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Is High Fructose Corn Syrup Worse Than Sugar?

Learn why banning high fructose corn syrup won't necessarily solve the obesity problem.

By
Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS,
Episode #094

What Causes Lung Cancer?

We know that smoking tobacco causes lung cancer. The primary way that people smoke tobacco these days is in the form of cigarettes. Getting people to quit smoking cigarettes would be an effective way to cut lung cancer rates. Unless everyone who quit smoking cigarettes took up pipe smoking instead—in which case, we won’t have accomplished much. So, it’s important to make sure that people don’t confuse the actual culprit (smoking tobacco) with the most common source (cigarettes).

If that seems ridiculously obvious, perfect. Now, let’s apply the same logic to fructose. 

What Is High Fructose Corn Syrup?

High fructose corn syrup contains roughly the same amount of fructose as cane sugar and honey. And fruit juice concentrates and agave are even higher in fructose.

We suspect that fructose overload may be contributing to rising obesity rates. The primary source of fructose these days is high fructose corn syrup, a refined sweetener that is widely used in processed foods and beverages. Getting people to cut back on high fructose corn syrup might be an effective way to cut obesity rates. But if everyone simply replaces high fructose corn syrup with another sweetener that contains fructose, such as cane sugar, we won’t have accomplished much.  That’s why I think it’s important to make sure that people don’t confuse the alleged culprit (fructose) with the most common source (high fructose corn syrup).

In this case, it’s especially easy to confuse the two because both contain the word “fructose.” But don’t be fooled: High fructose corn syrup contains roughly the same amount of fructose as cane sugar and honey. And fruit juice concentrates and agave are even higher in fructose.

Is High Fructose Corn Syrup Worse Than Sugar?

There may be subtle differences in how various sweeteners are metabolized but that is really not the big story here. The reason that high fructose corn syrup has been singled out as the chief culprit in obesity is because it has become the primary source of sugar—and fructose—in the modern diet, just like cigarettes are the primary source of tobacco. 

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