are two broad types of sugars, aldose and ketose, along with over twenty individual, naturally-found sugars, called monosaccharides. Of all of those sugars, only four play any significant role in human nutrition: glucose, fructose, galactose, and ribose (which has a very minor nutritional role, though a major one as the backbone of DNA and RNA). Got that? Four sugars are all we can absorb into the human body.

There are other monosaccharides found in nature that can be consumed, but they either just feed the gut flora, or are enzymatically converted into one of the four basic sugars by the gut flora.

But here it gets a bit more complicated. Many monosaccharide sugars form disaccharides which are sugars made of two covalently bound monosaccharides.

Table sugar, the white stuff we put in our coffee, is called sucrose–a disaccharide made of one molecule of glucose bound to one molecule of fructose. Sucrose is also the main sugar in most other commercially purchased sugars that you find including brown sugar, molasses, beet sugar, and maple sugar.

Milk sugar is lactose, which is glucose and galactose; maltose is two glucose molecules; and there are a few dozen less common ones. Each has a slightly different taste, and some rare ones provide unique tastes to certain fruits and vegetables. But when these disaccharides enter the intestinal tract, they are quickly disassociated by water or acids plus enzymes into simple monosaccharides.

So when you put sucrose in coffee, and consume it, it will be broken down into two sugars that actually can be used by the body–glucose and fructose.

But we need to provide you with even more science (it’s not bad, I promise). We need  to make this slightly more complicated.

Starches are also sugars. They are just long chains, or polymers, of individuals sugars, almost always glucose. Cellulose, which is a major component of paper, wood, natural plant fibers, and many other items, are glucose polymers. So are insect shells.

Generally, these long chain polysaccharides cannot be broken down by humans, though our intestinal flora can use them for food. In addition, bulk fiber, an important part of your diet for intestinal motility, is generally long chains of saccharides.

high fructose corn syrup

Remember, humans can only absorb monosaccharides like glucose, fructose, galactose and ribose. In other words, all of those disaccharides and polysaccharides must be broken down into the constituent monosaccharide before it has any usefulness for a human.

The gut has a variety of different enzymes that break down these starches and disaccharides–so sucrose cannot be absorbed, but it is broken down by sucrase into glucose and fructose, then absorbed. By the way, any disaccharide or polysaccharide that isn’t broken down remain in the gut, providing food for our gut bacteria, thereby maintaining a “healthy” digestive system. No I’m not advocating colon cleansing.

There is one more crucial point to note about these sugars, which will be important as we move along with this story. Fructose is 1.73 times more sweet than sucrose despite having the same exact caloric content. So technically, you could use about 58% less fructose than sucrose to get the same sweetness. You’re probably seeing where this is going, but stay tuned.


More heavy science about sugars

All individual sugars are the same across the planet. Glucose, fructose, galactose or ribose, whether produced by a plant, an animal, a bacteria, or a manufacturing plant in Iowa, are exactly the same molecule. Fructose is fructose is fructose, no matter the source.

I want to make this clear. There is simply no difference between the fructose and glucose in HFCS, and the fructose and glucose in sucrose, the disaccharide derived from cane sugar. The chemical formulas are exactly the same. It’s the exact same carbons, the exact same hydrogens, and the exact same oxygens. No difference.

I cannot repeat this enough, so I will. The components of sucrose from a sugar beet or sugar cane is chemically and scientifically identical to HFCS. Neither is more or less “natural” than the other.

This is one of the major misconceptions of the pseudoscience of the natural food world, that somehow a sugar from a living organism is magically different from a sugar from a manufacturing plant.

No organism’s physiology could distinguish between the fructose and glucose in HFCS from the fructose and glucose in cane sugar .All  organisms, including humans, biologically metabolizes each fructose and glucose in relatively the same way. We should not endow HFCS with some special properties that it simply does not have.


What is high fructose corn syrup?

HFCS consists of 24% water, and the rest fructose and glucose–the water just makes the fructose and glucose into a syrup. That’s it, nothing more than fructose, glucose and water, no different than all of the other fructose, glucose and water molecules made into a syrup.

More science below, you can skip unless you’re just like me, obsessed with information:

There are two main types of HFCS, HFCS 55 (used mostly in soft drinks) which is approximately 55% fructose and 42% glucose; and HFCS 42 (used in other types of beverages and processed foods), which is approximately 42% fructose and 53% glucose. There is another type, HFCS-90, approximately 90% fructose and 10% glucose, which is used in small quantities for specialty applications (interestingly, low calorie drinks, because, for the same sweetness about 33% less calories are added), but it is primarily blended with HFCS 42 to make HFCS 55.

Well before the advent of HFCS, in the 1950’s, candy and soft drink manufacturers utilized “invert sugar” by exposing sucrose to a weak acid solution, then recrystallizing which dissociated the covalent bond between the glucose and fructose, and exposing the fructose molecule, which, of course, is so sweet, that it made the overall effect to be much more sweet with the same amount of sugar. This allowed the manufacturers of the candy and sodas to get more sweetness with less sugar, saving a lot of money. So, “high fructose” has been around since the 1950’s–candy manufacturers exploited the greater sweetness of fructose even before HFCS was available.


So, why was HFCS developed?

First, high fructose corn syrup is much cheaper than sucrose (table sugar), but it’s more sweet because it has a lower glucose to fructose ratio than sucrose (and as we mentioned, fructose is very sweet). Second, it retained moisture better than sucrose (twice as many molecules). Third, it was available in a liquid form and didn’t caramelize as readily as sucrose (this last one could be an advantage or a disadvantage, depending on the use).

But here’s the most important point: HFCS allowed soda manufacturers to use less sugar — and thus fewer calories — in their products without reducing its sweetness. Using sucrose, sugar from cane or beets, would require 20% more sugar (along with 20% more sugar calories) than using HFCS.


But aren’t natural sugars better?

So how does HFCS compare to natural sugar products that we believe are better for you? Remember, the fructose and glucose in HFCS are exactly the same as the fructose and glucose in all other sugars.

So, unless you buy into that naturalistic fallacy, which claims that natural is better somehow, most naturally sweet products are very similar to HFCS in fructose content:

  • Honey: about 17% water, with almost all the remainder being sugars. The main sugars are fructose 38%, glucose 31%, maltose 7%, sucrose 1.3%, other sugars 1.5%. In other words, honey could be considered a “high fructose” type of sweetener.
  • Maple syrup:  about 60% sugar, with that sugar being 95% sucrose, 4% glucose and 1% fructose.
  • Apples: over 10% sugar, 57% fructose, 23% glucose and 20% sucrose. Very high fructose.
  • Peaches: 8.4% sugar, 57% sucrose, 23% glucose and 18% fructose.
  • Pears: 9.8% sugar, 64% fructose, 28% glucose and 8% sucrose.
  • Grapes: 15% sugar, with the sugars being 53% fructose and 47% glucose.

