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Does High Fructose Corn Syrup Cause Obesity?


Sodas, Drinks, Cakes, Cookies…High Fructose Corn Syrup Seems To Be In Everything

The big debate continues…what is causing the epidemic levels of obesity in America and around the globe?  Obesity is a complex issue but recent research has pointed to a sweetener found in many foods called High Fructose Corn Syrup.  A cheaper additive than sucrose (or table sugar), high fructose has been used in the last 40 years in America to sweeten many of our popular food items.  A recent study done out of Princeton University has shown that this popular sweetener could be one of the major links in the rising rates of obesity in America.

The scientists at Princeton showed in laboratory rats that ingestion of high fructose corn syrup not only lead to obesity in the rats, but also higher amounts of triglycerides, abnormal weight gain, and fatty deposits around the belly.  A link between high fructose corn syrup and the Hunger-Obesity Paradox was also recently highlighted in one of my previous posts.

What is the phenomenon behind why High Fructose Corn Syrup adds to obesity?  The true reasons on why this sweetener may add to obesity is yet to be completely determined, but the researchers at Princeton believe that the fructose (a type of sugar) in the high fructose corn syrup changes over to fat, while sucrose (another type of sugar, commonly known as table sugar), changes over to carbohydrate, or eventually fuel for the body. Of course carbohydrate stored in the body is better than fat.

What is interesting is that the use of high fructose corn syrup as a sweetener is not widely used in other countries, such as European countries.  This is because in Europe, there are quotas on how much high fructose corn syrup is allowed to be used in foods and drinks.  Many foods and drinks in Europe still contain sucrose because the EU produces a significant amount of sucrose for use in food and drinks.  But actually in some European countries, the citizens actually consume as much or more sucrose than Americans and yet the rates of obesity are lower than in America.

While the debate can continue on obesity;  the causes, the environmental, physical and genetic factors involved in the escalating rates…there is no doubt for me that over ingestion of  high fructose corn syrup adds another significant risk to being an obese American.  I don’t think Coca Cola and the other soft drink companies in America want this information too widely publisized…this could mean switching back to table sugar in the drinks just to please those Americans asking for it.

One last point I would like to make is that at a recent conference I attended  the debate on high fructose corn syrup was discussed.  Studies have demonstrated that drinking soft drinks with high fructose corn syrup did little to suppress the appetite.  This means that drinking a can of soda didn’t stop your hunger, as one could normally see with eating an apple, banana or some other food that has the same amount of calories.  Therefore…think before you drink and eat!  Read your labels…and switch to water!  and of course, feel free to add your comments below.

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9 Responses to Does High Fructose Corn Syrup Cause Obesity?

  1. Beth July 2, 2013 at 07:15 #

    Hi Mary. I know you wrote this a long time ago and as I study nutrition to try to improve my own health, I found this very interesting. I have celiac disease and like the writer/scientist, Elaine Gottschall, I believe it is caused by bad bacteria in the gut. What you say here makes me wonder if HFCs is to blame. I’ve heard that in France, women eat a lot of yogurt; thus, giving them good bacteria and if they don’t consume HFCs, that would explain why they can eat so much bread. It is hard here in the U.S. to avoid HFCs as it is in ice cream, ketchup, Hershey’s Syrup, and baked goods. What do you think? Ciao

    • mbrighton July 4, 2013 at 01:36 #

      Dear Beth, you make excellent points… And yes, French women eat a lot of yogurt! The gut is our second brain in the body, I think it is not entirely understood. Personally , I would read labels and avoid HFCS as much as possible. I also believe stress has a big part in our intestinal health, French have more vacations and down time compared to Americans…. Thanks very much for your comment, keep them coming!

  2. venkkhat July 19, 2011 at 19:09 #

    Thanks for sharing, this cause of obesity to HFCS.
    I live in a small village in south india, and our cultural trends are changing with the introduction of this into our food patterns and our children have started to get obese.

    many in our village still use the country variety of palm sugar, dark and brown and healthy, but things are changing fast, from health to diseases.

    • mbrighton July 21, 2011 at 20:19 #

      Dear Venkkhat,
      Obesity is a common epidemic in many countries, including some countries like yours where the population is starting to eat “the western ways”. Your comment is interesting and at the same time is frightening. What will happen to people in these small villages when the population has health problems related to obesity? Continue your back to home lifestyle, much healthier.
      Just curious, is the use of palm sugar very prevalent where you live? How is sugar used? In food, in drinks? Please share more about your village’s customs.
      Best in Health, Mary

    • venkkhat July 22, 2011 at 06:23 #

      Thanks for sharing your curiosity Mary,
      our village market meets every Friday, where local produces come, and one of them is the country jaggery.
      My lady uses this for even making the flat bread ( called as chappathis) the jaggery is pound and mixed with a ripe banana and then beaten up with the wheat dough, and let to ferment for a few hours, and made, called as sweet chappathis.

      we can add this with rye porridge, goes great with rice and dal(called as bissi bella bath)

      coriander tea, with this is a great refreshner.

      To be very honest, an innovative house wife like my lady can make a variety of uses for this, but the best is
      the fruit salads, and butter scotch she made with butter fruit.

      can i offer u my blog where i do try to share village trends at times with other articles.


    • mbrighton July 22, 2011 at 06:36 #

      Dear Venkkhat, so interesting! Please post a link to your blog here. Will definetly check it out. Continued success to you & keep reading.

  3. Justin Wilson May 7, 2010 at 22:55 #

    It only took a few hours for nutrition experts to question the findings of the Princeton study which “compared” high fructose corn syrup to table sugar.

    In fact, noted New York University Nutrition Professor Marion Nestle wrote: “I don’t think the study produces convincing evidence of a difference between the effects of HFCS and sucrose on the body weight of rats. I’m afraid I have to agree with the Corn Refiners on this one. So does HFCS make rats fat? Sure if you feed them too many calories altogether. Sucrose will do that too.”

    You bring up some interesting questions, but if we really want to get serious about our health, pointing our finger at one ingredient-high fructose corn syrup-isn’t going to do anything. Sugar, as it turns out, has the exact same number of calories as high fructose corn syrup.

    • mbrighton May 15, 2010 at 12:15 #

      Yes, the obesity debate is very complex. And of course the Princeton Study got a lot of coverage, despite the fact that the “participants” in the study were laboratory rats and not humans. I do find it interesting though, that Europeans, Australians, among other populations, do consume per capita more sugar than Americans, and the rates of obesity are lower in these countries. However, sugar consumption on these population charts do not include HFCS.

      I was reading labels the other day on soft drinks and other sweetened products here in France; they all say SUGAR on the labels, not HFCS. Moderation is key with these softdrinks..drinking them doesn’t cut your appetite as you would expect from other foods containing the same amount of calories. So, drink water…now we have to just be sure the water is from a good source.


  1. French Ways to Eat for Pleasure and Good Health Part 3:Easy Plan | brightonyourhealth - May 16, 2011

    […] doesn’t curb a person’s appetite, while possibly adding to the obesity epidemic.  Read an article published on this health blog about HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) and obesity.  Do you think […]

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