High Fructose Corn Syrup

I hope everyone had a great Halloween! The best costume I saw was from Where the Wild Things Are: Max and a Monster. It was homemade and looked just like the characters in the book!

By request, I am writing about high fructose corn syrup today (as everyone is munching on their Halloween treats…). This may be a refresher for you, but it never hurts to remind ourselves why we want to consume foods with HFCS in moderation. Check out the Discussions tab on my Facebook page for a running list of common foods containing HFCS (some may surprise you!) and feel free to examine the food in your cabinets and add to the list. We can all help each other become more aware!

HFCS is used as a sweetener and preservative in many foods. It is cheaper than sugar and extends shelf life of foods, so why wouldn’t people use it? HFCS is sugar derived from corn. HFCS usually has between 42% and 55% fructose, although some contains up to 90% fructose. The rest is made up of glucose. It is important to understand what these two types of sugars do inside of our bodies.

When glucose enters the body, insulin levels are increased, which allows the glucose to be transported to cells where ATP (energy) is needed. Glucose can also be stored in the liver as a carbohydrate, which later is converted to energy. In addition, production of the hormone leptin increases, which helps regulate appetite and food storage.

Fructose, on the other hand, does not stimulate leptin production inside the body, and can lead to overeating. It is rapidly metabolized in the liver, where it chemically changes into a component of triglycerides and also adds to fat storage there. Increased triglyceride levels are associated with obesity, diabetes, gout, hypertension and other diseases. Fructose can also lead to magnesium imbalances, which affects bone density. Fructose from HFCS also changes into body fat more quickly than any type of sugar.

Fructose is not only found in HFCS. It is in healthy, whole foods too such as many fruits and vegetables. However in fruits and veggies, fructose is not modified at all. Plus, fruits and veggies also have fiber, pyhtochemicals (chemical compounds that occur naturally in plants), minerals and vitamins, all things that help with proper digestion.

The problem with HFCS is that it is used in so many products that people sometimes don’t even know they are consuming it in large quantities. Many “kid” foods are full of HFCS, which is one reason we have such a problem with child obesity. It is the overconsumption of HFCS that leads to these diseases. Also, foods made with HFCS tend to be the foods that are lacking in other nutrients. Again, it goes back to the importance of a diet rich in whole, unprocessed foods.

Later this week I will show you how to make your own ketchup, free of HFCS. It is much tastier and really easy to make. Many kids are picky eaters and like ketchup with everything they eat. If we give them homemade, natural ketchup, they are not only protected from the long-term dangers of HFCS, but are also getting other nutrients that will help with their digestion, growth and overall health!


  1. Ann, great post. It is good to know that we can easily avoid foods with HFCS by just reading the nutrition info on the side of the product we are eating or using in a recipe.

  2. I can't wait for the Ketchup recipe! (I'm a little obsessed with condiments)

  3. Ann,
    Do you know of a website that will detail the ingredients that particular restaurants use in their recipes? It would be nice to look up the nutritional information of dishes at one's frequently visited eateries...

  4. Hi Edward,

    If you go to www.foodfacts.info, you can find a list of fast food items containing high fructose corn syrup. I haven't seen a site that lists all restaurants, however you can always ask nutritional information at a restaurant. In general, you can assume that chain restaurants will use more processed syrups, dressings, and condiments. When dining out, I would suggest places that use fresh, organic and local ingredients whenever possible. Some good places in the Denver area include Duo, Olivea, Gaia Bistro and Z Cuisine. You should take your wife!


  5. Corn free ketchup, can't wait! Its more of a staple at the dinner table down here than salt is, looking forward to your post. Also, really love the physiological explanantion you offer for things :)