In other words, some of these “natural” foods have as high or even higher levels of fructose than HFCS. And since we’ve established that fructose is fructose, no matter the source, consuming these foods will provide you more fructose than an equivalent amount of HFCS.


But is fructose bad for you?

Now the answer gets much more complicated, and frankly, we’ve got to go to some more esoteric science. Remember, because the food manufacturers are using less HFCS to get the same sweetness as sucrose, the amount of fructose consumed between a drink that contains just sucrose and one that contains just HFCS (and has the same sweetness level) is almost the same.

In other words, you’re getting the same amount of taste (because of the fructose), but consuming fewer calories, and the same amount of fructose as you would from sucrose. So your worries shouldn’t be about the fructose.

Moreover, strong scientific meta-reviews of clinical research have established that there is little evidence of links between increased fructose intake and any deleterious health effects:

  • Health implications of fructose consumption: A review of recent data–”A moderate dose (≤ 50g/day) of added fructose has no deleterious effect on fasting and postprandial triglycerides, glucose control and insulin resistance. There is no existing evidence for a relation between moderate fructose consumption and hypertension. Fructose may induce hyperuricaemia, but mainly in patients with gout.” In other words, eating moderate amounts of fructose have no ill-effects. The issue remains that if you eat too much fructose (and any other sugar), there are deleterious metabolic effects, and that should be the major issue.
  • Evidence-based review on the effect of normal dietary consumption of fructose on development of hyperlipidemia and obesity in healthy, normal weight individuals–” The results of the analysis indicate that fructose does not cause biologically relevant changes in TG (triglycerides) or body weight when consumed at levels approaching 95th percentile estimates of intake.
  • Metabolic effects of fructose and the worldwide increase in obesity–”There is, however, no unequivocal evidence that fructose intake at moderate doses is directly related with adverse metabolic effects. There has also been much concern that consumption of free fructose, as provided in high fructose corn syrup, may cause more adverse effects than consumption of fructose consumed with sucrose. There is, however, no direct evidence for more serious metabolic consequences of high fructose corn syrup versus sucrose consumption.”

So, let’s review. Fructose is just a monosaccharide that is metabolized by the body. It is sweeter than other mono- and disaccharides, so less is needed, a lot less. HFCS is just a natural corn syrup with a higher fructose to glucose ratio to make it taste sweeter, so less is needed for the same sweetness.

Most naturally sweet products also have high fructose contents, hence their high sweet tastes. And from scientific reviews, there is no evidence that fructose has any effect on obesity or metabolic disease beyond what is expected from the consumption of any other sugar.


Does HFCS cause diabetes?

The reasons that have lead scientists to speculate about the link between HFCS and diabetes is a result of how galactose, fructose and glucose are treated differently by human metabolism. Glucose passes through the liver unchanged, and can be used by all cells for energy. The level of glucose is controlled by insulin, which causes it to be stored if the blood levels get high, and glucagon, another hormone which causes the release of glucose from storage. This control system is highly complicated, and in non-diabetics, is a finely tuned system.

Fructose and galactose don’t signal insulin, but are captured by the liver, eventually processed into a couple of different biochemicals, one of which is glucose. So, because fructose is treated in a different manner by the body, speculation has been that fructose might be implicated in T2DM. How the body controls blood sugar levels, and how fructose and galactose are involved in that control, is incredibly complex and would take at least a year of graduate level classwork to even begin to understand the physiology.

Except, there are some problems with this speculation about fructose and T2DM. For example, fructose has a very low glycemic index of 19 ± 2, compared with 100 for glucose and 68 ± 5 for sucrose. Because fructose is 1.73X sweeter than sucrose, diabetics can consume significantly less fructose (than other forms of sugars) for an equivalent level of sweetness. Studies show that fructose consumed before a meal may even lessen the glycemic response of the meal. In other words, specifically because of the sweetness and lower insulin reactivity, fructose may actually be preferred for those who are attempting a low glycemic index diet.

There are a few very poorly done studies (one that relied strictly on a simple questionnaire) which seem to claim that high fructose in the diet may lead to more hunger (possibly because it doesn’t trigger the feedback loops for hunger that glucose does). These studies barely meet the minimum standards of quality in scientific research. But these studies completely ignore the fact that rarely is fructose is consume alone, but usually with glucose, which will trigger the hunger-fullness feedback loops.

However, I admit to vastly oversimplifying how these sugars interact in the complex blood sugar regulation system. There is just not any convincing and plausible evidence that shows fructose, as opposed to all other monosaccharides, has some specific and unique effect on human metabolism.


Fructose and Type 2 diabetes

A lot of the current “mania” about HFCS and type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) results from a recent article in an open source journal, Global Public Health (impact factor of 0.92), by Goran et al. The authors tried to establish a correlation between availability of HFCS foods and the incidence of Type 2 diabetes.

This type of study is at the population level, which may seem like it would give you great numbers; unfortunately, the problem is that it allowed so many confounding factors to be included (dietary patterns, quality and quantity of food, smoking, drinking, anything), while it ignored all sorts of other data that might provided us with a clear indication of causality. In other words, it is simply not a way to establish correlation, let alone causation.

Specifically, the problems with this study were:

  1. They assume that availability of HFCS foods is the major cause of obesity. It simply isn’t. It is possible that consumption of amounts of HFCS means high consumption of various others foods that might cause obesity. It could also be the availability of fast food or bacon.
  2. Obesity itself is not the single causal factor in T2DM, it is one of number of causes of the disease.
  3. Even though the researchers attempted to control for other factors, there are just too many factors that may skew the results at a country level. The best type of epidemiological study would a prospective study, which would allow for controlling of different factors along with getting more detailed data about each patient. A prospective study takes time, is expensive, but gives some of the best results upon which to confirm or refute a hypothesis about HFCS being causal to T2DM.
  4. The authors of this study took the easiest and simplest route to write a paper: they obtained country-level data for T2DM, Gross domestic product, HFCS production in foodstuffs, and calories consumed. This type of work takes a few days, and would require you just to leave the computer for sustenance. I could look up the sales of Xbox and Playstations in each country and compare it to T2DM, get it published in a bad journal, and make a name for myself that video gaming is correlated to Type 2 diabetes. And even if I could show some correlation between video gaming and diabetes, it wouldn’t be worth anything, though I’d make a big name for myself.

In a review article examining the health implications of HFCS, the author, James Rippe, MD, states that “most of the studies being cited to support the proposed linkages between fructose consumption and obesity and other metabolic conditions employ epidemiologic data that establishes associations rather than cause and effect.”

The study by Goran et al. above is a perfect example of the type of study dismissed by Dr. Rippe, who concludes that:

While the fructose hypothesis is an interesting one, it poses the danger of distracting us from further exploration and amelioration of the known causes of obesity and related metabolic conditions. It is important to remember that many of the metabolic abnormalities currently being postulated as attributable to fructose consumption may also be ascribed to obesity itself.

