Let’s Talk About HFCS

My chiropractor had the movie King Corn playing at today’s appointment. This movie is a documentary about two friends who move to Greene, Iowa and grow corn. Sounds amazing, right? :)


Actually, it’s pretty interesting and at times gruesome. Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis move to Iowa to grow corn. They convince a local farmer to let them “borrow” an acre of land, grow the corn, and then try to track their corn. This is when they discover that the corn they grow isn’t sold to eat. It’s sold to the government and turned into High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS).

Ian and Curt document the process of creating HFCS — which is VERY disturbing. They followed a similar process to this (from the all knowing Wikipedia)

  1. Turn the corn into cornstarch.
  2. Treat the cornstarch with alpha-amylase to produce shorter chains of sugars called oligosaccharides.
  3. Add glucoamylase – which is produced by Aspergillus, species of mold, in a fermentation vat — breaks the sugar chains down even further to yield the simple sugar glucose.
  4. Xylose isomerase (aka glucose isomerase) converts glucose to a mixture of about 42% fructose and 50–52% glucose with some other sugars mixed in.

While inexpensive alpha-amylase and glucoamylase are added directly to the slurry and used only once, the more costly xylose-isomerase is packed into columns and the sugar mixture is then passed over it, allowing it to be used repeatedly until it loses its activity. This 42–43% fructose glucose mixture is then subjected to a liquid chromatography step, where the fructose is enriched to about 90%. The 90% fructose is then back-blended with 42% fructose to achieve a 55% fructose final product. Most manufacturers use carbon adsorption for impurity removal. Numerous filtration, ion-exchange and evaporation steps are also part of the overall process.

Did your eyes glaze over like mine? Does anyone know what half of those ingredients are? Or what half of those steps mean?

The movie also discusses the food industry and how SO many of our foods in the US/Canada (and even the UK) are made of corn — and how so many of the animals we go on to eat are FED corn. The most disturbing scene is one where they show a cow with a HOLE in it’s stomach. Why does it have the hole?? From the corn of course.

In her book, Mastering Your Metabolism, Jillian Michaels also talks about the dangers of HFCS. Because it’s not natural, HFCS alters your hormone balance and has been attributed to the rise in obesity, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, and fatty-liver disease. When SHE cut soda (a major HFCS contributor) and other processed foods out of her diet, she lost weight and her endocrine system, that was failing her, began working properly again. SCARY.


I know there are few commercials out there about how HFCS is the “same as sugar” — and sure sugar is NOT good for you either — but eating HFCS is DEFINITELY not the alternative! Don’t believe that crap. The next time you go grocery shopping — check out the labels. You will be SHOCKED at the number of items that list High Fructose Corn Syrup, High Glucose Corn Syrup, or High Fructose Maize Syrup in the labels. The biggest offenders? Soda, bread, salad dressing, ketchup, crackers, & cereal. Fiber One bars?? Yep, they have HFCS. Heinz ketchup? You betcha.

As for the movie – if you have a chance to watch it I do recommend it. It’s not pretentious like some documentaries can be. It’s honest and straight from the heart and despite the topic, they are not stuffing it down your throat. They just want to you know.

This year I vowed to stop eating foods with HFCS. I am (sadly) not always successful, but I have changed what brands I buy BECAUSE of it. HFCS is NOT necessary for our diet and we deserve better.

Have you watched King Corn? Are you surprised about what kinds of food have HFCS? I know I was!


  1. Jenny @ Fitness Health and Food says

    Great post! I have not seen King Corn but I have read a lot about HFCS. It really is insidious and found in soo many products. It’s just another reason to eat as many whole, unprocessed foods as possible! :)

    Thanks for sharing :)

    • Michelle says

      YES! It’s scary how many people don’t realize how important whole foods are.

      You should check out the movie – it’s pretty entertaining and only 88 minutes long! Brace yourself for the cow though.

  2. says

    I think people freak out about HFCS WAY too much. Life is about moderation (hey! you’re blog subtitle!). Anything isn’t good for you in large quantities. When everyone is done freaking out about HFCS, they will be on to freaking out about the next thing. If it’s not the oil popcorn is cooked in at movie theatres, it’s fast food. If it’s not fast food, its HFCS. It’s always something. I think everyone just needs to be aware in general and moderate.

    • Michelle says

      Well, I definitely believe in living life in moderation, but HFCS is not in foods in moderation. It’s in EVERYTHING and it doesn’t have to be. It wasn’t in the food we ate growing up. Food prices keep going up and up – as does health insurance because people are eating this crap thinking it’s healthy. If they are going to raise the prices, then we deserve better! Yes, we need to be aware – but there are SO many people who are not. Did you watch the clip of them making HFCS? It’s pretty disturbing to see how it’s made and what kind of chemicals are used to make it!

  3. Mackenzie says

    I am a HFCS-where-it’s-supposed-to-be gal. Like gummy bears! You never assume you’re eating something “natural” or “good for you” when you’re eating slimy, chewy candy! But yes, disturbing how it’s in so many things. BTW, Heinz came out with a Simply Heinz (?) a few months back that had no HFCS, and it was really good!

    Another big offender is spaghetti sauce. And it tastes HORRIBLE with HFCS.

    What makes me sad is that the cheap foods readily available to those near poverty level alllll contain it. And those people have to eat what is accessible. As a rule, cheap food is bad for you–so it’s no wonder the obesity epidemic just grows.

    • Michelle says

      Yes to all of this! I don’t expect them to change the “junk” food to make it healthier — but then you’re really making the decision to eat crap. It’s when it’s advertised as Whole Grain and healthy — and ends up having HFCS in it that pisses me off!

      It blows my mind how unhealthy the cheap stuff is. There just has to be a better alternative.

  4. says

    LOVE that movie. We saw it a couple years ago and it was really eye-opening. It was before I knew as much as I do now about HFCS and it really shocked me. Bread was the one that surprised me the most. You think of bread as being healthy, relatively speaking, and it was in all breads — even 100 percent whole wheat. I’m glad to see food companies marketing non-HFCS products more and more, although the mysterious ingredients they using to replace it still concern me. I’m sure it’ll be the next thing for us to be on alert for.
    By the way, the King Corn guys have a new movie either coming out or just out called Truck Farm. I’ll be keeping my eyes open for it on Netflix.
    MomJovi recently posted..Memories As Sweet as Easter Peeps

    • Michelle says

      Yes, bread has definitely been the most disappointing. I agree that it’s always something. I wish everything could be made of simple ingredients.

      Oh I’ll definitely be keeping my eye out for Truck Farm too! Thanks for the head up.


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