Please welcome guest blogger Mary Langfield. Mary is a board certified holistic health coach in the Twin Cities who graciously wrote an article for my blog on high fructose corn syrup. It’s something I’ve wanted to learn more about, and share with readers, for some time now. I’m grateful to Mary for stepping up to educate us about the topic. Thank you, Mary!


Several years ago, when I was looking to heal my depression, lose weight, and increase my energy, I decided to look more carefully at the ingredients in my food. During that exploration I found High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) and wondered what all the fuss was about it.

What is HFCS?
HFCS is a sugar substitute made from heavily processed corn. [i] . During one of the chemical processes, enzymes and bacteria are added, breaking the corn down until it becomes a sweet syrup. The syrup can be used for sweetening soda, baked goods, cereals, meats, frozen meals, candy and candy bars. Food manufacturers include the sweetener in many products you would not necessarily think need to be sweetened. For example, you can find HFCS in low-fat dressings, condiments, pizza crusts, cough syrups, yogurt, relish, “skinny” ice cream bars, pickles, protein bars, orange juice, beef jerky, and lunch meat. [ii]

The low cost of HFCS makes it appealing to profit-minded food manufacturers. This low cost can be attributed to a surplus of corn in the market, largely supported by farm subsidies from the U.S. Government. The price of corn is kept artificially low by these subsidies, which makes processed food manufacturers very happy. These food companies can sweeten up their processed foods at a low price and advertise it as a great value. Food companies even inject their “healthy” products with HFCS. Check the label on processed foods marketed as “Low-Fat,” “Heart Healthy,” or “Low Calorie”; inevitably, you will find HFCS in these products.

What are the problems with HFCS?
Unfortunately, food companies generally do not tell you about the potential harmful health effects of HFCS. For many of us who battle the scale, HFCS is a big problem. Studies suggest a link between HFCS consumption and increased weight gain and cardiovascular disease. Dr. Peter Havel [iii] , an endocrinologist, found that when people consumed HFCS-sweetened beverages with food it inhibited the production of insulin and leptin – hormones that help regulate food intake and body weight. Another study found that lab rats fed small doses of HFCS became obese across the board, in comparison with lab rats fed a high-fat diet that do not universally become obese. [iv] Another study found that some HFCS contains mercury. [v]

Disruption to your body’s engineering causes incremental damage that make it more likely that weight gain and disease will take hold in the long term. Think about fueling your car with diluted gasoline instead of pure unleaded gasoline and then expecting your car to run at top form. The car will quickly deteriorate and be made susceptible to break-downs and poor performance. Similarly, our bodies are working machines that need to be fed properly to be kept at peak performance. All machines deteriorate, but a machine deteriorates faster without proper fueling. When we eat or drink HFCS it disrupts the body’s engineering, leading to more frequent break-downs.

Sweet Obsession
Many of us crave sweet things, including HFCS products. Sugar and artificial sweeteners like HFCS can be addictive. In another lab rat study, the rats, given a choice, generally preferred sugar over cocaine. [vi] You can probably guess that the more of something addictive you consume, the greater your dependence on it becomes. The addiction keeps on getting stronger. So, the more foods we eat that contain HFCS or refined sugar, the more likely we are to reach for seconds or thirds. Logically, consumption of sugar and HFCS leads us to eat larger portions than we need, encouraging weight gain.

It may seem that I am demonizing HFCS without giving other refined sugars their fair share of criticism. Don’t get me wrong, consuming too much of any sweetener will be damaging to our health and fuel the addiction. My concern is that many products containing HFCS don’t always jump out at us as being “sweetened.” It’s easier to identify and avoid items one traditionally thinks of as sweet, like cookies, ice cream, or cake. The problem with HFCS, as I noted earlier, is that it is embedded in a lot of products you would not typically think of as sweetened. In fact, many of these products we are led to think of as healthy based on how they are advertised to us. HFCS is contained in much of the modern diet and much processed food. Also, as alluded to in the research, the chemical process of extracting HFCS is cause for alarm.

What to do?
Eating more whole foods is the best thing you can do for your health. Abstaining from the consumption of HFCS and other refined sugars is not simple, but it can be done. We are hard-wired to eat sweet things. Readily available, processed foods make it easy for us to eat sweetened foods in abundance. No doubt, HFCS makes eating very convenient. However, by taking the steps to reduce your intake of HFCS and refined sugars, you will increase your health and vitality. You will also find that your taste buds will come back, as you start to eat whole foods with natural and diverse flavors.