The epidemiologic evidence being cited to support metabolic abnormalities related to fructose consumption leaves many questions unanswered. There are compelling data to support excessive caloric consumption as the major dietary driver of obesity. The fructose hypothesis is based largely on epidemiologic data that do not establish cause and effect. All too often, we have been led astray by confusing associations with cause and effect. With the fructose argument, we are in danger of repeating mistakes frequently made in the past by basing judgments on insufficient evidence.

High quality meta reviews of the research about the correlation between HFCS and T2DM and other metabolic conditions have consistently shown that the data does not show any causality between fructose and metabolic disease.

We could cherry pick a few poorly designed epidemiological studies or force-feeding rats to induce diabetes studies, but neither of those types of studies provide us with solid or even intriguing evidence that HFCS has some responsibility for T2DM.

However, until we have two pieces of information–one, a high powered prospective epidemiological study, and two, a definitive explanation of how fructose could disrupt the metabolism leading to T2DM, we completely lack any reliable evidence to think that HFCS itself causes T2DM rather than simply any sugar. Because the hypothesis that is well understood, and well supported by evidence, is the one that says any sugar can lead to obesity, thus leading to a higher risk of T2DM.

If I were raising children, and frankly, I have, I would keep them from HFCS. And sucrose. And honey. And fruit juices. And cotton candy. And chocolate bars. And fatty foods. And potato chips. There is absolutely no reasonable and plausible evidence that HFCS is any more problematic than over-eating any food, playing too much video games, or whatever else is today’s cause of type 2 diabetes.

Therefore, you shouldn’t be eating sugars and sticking with whole grain foods to prevent type 2 diabetes. Oh wait, there’s no evidence that whole grain foods do anything.

One last thing. What’s with this blaming everything for excess weight? HFCS isn’t at fault, but it seems like everyone wants to blame HFCS rather than their own choices in type of food. What does it matter that your Coke or Pepsi has HFCS or “real” sucrose. Drinking too many of either over a lifetime will probably have the same exact negative effect on your health. Get real folks.


Sugar and the environment

There is a “movement” to push real (read cane) sugar back into many of our foods. So called real sugar sodas that use cane sugar instead of HFCS are popular, and more expensive.

The problem with cane sugar is that it’s bad for the environment. Producing cane sugar results in deforestation, pollution, wildlife habitat destruction, and industrial waste. Large portions of the Florida Everglades, the largest tropical wetland in the USA, have been drained for sugar cane plantations. The fertilizers used on vegetables, along with high concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus that are the byproduct of decayed soil necessary for sugarcane production, were pumped into WCAs south of the EAA. The introduction of large amounts of these chemicals provided opportunities for exotic plants to take hold in the Everglades.

One can argue that corn farming has some of the same issues, but HFCS is a tiny portion of corn farming. Getting table sugar is almost the only reason to grow cane sugar.

Nevertheless, if we switched more to HFCS and other sugar sources, this can reduce the push for more cane sugar fields, which will have a major impact the health of the planet, especially in tropical areas.


Conclusions, the TL;DR version

It’s clear that there are individuals want to “prove” that high fructose corn syrup is unsafe and causes all sorts of problems to humans. But HFCS is a sugar syrup, close to honey in ratio of fructose to glucose. Just because it has this scary chemical name, high fructose corn syrup, people must think that it’s made up of some evil fructose chemical. But all fructose molecules are exactly the same, whether it’s in honey, a fruit, maple syrup, cane sugar, or HFCS.

In case you skipped all that boring science above, here’s the basic information.

  1. High fructose corn syrup is just two simple sugars connected together in water.
  2. All of its components are the same carbons, hydrogens, and oxygen atoms that are found everywhere in nature.
  3. The fructose and glucose components of HFCS are exactly the same as all other fructose and glucose in nature.
  4. Despite poorly designed research studies, there is no substantive evidence that HFCS causes excessive weight gain.
  5. HFCS probably has no effect on metabolic diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes, no more than any other sugar or foods.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in June 2014. It has been extensively revised and updated to include more comprehensive information, to improve readability and to add current research.


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The Original Skeptical Raptor
Chief Executive Officer at SkepticalRaptor
Lifetime lover of science, especially biomedical research. Spent years in academics, business development, research, and traveling the world shilling for Big Pharma. I love sports, mostly college basketball and football, hockey, and baseball. I enjoy great food and intelligent conversation. And a delicious morning coffee!

149 Replies to “High fructose corn syrup – don’t be afraid, it’s just sugar”

  1. This article is pure GARBAGE, total misinformation likely written by someone on the payroll of a corn syrup refinery. TROLL article!!!

      1. Wow, you must be rolling in it. You have been accused of being in the pocket of big Ag, Big pharma, and now big Sugar… Can you give me a ride in your Bentley GT? Or we could just hangout on your yacht.

        1. I can’t keep track of all the checks that keep rolling in. Hold on, I see an armored truck backing up to my house. Maybe it’s the new shipment of gold bars.

          I don’t like boats, so no yacht. My Bentley is being washed and shined by my butler, so sure, we can go for a ride.

  2. “Would a Rose by Any Other Name Not Smell as Sweet?”
    Changing the name of something doesn’t change what it is.
    SUGAR comes from Sugar Cane.. not corn.

    JUNK like this article is why the government is trying to regulate the internet. So much misinformation, out right lies, and TROLLING by the author.

    1. Sugar is just a glucose-fructose disaccharide. Period. Different kinds of sugars have different ratios and there are other kinds of sugars, like galactose and mannose. But all the main kinds of sugar we eat, as noted in the article, are just that disaccharide.

      And sugars are found in a bunch of stuff, including all plants, as sugars are the energy storage mechanism for photosynthesis.

        1. I didn’t have to look anything up. My degree in molecular biology already had me learn everything about sugars. Heck, we had to memorize all of their atomic structures as well.

            1. Now you’re claiming i’m Skeptical Raptor? Based on what exactly? My “Joined May 24, 2013” on my Discus account or my 5000+ comments?

            2. You are far to polite to be Skeptical Raptor,, Draven is clueless.

            3. LOL, and everyone knows about your never ending patience and politeness….

            4. Heh, i’m often called the polite one, since I always try to not descend into using insults or anything like that, even with trolls. The most i’ll go to is pointed language about their tactics, but that’s largely it.

              I just don’t see an insult argument to be very productive, personally. There are much better uses of my time. 😛

            5. You ARE the anonymous one. Wouldn’t that mean I would have to be? 😛

          1. I did too. I still hate some of those professors.

            My Biochemistry final was a simple test:

            Given NH3, CO2, SO2, and H2O, create life using known metabolic pathways in plants, bacteria and animals.

            We had 10 hours to completely answer the question. They brought in pizza, coke (the drinkable kind), candy bars, and whatever we wanted.

            1. I assume this was for a Master’s or Ph.D. type of class? Because, god, imagining that as an undergraduate final is terrifying.

            2. No, it was undergraduate. And I need an A to get into Medical School and Grad school.

              Ironically, there were two professors who taught the class. One ended up getting a Nobel Prize in something, the other is chairman of the department.

