Corn Syrup vs High-Fructose Corn Syrup - What's The Difference?

Posted in fructose malabsorption on May 5, 2022

Corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup are sweeteners used in the processed food industry.

But is there a major difference between regular corn syrup and the high-fructose kind? Are they bad for your health, and, if so, are they equally bad?

Keep reading to find out the difference between corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup.

Corn Syrup Vs High-Fructose Corn Syrup

Both corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup are sweeteners derived from corn starch and are widely used by food and beverage manufacturers. 

Corn Syrup

Pure corn syrup is a sweetener made from the starch of corn by adding an enzyme to the starch that breaks it down into simple sugars. This is the same method used to produce brown rice syrup from rice.

There are two types of corn syrup: light corn syrup and dark corn syrup. The lighter version is moderately sweet, while the darker one has a caramel color and may be sweeter due to the addition of molasses.

Known as glucose syrup to confectioners, it is used to soften the texture of foods, add volume, and enhance flavor. It is also a popular substitute for granulated sugar in recipes as it doesn’t crystallize. 

High-Fructose Syrup

This is a product manufactured from corn syrup. A significant proportion of the glucose is enzymatically converted into fructose using the enzyme D-xylose isomerase. This produces the sweeter substance known as high-fructose corn syrup. It generally contains 55% fructose and 45% glucose.

It is used to sweeten processed foods, packaged cereals, and soft drinks.

The Difference Between Corn Syrup And High-Fructose Corn Syrup

So, what’s the difference between corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup?

The main difference between corn syrup & high-fructose corn syrup is in high-fructose corn syrup, some of the glucose content has been enzymatically converted into fructose to produce a sweeter result. Essentially, corn syrup is pure glucose while high-fructose corn syrup is glucose and fructose. Both are glucose syrups made from corn starch.

Is Corn Syrup Better For You Than High-Fructose Corn Syrup?

Now that you know the difference between corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup, is one healthier than the other?

Too much sugar of any kind can have a negative impact on your health. So, corn syrup is fine in moderation - just like honey, maple syrup, or other sweeteners. Because pure corn syrup is 100% glucose, it’s also more easily absorbed by the body and used as energy.

High-fructose corn syrup, on the other hand, contains fructose, which is more rapidly metabolized to fat in the body than other forms of sugar.

Studies have shown that it bypasses the body's satiating signals, thereby encouraging overconsumption. This can lead to weight gain and obesity-related conditions. Excess use can also lead to the development of insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome. These conditions have a direct link to type 2 diabetes and other serious diseases.

Lastly, high-fructose corn syrup can’t be absorbed by the body until the liver converts it to glucose, which puts extra strain on the liver.

So, it’s clear that pure corn syrup is a better option than high-fructose corn syrup.

However, the next time you’re picking up some corn syrup at the store for baking, be aware that it might actually contain high-fructose corn syrup. Some manufacturers add high-fructose corn syrup to regular corn syrup to make it sweeter and to save costs. So, always check the ingredients list!

Are There Any Advantages Of High-Fructose Corn Syrup Over Corn Syrup?

Fructose is the sweetest form of sugar. So, food manufacturers favor high-fructose corn syrup as they can use less syrup to produce sweeter results than if they were to use pure corn syrup.

Other advantages of using high-fructose corn syrup as opposed to regular corn syrup include that it:

  • Is cheaper than regular corn syrup
  • Is more readily available
  • Has a longer shelf life
  • Has a lower freezing point
  • Is equal in sweetness to sucrose (regular table sugar), whereas regular corn syrup is not


Regular corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup have the same origin, but the fructose content of the latter sets them apart. The overconsumption of this glucose and fructose combo can be harmful to your health.

Many processed foods and soft drinks contain high amounts of this substance. So, check ingredients labels every time you make a purchase. Because life is sweeter when you take care of your health!

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