What is the difference between high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and sugar?

HFCS and sugar are essentially equivalent as far as the body is concerned.

Last Updated: February 06, 2018

Both high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and regular table sugar contain fructose and glucose. Sugar is a disaccharide, which consists of a glucose and fructose molecule linked together. This gives sugar a composition of 50% glucose and 50% fructose. While HFCS also consists of glucose and fructose, the composition can vary somewhat, but is generally in the range of 55% fructose and 42% glucose.

Where HFCS and sugar differ is in how they are produced. While sugar is a naturally occurring disaccharide, HFCS is artificially produced from corn. HFCS production involves processing corn into corn starch, which is then turned into a syrup that is 100% glucose. The problem with glucose as a sweetener is that it’s not all that sweet. To increase the sweetness of corn syrup, enzymatic reactions are used to convert a portion of the glucose to fructose, resulting in a mixture of glucose and fructose molecules also known as HFCS.

The major distinction then between HFCS and sugar isn’t so much in their composition, but their bonding. Glucose and fructose are linked in sugar as a disaccharide, whereas HFCS consists of a mixture of free glucose and fructose molecules.

Since sugar is broken down into glucose and fructose by enzymes in the small intestine, HFCS and sugar are essentially equivalent after being absorbed by the body.

This translates into why HFCS is no worse or better than sugar.

Furthermore, certain sugary fruits could help regular blood sugar.