              So, when I took Biochemistry in grad school, it was easy. 🙂

            3. Geez, your biochem class was hardcore. Not that mine was easy, mind you, but it definitely wasn’t as difficult as that. No, for ours, we just had to have all of the names and chemical structures of everything learned in the class memorized and all the pathways.

              I suppose it technically was the same as yours, in that you had to have them all memorized in order to answer the question correctly, but yours sounded like a much more interesting hands on approach.

              Ours was just the usual regurgitation type of final.

        2. Erm, Ok. So if you are saying that “table sugar is a glucose-fructose disaccharide” is a lie straight from the pits of hell, what is the chemical structure of sugar, then?

            1. Not really, I mostly just wanted to say “a lie straight from the pits of hell.”

            1. I wish I could say I was at least a little surprised about your complete lack of intellectual honesty.

            2. I wish I could say that I had 1/2 ounce of respect or interest in what you say. But I can’t.
              Have a nice night.

        3. LOL Draven how did you end up over here in the land of trolls and endless sockpuppets once again? LOL
          Come back to land of the normal, where humans have only one name and personality and have real jobs and degrees. LOL.

          1. LOL I have no idea how I end up on these little blogs. My background draws me to observe the skullduggery that occurs on them I guess.. I’m just glad I have you and Steve to pull me out. LOL.

            1. Apparently I’m late to the party. Looks like the corporate science club had another meeting ha ha. How do you even find these obscure sites? I actually tried to read some of this. I do believe Doc would have flunked this one! Anyway, time to leave the party and let them get back to talking to themselves.

            2. You know, mostly I don’t give a crap about personal attacks and ad hominem fallacies and sarcasm and whatever.

              This isn’t a little blog dude. It’s like one of the top blogs in the world for skepticism on certain topics. Sorry to destroy your little world.

              But go ahead, and whine away. We have fun with it.

            3. If you really believe what you just typed there, then you should seek professional counseling.
              Firstly, no one’s world is “destroyed” because you got your feelings hurt by the truth and decided to lash out childishly.
              Secondly, no one with any credentials hides behind a silly pseudo and barks like a spoiled child at commenters.
              I understand you think you are doing “Big Things”, but it truly is just another blog on the internet trying to get attention by being “OHHH Controversial”
              I bid you good day.

    2. What you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

  3. Why is the corn industry spending millions on misinformation campaigns to convince consumers and health care professionals of the safety of their product? Could it be that the food industry comprises 17 percent of our economy? You my friend are full of lies, I wonder who is paying you off, I should have known when you said MSG is safe. There is so many lies in this article I would be writing all night. Some people already made some points of how Stupid you are. It looks like a lot of people are smarter and have done their own research on this poison, also I’m not defending sugar which is also bad , but let’s say sugar is Charles Manson , and high fructose corn syrup is Hitler or Obama.

  4. There’s one line in this article that pretty much sums it up in my opinion:

    “All of its components are the same carbons, hydrogens, and oxygen atoms that are found everywhere in nature.”

    Now I know that’s not the core basis of your argument, but the fact that you have to throw it out there at all pretty much makes me question everything else you say, and possibly who paid you to say it. Consider these two of your claims:

    a) HFCS is chemically no different than sugars found naturally in fruits etc.
    b) HFCS is atomically no different than everything else in nature.

    Consider a randomly chosen molecule also made up exclusively of H,O,C, and N (the big one you forgot):


    A similarly-sized molecule (27 atoms to fructose’s 24), and since it’s made up of the same atoms as everything else in nature it’s perfectly safe, right? Or maybe it’s called “Very Fast Death Factor”.

    When your summary clearly gives equal importance to both of these
    claims, the fact that one of them is outright insane makes the other one pretty much worthless too.

    1. Let’s go through your points 1 by 1, then you’ll feel as foolish as you should:

      1. You missed the point. HFCS is just sucrose and fructose, and they are the same sucrose and fructose molecules that are found in nature. And to argue that they are different, which have included from some that the C,H, and O are somehow different in HFCS. You must have flunked sarcasm and irony, as most pseudoscientists do.

      2. What a maroon. N isn’t in fucking sugars. I love people who think they’ve made a point, when the only point they made is that their education is lacking.

      3. The rest of your comments…well, they make no sense.

      I’m going to smoke some weed to cure cancer. Or something.

  5. No. HFCS is NOT just like beet or cane sugar (sucrose) and YES the body can distinguish. Sucrose’ balance of fructose and glucose allows the simple sugars to be digested easily. HFCS imbalance messes up the digestion as fructose alone is not digested, and must “piggy back” with glucose. The two are correctly balanced in nature. (balanced in sucrose). In addition to messing with the digestive tract, the high fructose compound is indeed “sweeter” and therefore “addictive”. The additional sugars in the diet of course contribute to the risk for diabetes and for obesity. The HFCS-90 is faster poison!

    1. Citations needed.

      Fructose needs to “piggyback” with glucose? No. When sucrose is consumed, an enzyme breaks it down to glucose and fructose. They are absorbed independently. You can drink a liter solution of fructose or a liter solution of glucose, and they are absorbed equivalently.

      You see, you invent science where there is none to invent a scare. But you probably believe that GMOs are dangerous and sasquatch lives secretly in the redwood forests.

      1. Lovely response, sort of internet typical and off target.
        Sucrose (ordinary table sugar – though you really don’t want it on your table) is of course broken down in the gut to Glucose and Fructose. The transport out of the small intestine is not the same, however. Glucose has an active transport which involves sodium, Fructose transport is passive and totally depends on the GLUT-5 mRNA to carry it out the intestinal wall. GLUT-5 production is dependent on the presence of Glucose. BTW, many things can go wrong with that transfer, which can lead to more problems in the gut including fermentation of “left over sugar”. Once Glucose and Fructose do get through and into the blood stream, the metabolism is dramatically different. Glucose can be used by every cell in our bodies, but Fructose must be metabolized in the liver. MANY problems can come from too much fructose for the liver to handle.
        Here is a citation for a summary re. dependence of GLUT-5 on glucose:

          1. Every time someone trounces your ideology with actual scientific evidence, you act like a complete tool. You said Kim was making up science and proceeded to equate her with conspiracies. Then Kim shot you down with a real study, did that hit you right in the feels? Funny how you think there is an audience somewhere applauding you for running this $hit $how. Remove the “Skeptical” from your name, it is undeserving.

            1. There you would be wrong. I expect scientific evidence, not cherry picking bullshit with fake intellectualism. It bores the fucking shit out of me.

              Only in your delusional, ignorant, uneducated brain is there any evidence that my “ideology” or really REAL FUCKING SCIENCE, got trounced.

              You’re just a troll who wouldn’t know science if it gave you a reach around. You must be an embarrassment to your parents. Seriously, you should just go back to hanging out with the ignoramuses in the tea bagger party. LOL.

              I do amuse myself. Trolls are so intellectually bereft of anything useful, it’s kind of fun pushing their buttons.

