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Why high-fructose corn syrup is bad

6 reasons why high-fructose corn syrup is bad for you

High-fructose corn syrup has been linked to many serious health issues, including today's obesity epidemic. Here are 6 reasons why it's bad for your health.

This article is based on scientific evidence, written by experts, and fact-checked by experts.
We look at both sides of the argument and strive to be objective, unbiased, and honest.
6 reasons why high-fructose corn syrup is bad for you
Last updated on August 24, 2023, and last reviewed by an expert on November 9, 2022.

High-fructose corn syrup is an artificial sugar made from corn syrup.

6 reasons why high-fructose corn syrup is bad for you

Many experts believe that added sugar and high-fructose corn syrup are critical factors in today’s obesity epidemic.

High-fructose corn syrup and added sugar are also linked to many other serious health issues, including diabetes and heart disease.

Here are 6 reasons why consuming large amounts of high-fructose corn syrup is terrible for your health.

1. High-fructose corn syrup adds an unnatural amount of fructose to your diet

The fructose in high-fructose corn syrup can cause health issues if eaten excessively.

Most starchy carbs, such as rice, are broken down into glucose⁠ — the primary form of carbs. However, table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup comprise around 50% glucose and 50% fructose.

Glucose is easily transported and utilized by every cell in your body. It’s also the predominant fuel source for high-intensity exercise and various processes.

In contrast, the fructose from high fructose corn syrup or table sugar needs to be converted into glucose, glycogen (stored carbs), or fat by the liver before it can be used as fuel.

Like regular table sugar, high-fructose corn syrup is a rich source of fructose. In the past few decades, the intake of fructose and high-fructose corn syrup has increased significantly.

Before table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup became affordable and widely available, people’s diets contained only small amounts of fructose from natural sources, such as fruits and vegetables.

The adverse effects listed below are caused mainly by excess fructose, although they apply to high-fructose corn syrup (55% fructose) and plain table sugar (50% fructose).

Summary: High-fructose corn syrup and sugar contain fructose and glucose. Your body metabolizes fructose differently than glucose, and consuming too much can lead to health problems.

2. High-fructose corn syrup increases your risk of fatty liver disease

High intake of fructose leads to increased liver fat.

One study in men and women with excess weight showed that drinking sucrose-sweetened soda for 6 months significantly increased liver fat, compared to drinking milk, diet soda, or water.

Is fructose bad for you?
Suggested read: Is fructose bad for you?

Other research has also found that fructose can increase liver fat to a greater extent than equal amounts of glucose.

In the long term, liver fat accumulation can lead to serious health problems, such as fatty liver disease and type 2 diabetes.

It’s important to note that the detrimental effects of fructose in added sugar, including high-fructose corn syrup, should not be equated with the fructose in fruit. It’s difficult to consume excessive amounts of fructose from whole fruits, which are healthy and safe in sensible amounts.

Summary: High-fructose corn syrup can contribute to increased liver fat. This is because of its high fructose content, which is metabolized differently than other carbs.

3. High-fructose corn syrup increases your risk of obesity and weight gain

Long-term studies indicate that excessive sugar intake, including high-fructose corn syrup, plays a vital role in the development of obesity.

One study had healthy adults drink beverages containing either glucose or fructose.

When comparing the two groups, the fructose drink did not stimulate regions of the brain that control the appetite to the same extent as the glucose drink.

Fructose also promotes visceral fat accumulation. Visceral fat surrounds your organs and is the most harmful body fat. It’s linked to health issues like diabetes and heart disease.

Moreover, high-fructose corn syrup and sugar availability have also increased average daily calorie intake, a key factor in weight gain. Research suggests people now consume over 500 calories daily from sugar, which may be 300% more than 50 years ago.

Suggested read: 13 reasons why sugary soda is bad for your health

Summary: Research continues to highlight the role of high-fructose corn syrup and fructose in obesity. It can also add visceral fat, a harmful fat surrounding your organs.

4. Excessive intake is linked to diabetes

Excessive fructose or high-fructose corn syrup consumption can also lead to insulin resistance, resulting in type 2 diabetes.

In healthy people, insulin increases in response to the consumption of carbs, transporting them out of the bloodstream and into cells.

However, regularly consuming excess fructose can make your body resistant to insulin’s effects.

This decreases your body’s ability to control blood sugar levels. Over the long term, both insulin and blood sugar levels increase.

In addition to diabetes, high-fructose corn syrup may play a role in metabolic syndrome, which has been linked to many diseases, including heart disease and certain cancers.

Summary: Excessive intake of high-fructose corn syrup can lead to insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome, which are both key contributors to type 2 diabetes and many other serious diseases.

5. High-fructose corn syrup can increase the risk of other serious diseases

Many serious diseases have been linked to the overconsumption of fructose.

High-fructose corn syrup and sugar have been shown to drive inflammation, which is associated with an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

In addition to inflammation, excess fructose may increase harmful substances called advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which may harm your cells.

Lastly, it may exacerbate inflammatory diseases like gout. This is due to increased inflammation and uric acid production.

Considering all of the health issues and diseases linked to the excessive intake of high-fructose corn syrup and sugar, it may be no surprise that studies are starting to link them to an increased risk of heart disease and reduced life expectancy.

Suggested read: Why sugar is bad for you

Summary: Excessive high-fructose corn syrup intake is linked to an increased risk of numerous diseases, including heart disease.

6. Contains no essential nutrients

Like other added sugars, high fructose corn syrup is “empty” calories.

While it contains plenty of calories, it offers no essential nutrients.

Thus, eating high-fructose corn syrup will decrease the total nutrient content of your diet, as the more high-fructose corn syrup you consume, the less room you have for nutrient-dense foods.


Over the past few decades, high-fructose corn syrup has become affordable and widely available.

Experts now attribute its excessive intake to many serious health issues, including obesity, insulin resistance, and metabolic syndrome.

Avoiding high-fructose corn syrup — and added sugar in general — may be one of the most effective ways to improve your health and lower your disease risk.

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