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These sugar substitutes are often made from high-intensity sweeteners that are many times sweeter than sugar. They're popular because they add only a few or no calories to foods.
Like all ingredients added to food, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates high-intensity sweeteners. Years ago, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) received a bad name for being very unhealthy. Researchers found that it contributes to obesity. How?
Most sugars, including white table sugar, agave syrup and molasses are processed from their original forms, which makes them safe and easy to eat. These natural sugars are made up of one part glucose (sugar found in tomatoes, onions and mushrooms) and one part fructose (sugar found in fruit and honey). HFCS is different. It is a highly processed form of corn sugar that has a higher amount of fructose than glucose. The body processes the fructose in a way that causes obesity.
HFCS causes a spike in your body’s blood sugar level. The spike can last for quite some time before levels return to normal. The spikes affect your metabolism and can lead to obesity. HFCS also raises triglyceride levels and bad cholesterol (LDL). All these things boost your risk for obesity and heart disease.
The negative press has made people more aware of what they eat. More people read food labels to look for hidden sugars. To help, the FDA has approved a new name for dangerous sugar. High-fructose corn syrup is now labeled as HFCS-90. So, if you’re monitoring your sugar intake, be aware. Look for the HFCS-90 label and avoid those foods.
Watching your sugar intake is important for everyone — especially for people with diabetes. Using a food diary is a great way to track your sugar intake, along with the calories and nutrients you consume. Being well informed is a positive step toward bettering health. Good health means fewer doctor visits, less medication and, more energy.
HFCS is mostly found in packaged and processed foods. Skip these foods loaded with HFCS:
Your health is important, so read food labels and avoid foods laden with HFCS.
Do yourself another healthy favor: Take advantage of important health screenings covered by your health plan. This includes preventive services — such as blood glucose screening — that may be covered at no cost to you when you see an in-network provider.*
Originally published 4/21/2016; Revised 2021, 2024
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma, a Division of Health Care Service Corporation, a Mutual Legal Reserve Company, an Independent Licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association
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