Is Corn Syrup Bad for You?
OK folks I will state right here up front that this article is not meant to be the end-all of scientific and nutritional accounting of the controversy about corn syrup versus high fructose corn syrup. In reading the comments on other sites below similar articles it is clear that many people have strong opinions and a definitive stance is difficult to present without dissenters. Even the title, Corn Syrup versus High-Fructose Corn Syrup, seems like we are setting these ingredients up for a battle!
My focus here is to help home bakers understand what these two ingredients are and how best to use them – or not!
You will find recipes on Bakepedia calling for corn syrup – some candies for instance, or pecan pie desserts. As an invert sugar it prevents crystallization and is very useful in some recipes. We use Karo brand, which contains no high-fructose corn syrup. If you read their website articles carefully they say that the brand didn’t contain any high fructose syrup when they introduced the product in 1902 and they don’t now. There was, however, an in-between period during which their Karo syrup did contain high fructose corn syrup. I am not sure of those dates. This might be why there is confusion for some who think that their product does contain high-fructose corn syrup.
So what’s the deal? I am sure you have read many articles railing against high-fructose corn syrup. The main thing to know is that high-fructose corn syrup is not the same as regular old corn syrup. High-fructose corn syrup begins as corn syrup but it is then further processed and modified. It is broken down enzymatically to create two different forms of sweeteners: fructose and glucose. It was originally developed as a lower cost substitute for sugar, which is why you see it in the ingredient lists of so many junk foods. It is the fructose that has been linked to obesity as well as other health related issues such as Type 2 diabetes, all of which can increase risk of heart disease. Controversy exists. “Regular” corn syrup, like the Karo mentioned, does not have this stigma attached.
Here’s our simple answer in two parts:
- Overconsumption of sugar of any sort is not recommended. Neither is overconsumption of red meat, many fats or candy. Practice moderation.
- We think the issue is with hidden sugars – in sodas, snack foods, even commercially prepared bread! High-fructose corn syrup is often used in this way. Become a label reader.
Moderation is key and we have no problem using corn syrup in our occasional baking. We would rather have a slice of real cheesecake or a homemade slab of toffee than to find out that we ate the equivalence in sugars from ketchup, chips and other processed foods.
For additional information, our friend David Lebovitz has a great post about why and when to use corn syrup.