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High Fructose Corn Syrup

Alternate Names

HFCS, Isoglucose, Maize Syrup, Glucose-Fructose Syrup, Glucose/Fructose


Derived from corn. Corn syrup (taken from corn starch), that has been treated with enzymes, converts glucose into fructose. This fructose is mixed with corn syrup to create the right level of sweetness. The ratio of fructose and glucose is roughly 50/50 and has a similar sweetness to table sugar. Varieties with higher fructose levels are used and the higher the fructose level the sweeter it becomes.

High Fructose Corn Syrup - Quick Stats

HFCS, Isoglucose, Maize Syrup, Glucose-Fructose Syrup, Glucose/Fructose

Allergy Information

Corn Syrup


Sweetener, Humectant

Additional Information

HFCS was classified as GRAS (generally recognized as safe) by the FDA in 1976. Since then, many food companies have replaced regular sugar with HFCS as it is a cheaper alternative. This is partially due to governmental subsidies of US corn farmers. There is much debate as to if HFCS contributes to the increasing rates of obesity and diabetes. A 2010 study in rats indicated that HFCS does contribute to increased body fat (see In The News section). HFCS is found in thousands of products and is difficult to avoid. Products containing HFCS cannot be considered 'natural' and should not be labeled as such, the FDA has said. This is due to the chemical and enzymatic process that is used to make HFCS. The Corn Refiners Association fought back with a marketing campaign which basically states that HFCS has the same nutritional content as sugar and honey and as with all sweeteners, should be consumed in moderation. Many food manufacturers are now moving back to sugar in response to consumer demand.

See "In the News" section for latest updates on new HFCS studies.

Found In

processed food, yogurt, beverages, candy, frozen desserts, dairy drinks, canned fruit, processed ham, ice cream, ketchup, lunch meat, salad dressing, syrup

Possible Health Effects

Animal studies indicate that HFCS contributes to obesity, increased body fat, and higher triglyceride levels.

A peer-reviewed study (to read the study, see In the News section) published in Clinical Epigenetics in 2012 set out to find out why the autism rates were so different for the US and Italy. After comparing a variety of variables, they concluded that one reason may be the drastic differences between consumption of HFCS. According to the study, U.S. per capita consumption of HFCS in 2009 was 35.7 pounds per year. The study goes on to state, "...The Mercury Toxicity Model shows the HFCS characteristics most likely contributing to autism include the zinc-depleting effect that comes from consuming HFCS and certain food colors found in processed foods, and the additional Hg [mercury] exposure that may occur from the low Hg concentrations sometimes found in HFCS as a result of the manufacturing process." The study concludes that, "A comparison of autism prevalence between the U.S. and Italy using the Mercury Toxicity Model suggests the increase in autism in the U.S. is not related to mercury exposure from fish, coal-fired power plants, thimerosal, or dental amalgam but instead to the consumption of HFCS. Consumption of HFCS may lead to mineral imbalances, including Zn [zinc], Ca [calcium] and P [phosphorus] loss and Cu [copper] gain and is a potential source of inorganic mercury exposure."

Allergy Information

Corn, May be Genetically Engineered or Modified

In The News

May 15, 2012: UCLA study shows high-fructose diet sabotages learning, memory.

April 4, 2012: Peer-reviewed study published in Clincal Epigenetics, makes the link between high fructose corn syrup and autism.
February 26, 2010: A new study titled, High-Fructose Corn Syrup Causes Characteristics of Obesity in Rats: Increased Body Weight, Body Fat and Triglyceride Levels, continues to fuel the debate as to if HFCS causes obesity in humans.

Online Resources/Related

Print Resources

Copyright July 22, 2010 Be Food Smart, Updated April 20, 2012, May 24, 2012

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