            2. In case you’re incapable of reading anything with more than a few mutlisyllable words. You’re a fucking Republican. Deal with it science denier. Just deal with it.

              I loathe conservative whiners like you.

            3. Mutlisyllable is not a word. Did you just call me 3 different things? No wonder your pseudoscience and propaganda hold zero weight.

  6. Is it not the method of production of a product and extraction process of these sugars that also can have different effects on the person consuming them. Corn syrup in itself is not necessarily said to be evil. The deciding factor is if it was derived from organic or genetically modified corn. The same is true for table sugar, whether it is derived from sugar cane or GMO sugar beets. The processing of these substances also must be in question as there different methods of manufacturing, some of which are questionable. Even if you view all foods as chemicals, each one is not necessarily equivalent to each other in today’s world of bigger, faster, cheaper.

    Are these not relevant to the discussion. If not, then why are so many of our acceptable additives illegal in most Europian nations?

    1. Glucose is glucose is glucose, no matter if it’s manufactured in corn from here or there or the planet Nanoo Nanoo.

      And those additives are NOT illegal in European nations. But thank you for sharing your ignorance. Aren’t you embarrassed?

      1. I love 2 things about your reply. First, you equate the sugar in a bottle of coke to the sugar in a fresh squeezed glass of orange juice. I didn’t know people who apparently think the way mainstream big food and chemical firms want them to can consider themselves “skeptics”.
        Second, you have the nerve to say “those” additives aren’t illegal in Europe after I didn’t mention a single specific additive.
        Sir, I’m not ignorant. People like you depend upon the ignorance of the general public to sway them into your premeditated logic, or should I say the lack thereof. The way you just responded to my comment here suggests you’re simply somebody’s shill, rather than a free-thinking skeptic. Good day….

    1. Intriguing. But no where does anyone I know claim that uncontrolled consumption of any type of sugar is good. Fructose is in plain white sugar, fruits, and lots of other places. I think there’s a confusing that some how “high fructose” implies some huge amount. The percentages are just 2-5% higher in HFCS than in sucrose. And much lower than in apple or pear juice.

      I’m not worried.

      And I’m very skeptical of their heart muscle claims. The hypertension is the concern not the fructose. Eh.

  7. Thank you so called “skeptical” shill. Hey I was told not to believe everything I read on the internet, this website is a great example.

  8. That the chemical difference claim between regular sugars and the ones found in HFCS is stupid may be undeniable, but this article is very misleading and biased. First of all, in all trials done on fructose, it has been shown that it increases triglycerides and LDL cholesterol. Regular sugars have the same effect on cholesterol. All sugars and high sugar/fat meals have led to the metabolic disorders that affect so many people today, but some really are a bit more than others. Plus, even if HFCS was just as bad as sugar, and please do not claim it is better again, why make an article to undemonize it? There’s already so many things like GMOs that need this. You also mentioned whole grain foods, and that they aren’t so good as once though in preventing diabetes, or that “they don’t do anything”. Are you suggesting that low glycemic index foods aren’t good at that? Or that fiber does not change the way we digest foods? On that though, there is a very big difference between the way we metabolize fruit fructose and fructose with water, not to mention that they actually have nutritional value. It’s ridiculous to even make such a comparison or to make an article that might in any way mislead people into thinking that there is any reason whatsoever to ever add that shit to food. Also, while overeating in general is very bad, it’s a whole lot better if the glycemic load is lower when doing so, and it’s even better if you’re triglycerides don’t increase by 10% just from one meal. Just sayin’

      1. The point you are missing doesn’t need a citation, it’s common sense. So much of the American diet has corn syrup added to it, and for what reason? The average American is so fat it can’t be a good idea.

        1. No, see every claim needs a citation. It was common sense that sacrifices led to a better harvest. Then, someone said, “hey, that sounds dumb. Why don’t we test it?”

  9. HFCS itself may be just sugar, but sugar itself is bad. Of course, our bodies need sugar but we have far more than we need in a regular diet without having to add more in the form of table sugar, HFCS or whatever. Having an easy supply of a sugar which is easily processed and added to just about any food simply increases our society’s addiction to sugar. What we need is less sugar, of any kind, regardless of whether or not a specific type of sugar is more or less dangerous than other types.

    1. Citations needed. And by citations, I mean spend 15 minutes reading one of my articles on the hierarchy of medical evidence. So, whatever you are going to share by way of evidence, it better be near the top of that hierarchy.

      1. Ok fine, I’ll bite. I make several claims and being that I actually have a job, I’m not going to track down medical evidence for all of them. Let me know which ones you dispute and I’ll see what I can do:
        1) Added sugar of any form needs to be drastically reduced in the typical adult diet
        2) HFCS is easily processed (industrially), making it easy for companies to add to any food item
        3) Naturally occurring sugar (such as in fruits) may be chemically identical to HFCS but is absorbed differently by your body

      2. For christ sake, why do you use dunny paper to wipe your arse? Did you get a citation for that before you realised your hand smelt bad?

  10. I think, perhaps, it is the little things which are important. Just as you could throw one of us in a blender, then run us through a GC to identify our components, Simply putting those components in a blender wouldn’t make one of us.
    Food, although we like to reduce it to simply ‘chemicals’ is not actually that simple. We’ve evolved to eat food made of living things, or recently living things, and have developed our physiology to deal with that. When we short-cut the process and deliver food made simply from the constituent elements, we miss a hard to measure but vital part of the story. Much as calcium enriched low fat milk merely makes for chalky poo, lab produced food stuffs miss out on some of the essential interactions and conjunctions expected by our guts.
    Hubris is easy, our understanding of food is NOT complete.

    1. Where on earth do you get this mystical description of food. At it’s essence, all food is just a few chemicals–amino acids, nucleic acids, 4 simple sugars, a few metallic ions, water, and small micronutrients. If you believe that our intestinal tract has some mystical ability to distinguish a nucleic acid derived from a plant, animal or beaker, then I want some real solid scientific evidence published in some of the top journals in the world. Because one biochemical is just like another, and if we can “manufacture” it in a beaker, your body cannot tell the difference.

      Our understanding of food is pretty robust. But you seem to endow food with a god-like property that does not exist.

      1. you show your ignorance.
        Say, Glucose. simple stuff, eh. Turns out our gut is crap at absorbing it. The gut expects Sucrose, and has specialised receptors (you know, those complex strings of proteins that sit in the cell wall and are really very very fucking specific) for sucrose. On binding, the sucrose is efficiently split into two glucose molecules and shunted into the bloodstream. Glucose itself doesn’t bond.
        God like powers? No. morphology, pharmacokinetics…
        Calcium? similar story. required vitamin D IN THE GUT to be easily absorbed. Those pesky complex protein folded forms again, the product of millions of years of evolution.
        Mythical? ha. basic physiology.
        You want ‘real, solid scientific… blah’. i say go: get a first year uni textbook.

