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Much controversy and confusion exists around the health effects of High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFC). It is well known that excess added sugar is detrimental regardless of its source, however, there is a difference between the effects of high fructose corn syrup compared to sucrose (table sugar).

Difference Between the Chemical Nature of HFC And Sucrose (Table Sugar)

  • Sucrose is 50% fructose and 50% glucose. HFC is 55% fructose and 45% glucose.
  • In sucrose, the fructose and glucose molecules are joined by a chemical bond. In HFC, they are separate molecules.
  • Sucrose is derived from sugar cane or beet. HFC is derived from corn.

Negative Consequences of HFC

Weight gain

HFC consumption promotes faster weight gain and increases abdominal fat compared to sugar. One study found that rats who drank an HFC solution had greater increases in body weight and fat mass compared to rats drinking sucrose.i In another study, rats on a diet including HFC for six months, showed abnormal weight gain and fat accumulation. In both studies, the HFC solution promoted faster weight gain compared to sucrose.ii

Decreases satiety

Satiety refers to the feeling of fullness that tells our brain to stop eating. Fructose produces smaller increases in satiety hormones compared with glucose. Fructose causes rats to eat more, whereas glucose promotes satiety.iii This is important because HFC contains slightly more fructose than does table sugar, thus causing greater detrimental health effects. Fructose consumption also causes insulin resistance and hypertension in animal models.iv

Reduces life span and reproduction in rats

Research funded by the National Institute of Health and National Science Foundation compared two groups of mice that were fed a healthy diet with 25% of their calories from processed sugars. For one group, the processed sugar was HFC, for the other, sucrose. This study found that HFC females died at almost twice the rate of females on the sucrose diet. They also produced 26% fewer offspring. Males on the HFC diet were 25% less likely to hold territory and reproduce.v

“This is the most robust study showing there is a difference between high-fructose corn syrup and table sugar,” says biology professor Wayne Potts, senior author of the study.

While it is best to avoid added sugar as much as possible, it’s nearly impossible to do so 100% of the time. The use of high fructose corn syrup has been on the rise for many years. It is the sweetener of choice by manufactures because it is cheaper than other sweeteners. Based on the studies above, the type of sweetener added to beverages is an important factor in health, fitness and weight management. When purchasing foods containing sugar, opt for sources other than high fructose corn syrup.

i Light HR1, Tsanzi E, Gigliotti J, Morgan K, Tou JC. Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2009 Jun;234(6):651-61. doi: 10.3181/0812-RM-368. Epub 2009 Apr 9.

ii Miriam E. Bocarsly, Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2010 Nov; 97(1): 101–106. Published online 2010 Feb 26. doi: 10.1016/j.pbb.2010.02.012.

iii Kathleen A. Page, JAMA. 2013;309(1):63-70. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.116975.

iv Sharon S Elliott, Am J Clin Nutr November 2002 vol. 76 no. 5 911-922

v Potts, Wayne, J. Nutr. 2015 145: 434-441; first published online December 10, 2014. doi:10.3945/jn.114.202531

Author's bio: Naghma Husain is a professional educator, a nutrition and fitness coach, and a mom of three. She specializes in creating fun and easy fitness plans leading to permanent weight loss and overall better health. She writes for our blog using her experiences through many years of implementing small lifestyle changes through exercise and nutrition.

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