High-Fructose Corn Syrup and Sweetened Beverages

Fitness Handout

Topping the ingredient list of many processed foods and sweetened beverages, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) has garnered much attention for contributing to America’s obesity problem. Over the past several years, researchers have pointed to a parallel rise in HFCS consumption and obesity rates in the United States. Some people even avoid HFCS because they think it’s “evil.”

But are these worries really justified, or are they all hype? Jennie McCary, MS, RD, LD, wellness manager for the Albuquerque Public School District and IDEA contributing editor, reviews what the latest science says about HFCS.

What Is HFCS?

HFCS is a caloric sweetener derived from corn syrup. It differs from the sucrose found in table sugar or honey, because it is created in a chemical process that converts some of the glucose found in corn syrup into fructose. Approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), HFCS is widely used by food manufacturers because of its stability, texture, color, consistency, cheap cost and ability to enhance flavor.

Despite what its name implies, HFCS actually contains no more fructose than common table sugar. Like table sugar and honey, HFCS is roughly half fructose and half glucose and provides the same amount of calories (4 per gram). However, because HFCS is derived from corn syrup via a chemical process, the way that fructose and glucose exist in the sweetener differs from the way these compounds are naturally present in sugar and honey. This difference—and the way the body may react to this difference—is what led to concerns that HFCS doesn’t satisfy hunger urges and can lead to more fat storage.

Blood Lipids, Appetite & Satiety

When it comes to how the body metabolizes sweeteners, there is little difference among HFCS, table sugar and honey, as they all contain similar proportions of fructose and glucose. Actually, HFCS, sugar and honey all have the same effect on appetite ratings and hormonal responses (Melanson et al. 2008; Melanson et al. 2007; Akhavan & Anderson 2007).

The bottom line: All caloric sweeteners produce the same kinds of responses when it comes to appetite and satiety.


Akhavan, T., & Anderson, G.H. 2007. Effects of glucose-to-fructose ratios in solutions on subjective satiety, food intake, and satiety hormones in young men. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 86, 1354-63.

Melanson, K.J., et al. 2007. Effects of high-fructose corn syrup and sucrose consumption on circulating glucose, insulin, leptin, and ghrelin and on appetite in normal-weight women. Nutrition, 23 (2), 103-12.

Melanson, K.J., et al. 2008. High-fructose corn syrup, energy intake, and appetite regulation. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 88 (Suppl.), 1738S– 44S.

Popkin, B.M., et al. 2006. A new proposed guidance system for beverage consumption in the United States. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 83, 529-42.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDHHS & USDA). 2005. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2005 (6th ed.). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines; retrieved Feb. 14, 2009.

IDEA Fitness Journal , Volume 7, Issue 7

© 2010 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.


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  • Jennifer Roberts

    Dear Sandy, Thank you so much for your reply to my feedback. I quite honestly didn't expect a response, so I was delighted to recieve your email. I am encouraged to hear that IDEA takes accurracy in what is printed in its publications seriously and that you are open to honest discourse on subjects. As such, I will be more than happy to provide an extensive list of my sources inclusive of bios and educational background for each source as well as where the inaccuraccy occurred in the articles I refered to. Per my latest blog on my FitnessConnect webpage (http://blog.ideafit.com/blogs/jennifer-roberts-2) we are currently in the proccess of relocating to a new state and I therefore have not had the time to work on collecting my source information as we have been busy packing (and pretty much all of my books and papers on nutrition have already been packed away). I expect, however, that I will be able to acquire access to that info here and there over the next week or so and be able to send you my source list within two weeks, perhaps sooner. With regard to the erroneous articles I mentioned, I only have a copy of the one from the February 2011 issue ( "Ask the RD: Do low-calorie sweeteners cause weight gain? ") because as I mentioned previously, after that point I stopped sending the newsletter to my clients and and therefore do not have copies of the articles nor do I see on the IDEA website where I can access the newsletters -- past or present. If you would be so kind, therefore, to send me copies of the newsletters or at least the nutrition articles in them from March through July, I will again, be more than happy to point out the errors in each. As for the errors in the February article on low-calorie sweeteners, please refer to my February 2, 2011 blog on my FitnessConnect webpage where I clarified for my clients the truth about low-calorie sweeteners and their use. I firmly believe "iron sharpens iron" and look forward to hearing back from you and continuing our discussion on the matter and how IDEA might bring the nutrition information disseminated through it's various outlets to the the same level of excellence as other information it puts out. Thanks again for YOUR commitment to your members and all you do to inspire the world to fitness. To your good health, Jenny Roberts Adjunct Professor, Rose State College Department of Health and Sport Sciences STOTT PILATES® Certified Instructor POSE® Method Running Instructor Certified Personal Trainer Master Swimming Instructor Certified Group Exercise Instructor
    Commented Jul 08, 2011
  • Stacia Irwin