If you are curious about how to combat sugar cravings and eat more whole foods, consider talking with a Holistic Health Coach such as myself. You will be amazed when you start craving veggies in your diet. Check out my upcoming classes such as: “Sweet Nothings,” “Chocolate Bliss,” “Food, Politics and You,” “Fats – The Good and The Bad,” and “Deconstructing Cravings.” Visit my website or contact me for more information on the classes or for a consultation to help reduce or eliminate sugar cravings.

Mary is a Board Certified Holistic Health Coach who specializes in Health Transformation. Mary is your personal advocate for living an energized and passionate life. She works with clients to help them create happy, healthy lives in a way that is flexible, fun and free of denial and discipline. By working together, we can discover the food and lifestyle choices that best support you. You can connect with her on the web, facebook and twitter.

Additional Resources:

  • “Good Calories, Bad Calories” – Gary Taubes
  • “Food Politics” – Marion Nestle
  • You can also check out the HFCS web site to see their side of the story. Or do your own research on google.
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19 Responses to “All About High Fructose Corn Syrup”

  1. Rachel says:

    Not to mention that ALL HFCS is made from genetically-modified corn and scientist have virtually no clue what the long-term ramifications of consuming GMO foods will be. A great natural sweetener for foods is Stevia! It is WONDERFUL!

  2. Kate says:

    I've been subbing honey and maple syrup for sugar in my recipes, and have avoided HFCS for many years now. It's amazing to me how many items have it!

  3. Cornrefiner says:

    There has been significant confusion about just how much high fructose corn syrup is contained in everyday foods. It is true that this highly versatile ingredient performs numerous functions besides sweetening that make it useful in many food preparations. But it does so in most cases using very small amounts. How small? Well, taking bran cereal as an example, Americans would need to eat 87 bowls in a single day to reach the recommended daily allowance of added sugars from high fructose corn syrup. See more on this here: http://bit.ly/beac8w

    It is also a popular misconception that high fructose corn syrup is more ‘processed’ than sugar, fruit juice concentrate, or agave nectar production. In fact, they all go through remarkably similar production methods that aim to refine the raw botanical material into a robust and versatile sweetener that can be formulated into a wide range of foods and beverages.

    High fructose corn syrup is not a protected commodity; rather, it is subject to all of the highs and lows of marketplace supply and demand. In recent years, the price of corn has been relatively higher than in past years due to a variety of factors including increasing demand, speculation in the commodity markets, volatile energy prices, ethanol demand and other factors.

    Even former critics of high fructose corn syrup dispel long-held myths and distance themselves from earlier speculation about the sweetener’s link to obesity. It is important to point out that one of these former critics is Peter J. Havel, D.V.M., Ph.D., who is mentioned in this post. He stated, "I don't think it is likely that things would be very different if people consumed increased amounts of either sucrose or high fructose corn syrup." "Overconsumption of either sweetener, along with dietary fat and decreased physical activity, could contribute to weight gain." http://nyti.ms/bNGLDI

    You also mention the Princeton study in your piece, please see what others have to say about the Princeton study before accepting the results.
    “If you see a product with HFCS and a similar product with natural table sugar, don’t assume the product with natural sugar is any better.” James Krieger, Founder, Weightology, LLC http://bit.ly/ab28mF

    “Seeing as this result directly contradicts (one of) the results from the short-term study, you would think that would have deserved a comment–if not equal billing in the press release.” Monica Reinagel, M.S., LD/N, Nutrition Data – http://bit.ly/c4yX2I

    “This study is poorly designed and poorly controlled and does not prove or even suggest that HFCS is more likely to lead to obesity than sucrose [table sugar].” Karen Teff, Ph.D., Associate Director, Institute for Diabetes, Obesity & Metabolism, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine http://bit.ly/bkD52b

    Claims that high fructose corn syrup contains mercury contamination are inaccurate. And this was proven by an independent lab that found no quantifiable levels of mercury in high fructose corn syrup. Those results were confirmed by a leading mercury expert from Duke University Medical Center. You and your readers can read Dr. Stopford’s findings at http://duketox.mc.duke.edu/HFCS%20test%20results4.doc

    As many dietitians agree, all sugars should be consumed in moderation as part of a balanced lifestyle.

    You can also learn more about high fructose corn syrup at http://www.SweetSurprise.com.

    Audrae Erickson, Corn Refiners Association

  4. Challenge:1yearnorestaurants says:

    Thanks for all this wonderful information. I think this post will make me re-examine HFCS.

