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Teen Health 411
Teen Health 411

High-Fructose Corn Syrup Is Sugar!

High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and the rise in obesity have been associated with diabetes, cancer, cavities, and blood lipid levels. High-fructose corn syrup seems to have associated with "toxic waste" and I have heard kids say, "I cannot eat that - it contains high-fructose corn syrup."

Sorry, but I have news for you, it is not one thing that can be the culprit - it is the fact that we eat too much and get too little exercise - plain and simple! High-fructose corn syrup was developed in the 1960s by corn processors to provide a cheaper sweetener with the same sweetness as cane or beet sugar, and in fact, consumers did not notice the change. HFCS is corn syrup processed to increase the fructose content and then blended with pure (all-glucose) cane syrup. It is almost exactly table sugar (or sucrose) - a 50/50 mixture of fructose and glucose, and about 4 calories per gram.

Here are some interesting facts:
  • Leading beverage companies began adding HFCS to soda in the 1980s.
  • The United States Food and Drug Administration has ruled the HFCS is safe in 1983 and again in 1996.
  • In 2005 the average US citizen consumed about 59 pounds of HFCS a year.
  • An expert panel concluded that HFCS does not appear to contribute more to obesity than other caloric sweeteners.
The real issue seems to be more complex - if nutrient-poor foods (like those with a lot of sugar) are consumed at the expense of nutrient-dense foods, in conjunction with a sedentary lifestyle, then the person is at risk for obesity and the host of health risks associated with obesity. We cannot target one component in food as a culprit, instead need to discuss all the related health choices.
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About the Author

Dr. Brown is a developmental psychologist specializing in adolescent health.