    I have been telling my clients for years the hfc are something to be avoided and I stand by the information I have about it. It is addictive and it is widely used without regard for the toll it is taking on everyones health. I like the idea of the newsletter but would like the choice about what you are sending to my cients, BEFORE they receive it and I then have to dispute the information you give. How can I edit what is in my newsletter so my clients are not receiving pieces from you that directly conflict with what I am trying to teach them?
    Commented Jul 03, 2011
  • Sandy Todd Webster

    Dear Barbara, Jennifer and Jennifer, Thank you so much for your thoughtful feedback regarding the nutrition articles you’ve seen in the IDEA Fitness Connect Client Newsletter. I am very concerned to hear that you believe the information contains errors of fact. At IDEA, accuracy in reporting is top priority for us. We take it very seriously. Nutrition has many gray areas and people have very strong opinions about certain nutrition topics. Clearly, our report on this specific topic did not align with your philosophy or your sources about it. I would appreciate knowing where we went wrong. Everything we report is fact-based from primary sources (directly from primary research and not from secondary or tertiary sources, websites, blogs or opinion pieces). We consult only primary research sources and report directly from abstracts, studies or from the experts themselves. What we report may not always be popular, but it’s based on facts. Please know that this HFCS information came directly from a qualified nutrition professional (an MS, RD, LD) who used primary sources. The take home message was to consume HFCS in moderation or not at all (along with any other “natural” added sugars in what you eat or drink) since it almost exclusively appears in processed foods. We believe that is a very responsible approach. We welcome disagreement and discussion. It makes us all more well informed. Meanwhile, I encourage you to continue reviewing the Client Newsletter and to send it to your clients when you feel the information aligns with your philosophies and will help them. We all share that as a common goal. Thank you again for taking the time to share your thoughts. I hope we can continue our discussion and benefit mutually from what we learn.
    Commented Jun 28, 2011
  • Jennifer Roberts

    I agree with both comments above. This is fourth time this newsletter has contained erroneous nutritional information. As such I have stopped sending this email to clients and leads. I have also sent a more detailed feedback email to fitnessconnect regarding this matter. Although I love the idea of the newsletter and think it could be a great tool for us fitness pros, I will continue to refrain sending the monthly newsletter to clients and leads until IDEA can start getting their nutrition information from sources who actually know what they are talking about. To do otherwise would, in my opinion, simply be an unconscionable act as a trusted fitness professional.
    Commented Jun 28, 2011
  • Jennifer Magnuson

    Kudo to Barbara Valenza. I totally agree. Maybe this article should have represented both sides. I wont be sending it to my clients.
    Commented Jun 05, 2011
  • Barbara Valenza

    Regarding the article High-Fructose Corn Syrup and Sweetened Beverages - HFCS doesn't look so bad when you just look at one aspect of the controversy surround it. Take a step or two back, clear the rosey fog out of your eyes and look at the whole problem, not just how the body processes it. HFCS is chemically processed. It also relies on genetically engineered corn grown on vast industrial farms in soil that is void of life and dowsed with chemical fertilizers and pesticides. The only industries benefiting from this product are the chemical companies (Monsanto) and the junk food companies that use it to boost their bottom line at the expense of our nations health, especially our children. By focusing the subject of this handout on only 1 small aspect of the problem, you have not inspired our clients to think about themselves as part of a whole.
    Commented Jul 13, 2010