Table Sugar vs. High Fructose Corn Syrup: Which is Better?

Lisa Nelson, RD, LN Health Pro
  • Do you think of honey or agave nectar as being more “natural” than other types of sweeteners? You might be surprised to learn that most sweeteners go through very similar forms of processing.


    High fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, table sugar (sucrose), and agave nectar all undergo extraction, filtration, enzyme treatment, and concentration.


    Since processing methods are similar between these types of sweeteners, don’t assume you need to select one over another because one is more “natural” or less processed.


    Digestion and Absorption of Table Sugar vs. High Fructose Corn Syrup

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    The molecular structure of table sugar (sucrose) and high fructose corn syrup do differ; however, this difference is eliminated in the small intestine when the glucose-fructose bond in sucrose is broken. Therefore, once the two sweeteners reach the blood stream any difference has been eliminated.


    When they reach the blood stream they are providing the same sugars at the same ratios to the same tissues/organs within the same time frame.


    Despite the similarity in digestion and absorption, media coverage might have you questioning potential health concerns related to fructose and high fructose corn syrup. This steams from the possibility of small percent, ~3-5%, of fructose being converted to fatty acids in the liver.


    There has been a lot of research conducted in this area and studies published in Nutrition Research and Nutrition Journal conclude there is no differences in metabolic effects between sucrose and high fructose corn syrup regardless of how much you consume.


    When Selecting a Sweetener

    I’m sharing this because there has been a lot of media hype surrounding sweeteners, particularly high fructose corn syrup. Yes, sugar does contribute to your overall calorie intake and if it is in excess then it will contribute to weight struggles. However, there is nothing in the molecular structure of these sweeteners that has been connected to overweight/obesity.


    This means you are free to select the sweetener of your choice – table sugar, honey, agave nectar, high fructose corn syrup - and then use it wisely. Comes back to the rather boring, but true, statement of “moderation is key”.


    Sugar and Triglycerides

    Did you know sugar in your diet directly impacts triglyceride levels which in turn impacts your cholesterol levels? Learn more about this connection in the post Triglycerides: Why They Matter and How to Lower Them.


    If you are working to lower cholesterol levels, sign up for the free ecourse How to Lower Cholesterol in 8 Simple Steps at

Published On: May 31, 2014