      2. Real food is full of enzymes that form part of the nutrition uptake, unprocessed food is more balanced. Take raw cane sugar, the black molasses stuff, full of B vitamins that you need to break down the sugar. If you ‘clean it up’ and make it all white and shiney it isn’t the same thing, it becomes unbalanced. Take sea salt, not the same as sodium chloride, the former is full of other minerals that are useful and balancing. The table salt is poisonous.

        However much you spin it, food scientists are not on the case. Take bread, if you ferment it for 2 days and then bake it, people with gluten allergy can eat it because the yeast predigests the gluten. If you do it in 6 hours with all sorts of props, like vacuums, ‘flour improvers’ and nasty chemicals then bake it, you are eating raw not predigested gluten.

        Science here, by not understanding why fermentation is so important have created the current mess of so much gluten intolerance and the same goes for most processed foods too.

      3. “At it’s essence, all food is just a few chemicals–amino acids, nucleic
        acids, 4 simple sugars, a few metallic ions, water, and small
        micronutrients.” Food scientist

        “I want some real solid scientific evidence published in some of the top
        journals in the world. Because one biochemical is just like another, and
        if we can “manufacture” it in a beaker, your body cannot tell the
        difference.” LOL

        “Our understanding of food is pretty robust. But you seem to endow food with a god-like property that does not exist.” Lab believer

        Now I have stopped laughing at your level of education and understanding of what food is, I am going to try and help you. Digestion is nothing more than ‘controlled rotting’, breaking down and cleaving. The enzymes we secrete are pretty good at doing this, I have no idea why you have brought god into this.

        The body has evolved to break down what nature provides, most natural foods if they are unprocessed, are perfect compliments to provide cellular nutrition. Take potatoes, if all you eat is the inside you get nutritional disorders, the skin and what is just below it is where the vitamins and minerals are.

        If we ‘preserve’ food, we are effectively killing it, or at least dumping down it’s ability to provide as much nutrition. Look at honey that has not been boiled to make it runny, under a microscope, all that microscopic activity is as much a part of the nutritional process as the ‘chemicals’ that you talk about. Look at a solution of sugar, it is totally lifeless.

        If all you are looking at is the sugar then that is all you will see. ‘Dead’ food and I mean at the cellular level, is not conducive to up-building, it might sustain but it will not provide nutrition for repair and propagation.

        It takes about 4 generations of an atrophic diet to start seeing the breakdown in the breeding stock. First to go is usually fertility, then the chronic diseases start taking over,earlier and earlier. We have that happening in the human population, we have been subjected to shit food now since about the 50’s in modern times. Historically we have not been too good at eating well, lots of history of us eating nothing but meat and beer and look what happened to life expectancy.

        In plague times the diet was awful, look what happened. No sexy vaccines to get rid of it, just a fire and changes in town planning. Even windows were designed differently to stop fire spread up the face of the building.

        Food is more than its empirical chemicals, it is a living entity and the more food scientists get involved the sicker we will become because they can’t distinguish between what constitutes a healthy meal and cannon fodder.

        Yes we need safe ways of preserving food to transport it but this comes at a cost to the nutritional value. US cows that are fed on corn produce e coli 157 in their intestines within days of eating it. Put them out on grass and withing 5 days it is gone. Food scientists have decided that it is ok to spray all American meat with ammonia and keep feeding the cows on corn!

        Stupid or just overeducated?

        One day maybe McDonalds will be prosecuted for calling itself a food chain under trades descriptions but your kind of foodies and the toxic bread that is made in food labs has more to do with human misery than anything you have found.

        How many years did you study all those subjects? You got a lot of catching up to do sonny.

    2. What is missing in manufactured food is the enzymes that are in living food. If you consume dead food it ain’t good for life. Here is something you can do at home, get a pack of McDonald’s fries and leave them on a window cill. Make some jacket chips yourself from real potatoes and leave them on the window cill. See which ones mould up first.

    1. There are four basic sugars, the only ones that can be absorbed–glucose, fructose, galactose and ribose. Just as an example, if you don’t consume ribose, the backbone of DNA and RNA is gone. And you’d have some major health problems. The other three sugars have just as much importance in “life.” But you’re right, glucose is basic and critical to life.

    2. Well on its own it is you jerk. If we eat unrefined sugar like black strap molasses it is not so bad but the refined white stuff will strip B vitamins and more. You look like you could lose a few pounds, try stop the pies

  11. Honey’s fructose and glucose percentages are based on the total (including water) for the honey. HFCS fructose and glucose percentages are based on the solids. When you add in the 24% water for HFCS, you get G32% and F42% compared to honey’s G31% and F38% i.e. HFCS is even closer to honey than the figures present appear to indicate.

    And out of the mammals, primates developed colour vision – the most popular hypothesis is that this enhanced the ability to determine ripening fruits in the forest canopy… with a signficant source of nutrition being the fructose in those fruits. And fructose is the sweetest of the natural sugars – a way of saying our brains tag the sensation delivered from our tastebuds as “sweet”/”nice” i.e. nicer than less sweet sugars. An indicator that we have a natural and perhaps evolutionary predisposition for fructose. It thus follows we are likely to be metabolically well adapted to this natural predisposition.

  12. A couple of HFCS studies seem to show some evidence that in excess it may cause higher fat buildup in the liver. But notice all the “may’s” in there, and the excess part (which means you are eating to much freaking sugar of any type). There does seem to be some connection, such as this “..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…”. http://www.princeton.edu/main/news/archive/S26/91/22K07/
    From what I have read, it seems like if your daily calorie intake is not excessive, HFCS is not an issue, but may be an issue if you are a soft drink guzzler. I still have not made up my mind on this.

  13. More non-science red flags in this article too. The real problem with HFCS has been Mercury. When non-pharmaceutical grade NaOH is used to make corn syrup, there is mercury contamination because this sodium hydroxide is made using the mercury cell process that looses 60+ tons of mercury per year. That mercury ends up in soda pop – and anywhere else cheap, HFCS is used – think almost all processed foods. Unfortunately destroying the safety of an otherwise good sweetener – although there may be other problems with eating tons of fructose – mercury should not be one of them.

    1. Really? Please provide a peer-reviewed article published in a high impact journal. Because, here’s the thing. You’re one huge Red Flag of Pseudoscience, since there is no part of the process of converting corn into sugar that requires mercury. Corn has no mercury, except what might be in the environment or soil, but at that point, we’d be worried about corn.

      You pseudoscientific types. You forget the basics of scientific knowledge-plausibility.

      1. Skeptical Raptor: joejohnson seems to be confusing the environmental release of mercury when creating sodium hydroxide through the Castner-Kellner process, as occurred in Ontario Minamata disease, with the sodium hydroxide created through that process itself being contaminated with mercury. Because of that he thinks that HFCS created using sodium hydroxide would also be prone to contamination.

        1. You seem to be confusing evidence with something that is published in a peer reviewed scientific journal, easily done if all you do is spend all day on the internet typing crap.

