New Proof: High-Fructose Corn Syrup is Making You Fat

January 10, 2013
Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS

Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS

Award-winning nutritionist and New York Times bestselling author.

Yale Scientists confirm HFCS’ role in the obesity epidemic.

I came across an interesting new study published January 1 in the Journal of the American Medical Association that confirms something I’ve been writing about for years:  high-fructose corn syrup’s major contribution to the obesity epidemic.

As I wrote in my book Get the Sugar Out, when high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) became commonplace in the late 1970s, obesity levels began to soar and have only skyrocketed since –over 73% of Americans are overweight today.  A cheap, manmade supersweet alternative to table sugar, HFCS is in almost everything at the supermarket– start reading labels and you’ll even find it in ketchup, salad dressing, and canned soup.

While sucrose (table sugar) contains both fructose and glucose, HFCS is formed by adding specific enzymes to corn syrup in order to turn the high-glucose corn syrup into a 90% fructose product. Then glucose is blended back in to get the desired glucose-fructose blend – usually 55% fructose and 45% glucose. Many filtration, ion exchange, and evaporation steps, plus carbon absorption (for removing impurities) are part of the process. The end result is a refined product that our bodies were not designed to consume – especially at high levels!

So how does HFCS affect our bodies differently than table sugar?
Fructose and glucose look similar molecularly, but fructose is metabolized differently by the body. While every cell in your body can metabolize glucose, the liver must metabolize fructose, so important appetite controls are bypassed. Unlike glucose, the fructose in HFCS is quickly absorbed into your cells without the help of insulin, and without the subsequent increase in leptin, a hormone that regulates appetite by signaling to your brain that you are full. In addition, the insulin produced during glucose metabolism suppresses a hormone called ghrelin produced by the stomach to regulate food uptake; this action is missing with fructose metabolism, so you stay hungry and keep eating.

And, the Yale Study confirms this theory. Researchers tested 20 healthy adults to better understand the affects of fructose on the brain. While the test subjects consumed both fructose and glucose sweetened drinks, the scientists used fMRIs (functional magnetic resonance imaging) to measure hypothalamic activity which helps regulate many of the brain’s hunger-related signals. While glucose lowered the activity of the hypothalamus to reduce hunger, fructose prompted a spike to the area which only increases the sensation.

While I’ve been blowing the whistle on America’s sugar addiction for years, I’m relieved that high-fructose corn syrup is finally being recognized as the villain it really is. As more research is conducted, the dangers of excessive sugar consumption will continue to be at the forefront of nutrition. As Jonathan Purnell and Damien Fair from the Department of Behavioral Neuroscience at Oregon Health & Sciences University recently noted, sugar and high-fructose corn syrup are “indeed extending the supersizing concept to the population’s collective waistlines.”

To learn more about how to get the sugar out of your diet, check out my book, the aptly named, Get the Sugar Out: 501 Simple Ways to Cut the Sugar Out of Any Diet.

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Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS, is an award-winning New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty books including The Fat Flush Plan series and her latest book, Radical Metabolism. She’s been rewriting the rules of nutrition for more than 40 years and is internationally recognized as a pioneer in the field of diet, detox and women’s health issues. 

For a FREE daily dose of tips and strategies for maintaining healthy weight, conquering insomnia, and much more…check out my Radical Health Tips.

I’d like to meet and greet you on my Facebook groups, so won’t you check us out at the Radical Metabolism RevolutionFat Flush Nation, or my Inner Circle!


  1. Brigitte from Perth

    I’ve tried to tell others around me about HFCS and all I get is a blank stare..Basically, there’s a lot of people who just don’t care.. admittedly – it takes effort, time and research to eat properly these days. And yes, it makes me mad that we have to be this way. As always – follow the money. Sorry for the rant !!!

  2. Michele McMillan

    what about the fructose in fruit? I know it’s natural and has the fiber and other nutrients in it, but does it have to be metabolized by the liver also, or, since it’s a whole food, does it get metabolized by the whole body?

    • Sierra

      Yes, the fructose in fruit is also processed directly through the liver. This is part of the reason that one should limit their fruit intake to 2 servings per day, and why fruit juice can be a particular trouble.

  3. Ginger

    I don’t understand how these “chemicals” and fake sugars are even legal. We need better regulation of our food industry…people are dying from all types of conditions and the root cause is inflammation caused by lack of nutrients and toxins. Obesity is an epidemic but unlike a lot chronic health issues, there is a cure….. food and health education. But federal policies are needed to really make this happen…ban the harmful ingredients like they do in other countries. But until then we just need to educate ourselves and WANT to only put good and healthy foods in our bodies.

  4. Candy Wright

    If we could get rid of this and aspartame we might start seeing a lot of healthier people around. Oh, but the pharmaceutical industry wouldn’t like that, would they?

    • Vickie

      Neither would “big food”, Candy! They are the ones encouraging/enticing farmers to grow corn for ethanol and high fructose corn syrup manufacture. The farmers see little benefit, but big food gets the brass ring! Aspartame should be banned, period from any of our foodstuffs. It’s pure poison, in my humble opinion and soy runs a close second!

  5. Bernadette

    Candy, you couldn’t be more right with regard to the pharmaceutical companies. Chronic diseases from inflammation are the bread and butter to them. Ginger asked, how is this legal? Simple.. money. Lobbyists from big agriculture, big pharma, and so on prevent the real problem to health issues in this country and that is the spin and propaganda the American public are feed to them by the media, government agencies (including the FDA, Nation Health Institute, American Diabetic Assoc, National Cancer Institute, The American Heart Assoc you get the picture). There will never be changes to the current health crisis until we, the consumer educate ourselves. We have to be diligent and educate others around us. As individuals we are up against some pretty strong and convincing propaganda when it comes to letting others in on the truth. Sugar is by far one of the worst inflammatory foods for the body (omega 6 fats also cause inflammation). Every chronic disease is a byproduct of inflammation and most people eat their way into disease whether is be arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, etc. and Remember.. Cancer cells have a primary fuel source and that is glucose, and most of that glucose is coming from the crappy sugar loaded foods that are part of the Standard American Diet (SAD). Let’s educate America’s future, the children of America. Don’t let your child or any child purchase school lunches let alone fast foods and the like.

  6. Ludia

    That’s a bummer about fruit! How about all those raw people that eat so much fruit. Is it bad, then, to eat mostly raw diet with fruit being an important component of their diet? I’d like to know, as I’ve been attracted to it myself, but never knew if it makes sense nutritionally.
    Thanks very much in advance for your input.

    • Sierra

      The healthy fiber in fruit is definitely a saving grace, but only to a certain extent. My mom always told me, “Fruit is nature’s candy”, so I believe that while fruit certainly has amazing health benefits (being rich in vitamins and minerals, high in antioxidants, high in fiber), it does need to be eaten in moderation.

  7. Ludia

    I’d like to add that I respect ALG very very much.

  8. Leslie

    While it is true that fruit is high in natural fructose and must be processed by the liver, it is also important to recognize that fruits have a multitude of important phytochemicals including antioxidants and enzymes that improve the digestive process and our immune systems as well. Thus the emphasis on cranberry water! Understanding a particulur fruits glycemic index and processing our fruit whole, not juiced, is the best way to keep the total fructose level managable and still get max bennies.


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