Corn Syrup versus High Fructose Corn Syrup

Is Corn Syrup Bad for You?corn syrup slider

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!

corn syrup

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:

  1. Overconsumption of sugar of any sort is not recommended. Neither is overconsumption of red meat, many fats or candy. Practice moderation.
  1. 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.

4 Responses to Corn Syrup versus High Fructose Corn Syrup

  1. orin January 16, 2015 at 3:19 pm #

    The problem is not the corn syrup is the corn that make the corn syrup. and that bring the debate if you believe in organic or ok with GMO. I added a link to one of so many research that have done on GMO corn. i always keep an open mind and look objectively on research and than observe overall i compared to before GMO arise what our health were before and what we are having now so it is your choice and only you decide what good for your health.I also notice change in result when i bake with corn starch or cornflour the are GMO’S or Organic.


    please forgive me to my grammar English is my second language.

    • Dede Wilson January 16, 2015 at 5:14 pm #

      Orin, we had this very same discussion with Rose Levy Beranbaum. She found that the GMO and non-GMO cornstarch made a Huge difference in her genoise….the non-GMO must be used!

      • orin January 16, 2015 at 5:31 pm #

        Do you think that the non- GMO must be used since the chemistry of the cornstarch has changed ?

        personally i have discovered this years ago and transitioning to full organic diet has made my cakes and my health better results. 🙂

        • Dede Wilson January 17, 2015 at 6:49 am #

          I, for one, who is wheat in tolerant but not allergic, noticed that when I eat organic wheat the situation for me is not the same. It appears to be easier on the digestive tract. So much more needs to be studied in a controlled way. I encourage you to read about Rose’s take on all of this as well on her blog….also check out Peter Reinhart’s new book Bread Revolution and Dan Barber’s newest book. I think you will get a lot out of them.

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