          1. I’m very curious as to what you would consider genuine evidence then if you assume that the person (or team) that put hundreds of hours into collecting data in the field and labs is in fact wrong. Further, that multiple people and multiple teams (since no one just reads one paper and says that its the answer) that have gotten it wrong. So I’m genuinely intrigued.

            You seem very set on discrediting everything and I actually think thats great, being sceptical is important to learning anything new. But unless you can back up your claims with your own research – and even better publish the data as open data access (i.e. not even in a biased peer review with funding issues, free access!! damn the man!!) – you just come across as an asshole.

            1. Hi bunny, nothing wrong with collecting data, that’s commendable. The problem is how it is ‘processed into a paper’ because it is ‘reviewed’ by a few people who have vested interest. I have research friends who have come up against this time and time again.
              You look like a wigger but I am not holding you against it.

      2. but all the high impact journals like the Lancet, BMJ and NEJM are telling us that at least half of what is published is nonsense due to funding bias and poor review. How is that going to help?

    1. That’s a prime cherry you picked there. Some things to consider:

      The study is poorly controlled. Why wasn’t there a group of rats given access to 24h sucrose solution, or fructose, or similar monosaccharide solution? The conclusion that HFCS “prompts considerably more weight gain” seems unwarranted. More weight gain than what?

      That question is even less clear because they didn’t test against any other kinds of monosaccharide solutions. Why not test against honey, or even pure fructose? HFCS isn’t some supernatural solution, as this blog demonstrated here. If HFCS “prompts considerably more weight gain”, it would have to be due to the effects of fructose or glucose, or the ratio that they’re present in HFCS, or maybe even because it’s derived from corn. You would never be able to figure that out unless you exposed the rats to those specific sugars, or different kinds of solutions of different ratios, which they didn’t bother doing. Sounds like someone has an axe to grind to me.

      And one of their tests (8 weeks with male rats) showed the 12h HFCS group gained more weight than the 24h HFCS group, which is an odd result for something that “prompts considerably more weight gain”.

      The lead researcher, while answering his critics, pretty much admits that this wasn’t a study to show that HFCS is more dangerous compared to other sugars: http://grist.org/article/interview-with-princeton-hfcs-researcher-dr-bart-hoebel/

      “The vision of the paper was to study the effects of HFCS on body weight and obesity, not just to pit it against sucrose.”

      All this study basically shows is that a group of rats who were given access to sugar water for 12 or 24 hours gained more weight than those without the sugar water, to which the only reply is, “duh”.

    2. Cherry picking a press release? You really need to learn how to critically review scientific articles. And even though science isn’t a vote, it’s about evidence, you’d lose on the amount of science.

    1. I’m not sure I have much in the way of knowledge in this matter. I actually, as opposed to the dingleberries who run amok in the pseudoscience world, I try to stick with what I know, so I don’t have to spend a months studying. Before I wrote my first article about GMO’s, I was reading so much my brain leaked out. 🙂

      That being said. I’ll take a look. I know my insurance company keeps watching over it.

  14. “First, corn syrup is much cheaper than sucrose (table sugar)…” Only because of protectionist tariffs on South American cane sugar.

      1. Well there’s an important epidemiological connection: because sucrose is usually cheaper than HFCS in most places outside the US, relatively little HFCS is used in those places. Therefore trends in obesity and metabolic disease that are similar both in the US and elsewhere are unlikely to be related to HFCS. Much of the HFCS-blaming assumes that it’s in widespread worldwide use.

        1. No. The same level of obesity would occur whatever type of cheap sugar is available. To show causality you need to provide plausibility. What plausible physiological pathway would lead to higher obesity from HFCS than plain old table sugar? There isn’t one.

          1. Let me try again: Since HFCS isn’t commonly used outside the US (due to pricing considerations), it can be automatically ruled out as a contributor to any US obesity trends that can also be seen elsewhere.

            Agree there’s no known physiological mechanism that could cause it to be more of a contributor than sucrose to any obesity trend.

  15. I haven’t had so much fun with sugars since I battled them in organic chemistry back in 1959. And I lost 20 pounds when I stopped eating large amounts of junk, especially flour products. (That’s all the good stuff. But no pain, no gain.) Thanks for this simply enlightening post.

        1. Your brain runs on glucose. But yes, you get all the glucose you need from the breaking down of everything else. I don’t add sugar to anything either, but eating rice sure raises the blood sugar level. When I used to race, I had a smoothie consisting of a banana, powdered milk, and some wheat germ for texture. The meal would digest relatively quickly and burn nicely over the course of the race. Now I would use peanut butter, or sardines, on a rice cake, to keep me going over a day of teaching. The difference in digestion times lets you access your glucose over a long slow burn. Your liver pretty much controls the whole thing.

          1. Right, but, according to the post,

            “There are two broad types of sugars, aldose and ketose, along with over twenty individual, naturally-found sugars, called monosaccharides. Of all of those sugars, only four play any significant role in human nutrition: glucose, fructose, galactose, and ribose (which has a very minor nutritional role, though a major one as the backbone of DNA and RNA). Got that? Four sugars. Other monosaccharides can be consumed, but they either just feed the gut flora, or are converted into the four basic sugars.

            But here it gets a bit more complicated. Many monosaccharide sugars form disaccharides that are compounds made of two covalently bound monosaccharides. Table sugar, the white stuff in our sugar bowls, is sucrose which is a disaccharide made of one molecule of glucose bound to one molecule of fructose. Sucrose is also the main sugar in most other commercially purchased sugars that you find including brown sugar, molasses, beet sugar, and maple sugar (and syrup). Milk sugar is lactose, which is glucose and galactose, maltose is two glucose molecules, and there are a few dozen less common ones. Each has a slightly different taste, and some rare ones provide unique tastes to certain fruits and vegetables. But when these disaccharides enter the intestinal tract, they are quickly disassociated by water or acids plus enzymes into simple monosaccharides.”

            So, how are you and the Raptor able to avoid sugar?

            1. I don’t think we are trying to avoid sugar as an important component of our energy cycle. It is just a question of not having table sugar, brown sugar, honey, or syrup around the house. I do make exceptions occasionally for ice cream and cookies, in very judicious amounts. But as I am cooking for a diabetic family member, I am used to thinking about AMOUNTS of sugar, as well as things like rice and noodles, which rapidly turn into glucose. We use strawberries much more often than bananas. I make apple pie from scratch, no sugar required. Having to measure your blood sugar is remarkably good for evaluation and control.

              In addition, I look at the backs of packages. It is quite unbelievable what has sugar (any kind) added. And that includes “dehydrated cane juice”. Corn flakes! Peanut butter! Barbecue sauce! Salad dressing!

              Orange juice contains a lot of natural sugar. We cut it with an even measure of water, add an ounce or so of lemon juice to the half-gallon, and sweeten slightly with an artificial sweetener. One is not tempted to drink quarts of this, but it is wet and goes well with meals.

              I can’t speak for the Raptor, whom I admire, but I am pretty sure he doesn’t have sugar on the table either.

