Is High-Fructose Corn Syrup Worse For You Than Other Sugars?

It’s not only high fructose corn syrup that is composed of roughly equal parts fructose and glucose – most sweeteners are, as illustrated in the table below.

Sweetener% Fructose
Agave nectar88%
Apple juice concentrate67%
High fructose corn syrup55%
Grape juice concentrate52%
Orange juice concentrate51%
Honey51%
Table sugar50%
Molasses50%
Brown sugar50%
Maple syrup49%

According to some experts, the big problem with high fructose corn syrup is how it is metabolized. Fructose is exclusively metabolized in the liver, and when the liver gets overloaded with fructose, it turns some of it into fat, which ends up as triglycerides in our blood. Having high triglycerides will eventually lead to elevated LDL-cholesterol levels.

The glucose and fructose in high-fructose corn syrup aren’t chemically bonded; so, when you consume it, the fructose molecules are free to float around in your blood unbound. Fructose may have a lower glycemic index than glucose, but it is a cause of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and gout because it raises levels of blood triglycerides, liver fat, LDL, and uric acid. Many people are surprised to learn that eating large amounts of fructose-containing foods leads to the development of gout, which is a very painful inflammation of the joints caused by the buildup of uric acid. Uric acid also increased blood pressure in some studies. 

Fructose might be more likely to end up as fat around your midsection than other sugars, and this deep belly fat is the riskiest kind for your heart and blood glucose levels. It also seems possible that fructose causes us to burn less fat while simultaneously enhancing the body’s ability to turn carbohydrates into fat. 

Unfortunately, exercise won’t compensate for a diet that contains too much fructose – when you consume fructose, your body turns it into fat, and we aren’t able to create and burn fat at the same time. 

Before you decide that you need to avoid all fruit because it contains fructose, let me ask you a question –how many apples are you eating at once? Are you gulping down 20 in a sitting? If so, you should cut that out for a bunch of reasons. On the other hand, how many cookies can you eat in one sitting, or how much soda can you drink during the day? A whole lot. Fruit is not the enemy.