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Is Corn Syrup Evil?

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Several people have asked me if corn syrup is the root of all evil. This cheap, high calorie sweetener is adding hidden calories to everything from spaghetti sauce to condiments to peanut butter. But is it actually worse for you than “regular” cane sugar? Is there something special about corn syrup that makes it worthy of national vilification?

The truth is that corn syrup isn’t any “worse” than any other highly refined sugar – there’s nothing special about corn that makes it harmful to consume (unless maybe if you’re allergic to corn, but that’s another story). The real issue is that we humans love sweet things, and that food product manufacturers are simply adding sweetener to their products to cater to our taste buds. In so doing, hidden calories add up… and waist lines expand in response.

Folks with diabetes understand how difficult it is to find unsweetened products these days, and they have to work extra hard to avoid the high fructose corn syrup in so many foods. For those of us who don’t have diabetes (yet?) we’d probably do well to follow their example and consciously cut down on our sugar intake if not to manage our insulin levels, but at least to avoid unnecessary calorie consumption.

I myself am a bit of a sugar addict by nature – I resolved to cut down on carbs a few months ago and have dropped 10 pounds already. I have learned to like unsweetened almond milk, unsweetened organic ketchup, and I make my own sauces and avoid refined flour products.

In my next post I’ll speak with Penny M. Kris-Etherton, Ph.D., R.D., Distinguished Professor of Nutrition, Penn State University about what she learned at the recent American Dietetic Association Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo (FNCE) in Chicago. She’ll explain why all the fear mongering about corn is a bit exaggerated.



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5 Responses to “Is Corn Syrup Evil?”

  1. enrico says:

    I heard that corn syrup in vaccines could be the reason autism rates are on the rise…

  2. If sugar only went by one name on the list of ingredients, would we still eat so much of it, realizing that it’s one of the top ingredients in almost all processed foods?

  3. Paul in Chicago says:

    I hear this from some doctors. However I was reading a forum for diabetics and one of the posters there was from this guy who experimented with his blood sugar.

    First he tried high fructose corn syrup. Measured his blood sugar level. Then he tried cane sugar. Measured his blood sugar level. He surprised himself to see his blood sugar two times higher with the high fructose corn syrup compared to the sugar. His post was at http://tudiabetes.com/forum/topics/583967:Topic:261850?page=1&commentId=583967%3AComment%3A327678&x=1#583967Comment327678

    If you’re telling me that there is no difference, can you explain this? Or more importantly, have you seen this tested first hand in diabetics?

  4. Strong One says:

    I confess.. I also suffer from and insatiable sweet tooth.
    I can’t even imagine how difficult my life would be if I had to control my sugar intake.
    It’s a vice I don’t think I’ll ever conquer.

  5. drval says:

    Hi Paul,

    High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is 55% fructose and 50% glucose. Cane sugar is 50% fructose and 50% glucose. So the difference between the two is fairly small in terms of glycemic load. I’m not sure why your friend experienced such a different jump in his blood sugar level – there may have been other variables at play.

    Studies have indeed shown that fructose will raise blood sugar levels higher/faster than glucose. But the fructose in those studies was pure (not the 55% found in HFCS in foods). So that’s where the confusion comes in, as far as I can tell.

    Cheers

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