            2. I make no attempt to avoid all sugars. I just calculate them carefully and try not to exceed some daily amount. It’s fairly easy. I use Splenda in my 20 cups of coffee. I drink diet soda. I only use a splash of cream in my coffee. I eat a lot of fruit, but an apple doesn’t have a lot of sugar, maybe 15 grams. It’s drinking apple juice that concentrates the sugars from 50 apples that’s problematic.

              Occasionally, I have a giant stack of pancakes with maple syrup. But I can’t resist. 🙂

  16. Sure honey and fruit can be just as bad. But it is argued that in the case of fruit, the fibre involved partially offsets the fructose.

    The argument of people like Lustig is that fructose-metabolism in the liver produces chemicals that interfere with the satiety response. So if you eat sugar or fructose, as opposed to glucose, you just keep on eating. Fibre from fruit normally puts a break on this. Developing a sweet tooth is certainly an addiction, which makes you predisposed to prefer foods containing sucrose.
    I can’t buy a curry without it containing 15 to 20 gms. of sugar. Curry is healthy, but the sugar is totally unnecessary in a meat product, and tends to addict me to the sugar rush.
    There is certainly a world-wide obesity problem. I understand that Mexico is the worst country affected, and there the consumption of sugar-containing soda from the USA is very high. Lustig claims that the sugar-content of Coca Cola has risen over the last 20 years.

    The problem is not that the HFCS is a nasty chemical name, but that it is widely used and hidden in products that ordinary people would not expect to contain sugar.
    Lustig’s model seems to fit the data.
    I gave up processed foods, cut down on fruit, and eat mainly green vegetables. I lost my marginal diabetes, 4.5 stone in weight, find exercise much easier so I do it more, and my early-stage background diabetic retinopathy has almost completely regressed. It all fits Lustig’s model.

    1. I’m not big on anecdotal stories about health matters on this blog. I’ll let this pass, because you’re making some valid points about sugar content. But weight loss is nothing more than creating a deficit between calories consumed and calories used. Whatever floats anyone’s boat on how they may do that is fine. But no diet has ever been shown to work scientifically or consistently.

      1. Re the calorie deficit view, that’s true but it’s useless. It’s like telling someone with leg edema, “Fixing edema is nothing more than creating a deficit between fluid consumed and fluid excreted.” Sure, but the real question is *how* can that be accomplished? The problem is not simple fluid or calorie overconsumption–something within the body has changed to upset the normal homeostasis.

        There are complex neurobiologic processes at play. It is practically impossible to limit calories long-term when you are fighting the calorie set-point determined in the hypothalamus. Likewise, you can only hold your breath so long before you give in and start breathing again.

        The other point I will add is that lack of evidence for x is not the same as evidence against x. You seem to be very close to conflating these. Some of your quotations are taken out of context (e.g., the “no unequivocal evidence” one). Otherwise I enjoyed your article.

        1. By the way, of course I oversimplified dieting. But the end calculation, no matter how you work it, must include a deficit for weight loss and a surplus for weight gain. There are no magical remedies that can overcome simple physiology. Yes some foods take more calories to consume, but it’s never more than a handful. And yes, you can drink ice water, and burn a few extra calories as your body attempts to warm it to ambient body temperature.

          But those are just a few joules here and there.

    2. Actually regarding the specific assertion that HFCS is just the same as any other sugar, there was recent research that showed that this wasn’t exactly the case (not to mention many studies showing the detrimental role of sugar as a whole)


      “This is the most robust study showing there is a difference between high-fructose corn syrup and table sugar at human-relevant doses,” says biology professor Wayne Potts, senior author of a new study scheduled for publication in the March 2015 issue of The Journal of Nutrition.

      The study found no differences in survival, reproduction or territoriality of male mice on the high-fructose and sucrose diets. The researchers say that may be because both sugars are equally toxic to male mice.

      Female mice on the fructose-glucose diet had death rates 1.87 times higher than females on the sucrose diet. They also produced 26.4 percent fewer offspring.

      Not exactly “food babe”

      1. First of all, if you know anything about what I write, I completely and utterly reject press releases. They are at the bottom of the hierarchy of evidence, barely above quack websites like Natural News or Joe Mercola. The actual article is here:


        So, let’s critically analyze the study:

        1. It’s mice. There’s an old joke, that I keep telling, that we’ve cured “cancer” 10,000 times in mice. Sadly, only a tiny percentage of those “cures” have any applicability to humans.

        2. Less than 1% of studies that are broadly promoted ever have long-term clinical value. Yes, 1%.


        3. This study used excessive amounts of sucrose and HFCS in the caloric content of the mice. I disagree with the bombastic “sugar is toxic” meme, but setting that aside, maybe 25% of diet being sugars IS toxic.

        4. What possible physiological mechanism makes a slightly, and it is very slight, difference in fructose content that much more different.

        5. The University of Utah is responsible for promoting cold fusion. Enough said. (Yes, I know that’s a strawman argument, and the University of Utah has Nobel Prize winning biochemists in the biology department, so it’s a really bad strawman argument.)

        I am not convinced. Not even slightly. Provide me with a well-controlled n=100,000 case controlled epidemiological study, and then let’s talk.

        1. Seems like the standard protocol is to attack the science….which you’ve just done despite the source not being just another “food babe” but god forbid, those loonies at the University of Utah promoting cold fusion. Somehow that’s germaine??? Regardless, you know as well as I do that long term clinical tests on humans are very expensive and impractical to do as well as that cohort studies just determine patterns, though cohort studies are typically followed by experiments on animals to test those patterns. You also know that studies proving the supposed safety of many substances were also conducted on mice and or rats (often for much shorter durations). So conversely if you’re going to use an argument against research on such animals stating that such research doesn’t prove that they aren’t safe, you also have to accept that the research also doesn’t prove that they are safe either. So per this modus operandi, you’re just left with anecdotes and correlations whichever side of the aisle you stand on….and the correlations really don’t work in your favor regarding sugar, in general, considering massive increases in sugar consumption correlate with higher rates of cancer, CVD, diabetes and other modern diseases. Correlation doesn’t prove causation, but it also doesn’t disprove correlation either.

    1. But people will make up stuff, so I don’t expect that I’ve changed the conversation about HFCS and sugar. Agave syrup actually has a higher fructose to glucose ratio, it would be Ultra High Fructose Corn Syrup. And the “natural” food Nazis clam that agave syrup can be consumed by diabetics. Yes, on the planet where diabetes means sprained knee.

      1. I have sometimes used agave syrup on cooked cereal in the winter. I don’t have to use very much, as the fructose is sweeter than sucrose. But every food, natural or no, is going to affect blood sugar in some way, provided it can be broken down in the body. I don’t recommend keeping agave syrup in the house.

        We used to get corn syrup during WWII, when sugar was scarce. It was called Karo Syrup. You can still buy it. I don’t think it was high fructose in those days, though.

        The natural food Nazis (love that!) really admire honey. To me, it smells like insects (ugh!).

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