High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) has been slammed in the news a lot recently - with studies tying HFCS to obesity, diabetes, among other chronic health conditions. The media and other health organizations are urging consumers to stay away from HFCS, and are asking food manufacturers to remove it from their products.
As a response, the Corn Refiners Association launched a campaign comparing HFCS to table sugar, disputing the claims that HFCS is unhealthy, and advocating for a change in the sugar's name to "corn sugar." The Corn Refiners Association has made statements that claim HFCS is "made from corn," "is natural," "has the same calories as sugar or honey," "is nutritionally the same as sugar," and "is fine in moderation."
So, what exactly is HFCS? How is it made? And contrary to what the Corn Refiners Association claims, is it really bad for you?
To start, HFCS is basically corn syrup (glucose) that is treated with enzymes to convert it to fructose. Its then blended with pure corn syrup to produce a substance that's 55% fructose and 45% glucose. Table sugar has a 50-50 fructose-glucose ratio, but the difference is that in HFCS - the fructose-glucose bonds are artificially generated, making them more chemically unstable. So while it is made from corn, I don't think you could make the claim that it's "all natural" - since it is a chemically treated, processed, man-made product.
Does HFCS have the same calories as sugar or honey? Yes (both have 4 calories per gram). Is it fine in moderation? Maybe. There have been studies that show that the while glucose is metabolized in every cell in the body, fructose is broken down only in the liver - lowering the levels of "good" (HDL) cholesterol and raising the levels of "bad" (LDL) cholesterol. And yet, the Corn Refiners Association has studies that show that HFCS is broken down in the body the same way regular sugar is.