Difference between Corn Syrup and High Fructose Corn Syrup

December 6, 2016 by Editorial Team

With so much talk about sugar being bad for you, nutritionists are really bringing the hammer down on artificial sweeteners as well. Questions regarding how healthy corn syrup or high fructose corn syrup is have already been asked. Most conclusions seem to point to the fact that sugar remains the best option. Fine, but what do you do when you have to choose between the two “corn” sweeteners? There are so many foods that already contain either of them. Is one option better than the other?


Corn syrup is a sweetener made from corn starch. It is also referred to as glucose syrup, which is the most basic form of sugar. This thick and sweet liquid can be either white (clarified) or dark (has added caramel and coloring). It is an added sugar meant to give a mixture volume, texture and to enhance the taste.

Since corn syrup is glucose, it no longer needs to be broken down. This is what the refinery process that turns the starch into glucose is for. Therefore, when corn syrup is consumed, glucose is dumped directly into the bloodstream.

High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is an artificial sweetener made from corn starch with some of its glucose having been converted into fructose. The fructose-to-glucose ratio in HFCS is 55-45 or even 90-10 in some cases. Available only to industrial processors, HFCS cannot be purchased in stores. It is liquid, mixes easily with everything, and is very sweet.

The production process starts from corn, whose starch is turned into glucose. A special enzyme is added to turn some of the glucose molecules into fructose – a lot of it in some cases. This added sugar is often associated with the increase of obesity rates, diabetes and other such diseases. High fructose corn syrup is added to everything from sauces to soups and ketchups, not only to sweets.

Once eaten, the high levels of fructose go straight to your bloodstream and increase your blood sugar levels. The excess fructose also upsets the liver and always surpasses the normal amount needed for it to convert into glucose. All excess is turned into liver fat and a fatty liver can turn to cirrhosis and other such diseases in time.


Both of them are added sugars and their consumption usually means ingesting more sugar than the liver can process and more than the body needs. However, corn syrup is mainly glucose, whereas high fructose corn syrup is at least 55% fructose and 45% glucose. This makes fructose much sweeter and much more harmful for the body. Corn syrup can be purchased in stores and it is available in two forms: white and dark. High fructose corn syrup, on the other hand, is only available to large producers.

Due to its high levels of fructose, HFCS is especially harmful because it directly and immediately affects the liver and forces a release of insulin. By comparison, corn syrup, which is basically glucose, is more easily absorbed.

Comparison Chart

Corn SyrupHigh Fructose Corn Syrup
A sweetener made from corn starchA sweetener made by turning some of the glucose molecules of corn syrup into fructose
All glucoseHas at least a 55-45 fructose to glucose ratio
Is available in storesIs only available to industrial producers
Can be clear or dark (with added color and caramel)Is usually clear
Is processed like normal glucose by the bodyThe large amount of fructose increases the blood sugar levels, affects the liver, and spikes the insulin
Is very sweetIs even sweeter
Its effects are still under debateIt is considered the leading cause of diabetes and obesity cases in the USA