  5. Jessica says:

    Very interesting dialog. I am certainly inspired to do a little more research on the topic. And will definitely be taking notice of which products contain HFCS.

  6. Cheryl S. says:

    Despite Cornrefiner's comment, I think HFCS is the devil! It's addictive and dangerous and its not in my house anymore.

  7. Anonymous says:

    There are multiple misconceptions when it comes to HFCS. Steering away from it is simply a marketing scam. Check out http://sweetscam.com/ for more info on HFCS. The Princeton study has been totally discredited. HFCS doesn't cause obesity. Taking in more calories than you burn causes obesity. It's not a tough concept.

  8. The Marketing Mama says:

    Thanks everyone for your comments so far, including the rep from the Corn Refiners Association and "anonymous." Again, big thanks to Mary for writing the article. Once I started paying attention to HCFS, it has made a big difference in my purchasing habits, athough I still can't get away from it sometimes.

    Last night when I was grocery shopping I got really mad when I couldn't find TOMATO SOUP without HCFS. Another example is maple syrup. If you look at the standard shelf products, they are full of sweeteners and other junk. And they are cheap – compared to 100% maple syrup – which is all I've been willing to buy for a couple of years now. I just can't justify putting junk on my children's food if the real thing is available, ya know?

  9. Elizabeth Harty says:

    A marketing scam? For what? To scam us into eating whole foods and selecting healthy options?

  10. Melissa says:

    I think I would like to be paid full time to monitor negative blogs.

    We have been closely monitoring our labels and avoiding HFCS at all costs. The argument that it is fine in moderation is ridiculous when you consider damn near every single processed food out there contains it.

    Bring on the veggies and fruit!!!

  11. The Curvy Life says:

    Thank you for the info. So many times we hear it is bad-without any real info why.

    and honestly? Say it isn't as bad as we think.. it still cannot be bad to choose healthy natural whole food alternatives to something that is "made" 🙂


  12. Rebecca says:

    I want sweetners in my desserts, not my meals!

    All things in moderation is what I hear from the HFCS folks. Then I will ensure it's not in our meal-food and that sweetner (whatever the source) is limited to our "treats."

  13. iamcinnamom says:

    I read somewhere that Trader Joe's doesn't sell anything with HFCS. Not sure if that's an official fact, but I have never seen anything in their store with it. One of the many reasons I love shopping there!

  14. Andrea says:

    I am a farm girl, and we read labels and avoid corn syrup. One thing I always buy is the Heinz organic katchup (spelling) for that exact reason. I use to eat REALLY healthy, few processed foods, lot of veggies (yes I craved veggies, but I have gotten off the bandwagon, and again crave those sweets. Time to get BACK ON TRACK!

  15. Amber says:

    HFCS freaks me out. It's one of the big reasons that I steer clear of processed foods, and do a lot of shopping at the farmer's market. I want to know exactly what it is that I'm feeding my kids, and I want it to be ingredients that I recognize.

  16. ConsumerFreedom says:

    You know the most likely person to reach for seconds or thirds? It’s certainly not the person who eats high fructose corn syrup from time to time. It’s the person who hasn’t learned to be responsible for what he or she eats. Fear mongering over fructose is unhelpful and agricultural subsidies are an easy villain, but when it comes to high fructose corn syrup, you're way off. Corn, unlike sugar, is traded on the market. And if you look at a can of soda, ag subsidies constitute a imperceptibly minuscule amount of its cost.

  17. Justin Lapp says:

    Good discussion. I just came across it. I have been investigating the topic and went through many scientific papers while writing a summary of research for my blog. Take a read if you like.
    Your research on sweetened drinks is correct, but this is due to fructose, and it should be mentioned that HFCS is 55% fructose, while sugar is 50%, and there has not been solid evidence (including the princeton report, their results were more mixed than it seems) to indicate that there is a significant difference between the two in health effects. The main problems for either are that large consumption causes you to do a poor job limiting calories.
    The products you mention that stand out as sweet with a lot of sugars are exactly the ones that cause these problems, not the ones that have a small amount of HFCS (or sugar or honey). But saying either is an important part of your diet is misleading also, because Americans consume way to much of both sugar and HFCS, mainly in beverages, and this has been tied to the obesity problems. I encourage the discussion, I hope you keep looking at the research.

  18. […] (things such as learning when pancake syrup isn’t really syrup and trying to eliminate high fructose corn syrup make a […]

  19. […] of the regular grocery stores. Why do I insist on only organic dairy in my house? Why do I treat “High Fructose Corn Syrup” like it’s evil and ban it from my […]



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