What does 'no high fructose corn syrup' mean?

Here's how to decipher the claim on the food label

Published: February 27, 2015 06:00 AM

If the label on a grocery store product proclaims it has "no high fructose corn syrup," that doesn't mean the product is free of added sugars. Tossing high fructose corn syrup off an ingredients list has more to do with marketing than with science.

Similar to sugar chemically, high fructose corn syrup is often used by manufacturers in products because it's cheaper and helps maintain color, texture, and flavor.

But it has roughly the same amount of calories as sugar and similar health risks, notes Walter Willett, M.D., Dr.P.H., chair of the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. You should limit added sugars in your diet no matter what type; the American Heart Association, for example, recommends no more than 6 teaspoons of any type of added sugar (about 24 grams) for women and no more than 9 teaspoons of added sugar (about 36 grams) for men each day.

Consumer Reports' advice: Current nutrition facts labels list the grams in a serving, but they don't distinguish between added sugars and the sugars naturally present in milk, fruit, and vegetables.

When reading the labels, be on the lookout for other forms of added sugars, such as agave nectar, brown sugar, corn sweetener, dextrose, evaporated cane juice, fructose, fruit-juice concentrate, honey, maltose, malt syrup, maple syrup, sucrose, and syrup.

Find out where sugar hides in your diet and how to eat less of it.

Editor's Note:

This article also appeared in the November 2014 issue of Consumer Reports on Health.

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