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Iowa Corn Growers Association
The Facts on High-Fructose Corn Syrup  page banner

The Facts on High-Fructose Corn Syrup

Posted on February 14, 2013 at 8:09 AM by Iowa Corn


High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is an important sweetener in today's foods and beverages that has improved the quality and efficiency of countless products.

First developed from corn in the early 1970s, HFCS’s popularity has grown rapidly and it is now the second-most consumed sweetener.  In 2009, the average per capita consumption of HFCS at 35.7 pounds per year was approximately ten pounds less than refined sugar.  Over the past twenty years, per capita consumption of HFCS has been on average 4.6 lbs. less than refined sugar.

In recent years, there has been criticism of HFCS in U.S. diets, however, in terms of composition, high-fructose corn syrup is nearly identical to table sugar (sucrose), which is composed of 50 percent fructose and 50 percent glucose. In fact, Arthur Frank, M.D., Medical Director at George Washington University stated that HFCS is the chemical and nutritional equivalent of table sugar (sucrose). The two substances have the same calories, the same chemical composition, and are metabolized identically.

The World Health Organization reports there are more than 1 billion obese adults and an estimated 22 million children under five are estimated to be overweight worldwide. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, in the U.S. the number of overweight children has doubled and the number of overweight adolescents has tripled since 1980.

The World Health Organization also notes the growing weight problems are caused by rising incomes and higher food proportions in fats, saturated fats, and sugars coupled with less physical activity.

Kris Clark, the assistant director of sports nutrition at Pennsylvania State University reports, “There’s no one reason why we’ve seen the escalating rates of childhood obesity -- it all comes down to calorie balance. Kids are eating too many calories and not burning off those calories by being active. It’s a reality that kids are going to have some sugar in their diets, whether that’s table sugar, honey, pancake syrup or high-fructose corn syrup.”

Consumption of high-fructose corn syrup has declined since its peak in 1999. The USDA estimates per capita sugar consumption in 2008 was 47.2 lbs per year and 37.8 lbs per year for high-fructose corn syrup. As high-fructose corn syrup use increased in the United States, it replaced sugar in various foods and beverages on a nearly one-for-one basis.

HFCS constitutes a 460 million bushel corn market.  A 100 million bushel loss of corn use for HFCS would cost U.S. corn farmers an estimated four cents on every bushel they sell.  For Iowa, the cumulative loss would be more than $87 million.

So, if you’re treating yourself to sweets this month, remember sugar is sugar and we should consume all forms in moderation.

For more information on high-fructose corn syrup, visit bestfoodfacts.org or sweetsurprise.com.

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