What to know about high fructose corn syrup


by Baylor Scott & White Health

Feb 6, 2020

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the US adult obesity rate stands at more than 40% at the last count, with nearly 20% of children and adolescents considered overweight or obese.

With so many of us dealing with weight problems, many people want to blame someone or something. But is there one food that is more of a culprit than the others?

Some people blame high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), a popular artificial sweetener made from corn starch. With so many conflicting reports about the dangers of consuming too much of the sweet additive, it’s hard to know whether it’s safe.

“There’s a lot of popular press out there that says that high fructose corn syrup is the reason for obesity,” said pediatric dietitian Amy Cantrell, RD, LD. “But it’s been disproven that it’s not true.”

HFCS is not even the most widely used sweetener across the world. Roughly 90% of the nutritive sweetener used worldwide is sucrose (table sugar).

“Japan uses high fructose corn syrup. Europe uses high fructose corn syrup, and we have the obesity issue,” Amy said.

The problem is that Americans eat too much of everything else and activity in general is very low.

Today, the average American adults consume an average of 77 grams of sugar per day, more than three times the recommended amount for women. It’s a heaping serving that equals over 65 pounds of added sugar per year at a time when growing scientific evidence shows that eating too much added sugar is linked to serious diseases like diabetes, heart disease and liver disease.

The American Heart Association recommends

  • Men consume no more than 9 teaspoons (36 grams or 150 calories) of added sugar per day
  • Women consume no more than 6 teaspoons (25 grams or 100 calories) per day

“There’s nothing wrong with fructose. Fructose is in fruits and some vegetables,” Amy said. “But the problem comes with kids drinking a lot of fruit juice (or consuming other foods that contain a lot of sugar). It can cause their blood fats (triglycerides) to be high and contribute to excess weight.”

High triglyceride levels can lead to high cholesterol, heart disease or other illnesses.

So, is it necessary to remove HFCS from your family’s diet?

“Let’s face it, there’s no recommended daily allowance for high fructose corn syrup,” Amy said. “Some of the products that HFCS is in are not good choices, such as sugar-filled sports drinks or regular sodas.”

Extra sugar leads to extra calories. So, helping your family stick to a healthy, low-sugar diet is an excellent way to keep weight down and reduce the risk for health problems.

A healthy diet should include:

  • Plenty of non-starchy vegetables daily
  • Moderate amount of fruit
  • Modest amount of starch-bases foods
  • Moderate amount of protein or meat
  • Two to three cups of lower percentage fat milk a day

For personalized nutrition support, find a dietitian near you.

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