The real truth: high-fructose corn syrup is not the same as corn syrup

Published on July 01 2009 - 3:36 PM
high-fructose corn syrup
Anytime we talk about high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) at EatingWell, we get a lot of passionate input from our readers. Some thank us for our careful reporting, while others argue that we got the story all wrong—and some are just confused. Sometimes they get HFCS mixed up with plain old fructose, and sometimes they assume that HFCS and corn syrup are the same thing. (Both are mistakes.)

So in this final installment of our 5-part series on HFCS, we’re simply going to tell you the real truth about what HFCS is and what it is not. The easiest way to do this is to define HFCS and all the other sugars that you hear associated with it.

Here’s your sweetener cheat sheet:

 

High-Fructose Corn Syrup

First available in 1967 and used by commercial food manufacturers, it’s made by converting some of corn syrup’s glucose into fructose. High-fructose corn syrup is high in fructose only in relation to plain corn syrup; chemically, it’s very similar to sucrose: about 50/50 glucose and fructose. ( Can high-fructose corn syrup make you fat?)

Glucose

Glucose

A so-called “simple” sugar naturally found in all foods that have carbohydrate. Starch (e.g., in potatoes, pasta) is many glucose molecules linked together.

Fructose

Fructose

Another simple sugar, fructose is often called “fruit sugar” because it’s the main type of natural sugar in fruits (and honey). ( Does honey have health benefits?)

Sucrose

Sucrose

A natural “complex” sugar that’s about half glucose, half fructose (two “simple sugars”); it’s extracted from sugar cane and sugar-beet plants and refined to make “table sugar.” ( Does HFCS make kids more hyper than table sugar?)

Corn syrup

Corn Syrup

A syrup used mostly in baking that’s virtually all glucose; it’s made by extracting and breaking down starch from corn into separate glucose molecules.

And, in case you missed it: Part 1: Is high-fructose corn syrup making you fat? Part 2: Is high-fructose corn syrup making you hungrier? Part 3: Is high-fructose corn syrup making your kid hyper? Part 4: Is high-fructose corn syrup causing your tummy troubles?

Nicci Micco is co-author of EatingWell 500-Calorie Dinners. She has a master's degree in nutrition and food sciences, with a focus in weight management.