High fructose corn syrup, or HFCS for short, is a man-made sweetener commonly used in processed foods. It’s included in many foods that one would least suspect, like bread, crackers, pasta sauces, and even pickles. Groups like the Corn Refiner’s Association and companies dependent on High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) continue to market it as a safe, almost “natural” product. The truth is becoming increasingly clear, however, with studies showing the immense health issues that arise from its long-term consumption. Considering that the majority of people today consume a diet primarily based on processed foods, it’s somewhat challenging for most people to eat it in moderation.
HFCS and Kidney Stones: What’s the Connection?
Recent research points to the fact that increases in kidney stone occurrences in men, women, and even children appear linked to regular consumption of HFCS. Research indicates HFCS encourages formation of two of the four kidney stone types, both of which are highly avoidable. Here are 5 facts you need to know to protect yourself and your loved ones against HFCS-induced kidney stone formation.
1. Eating Fructose Increases the Risk of Kidney Stones
Don’t be fooled by industry-fueled marketing campaigns — fructose consumption increases the risk of kidney stone formation. The National Kidney Foundation website states “eating too much fructose correlates with increasing the risk of developing a kidney stone.”  What’s more, a study evaluating data of over 200,000 people determined those who consumed the most refined fructose had a much greater chance of developing kidney stones.  Only the refined fructose showed the correlation, with the non-fructose carbohydrates showing no relation to kidney stones.
2. Drinking Soda Dramatically Increases Kidney Stone Formation
Keeping hydrated is an important part of avoiding kidney stones. Drinking soda to hydrate only does more damage. Sugar-sweetened sodas contain refined fructose from HFCS to make them sweet. A study from Harvard found those who regularly drank soda had a 33% greater risk of kidney stones.  Another study found drinking cola encouraged the formation of calcium oxalate (one type of kidney stone).  The study authors recommended avoiding colas as a way to reduce kidney stone risk.
3. Fructose Can Metabolize Into Oxalate
Some individuals are naturally predisposed to oxalate stones and will convert fructose into oxalate at a faster rate. This increases the amount of oxalate in the blood which can mix with calcium in the kidneys.
4. Increases Risk of Uric Acid Stones
Manufactured fructose increases the amount of uric acid excreted in urine; natural fructose from fruit does not.  High levels of uric acid, or hyperuricemia, encourages kidney stone formation and gout. Researchers have specifically noted elevated levels of uric acid caused by HFCS have been directly linked to metabolic syndrome, a condition identified by obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, insulin resistance, and renal failure.   Make sure to avoid fruit juices and sodas containing HFCS, corn syrup, and other artificial sweeteners to possibly reduce risk.
5. Children as Young as 3 Are Developing Kidney Stones
As unbelievable as this sounds, it’s completely true. More and more young children, and I mean under the age of 5, are developing kidney stones. Despite the increasing number of children suffering from this condition, researchers only acknowledge the modern diet of highly-processed foods as the main contributing factor.  However, parents and doctors both report that when HFCS is removed from the diet, the incidence of kidney stones goes away.
A Modern Problem?
Predicting the likelihood of developing kidney stones used to be simple. If someone in your family had kidney stones, you were thought to be very likely to develop them as well. But that’s changed. Traditional thought also holds men will more likely develop kidney stones; but, increasing numbers of women and children experience the pain and suffering of this terrible condition.
Reduce HFCS exposure
To prevent kidney stones, the common idea is to drink plenty of water, to avoid calcium supplements, and to decrease intake of salt, protein, and oxalate-rich foods. Of course, some of the healthiest foods around such as spinach, dark chocolate, sweet potatoes, and nuts all contain oxalates. My recommendation is to eliminate HFCS, corn syrup, and other manufactured chemical additives first. The Corn Refiners Association may not want you to hear it, but the science supports it.
Have you had kidney stones? Did eliminating HFCS from your diet help? We want to hear from you! Share your thoughts and comments with us below.
- National Kidney Foundation. Kidney Stones. NKF. Fact Sheet.
- Taylor EN1, Curhan GC. Fructose consumption and the risk of kidney stones. Kidney Int. 2008 Jan;73(2):207-12.
- Ferraro PM1, Taylor EN, Gambaro G, Curhan GC. Soda and other beverages and the risk of kidney stones. Clin J Am Soc Nephrol. 2013 Aug;8(8):1389-95. doi: 10.2215/CJN.11661112.
- Rodgers A. Effect of cola consumption on urinary biochemical and physicochemical risk factors associated with calcium oxalate urolithiasis. Urol Res. 1999;27(1):77-81.
- Angelopoulos TJ1, Lowndes J, Zukley L, Melanson KJ, Nguyen V, Huffman A, Rippe JM. The effect of high-fructose corn syrup consumption on triglycerides and uric acid. J Nutr. 2009 Jun;139(6):1242S-1245S. doi: 10.3945/jn.108.098194.
- Cirillo P1, Sato W, Reungjui S, Heinig M, Gersch M, Sautin Y, Nakagawa T, Johnson RJ. Uric acid, the metabolic syndrome, and renal disease. J Am Soc Nephrol. 2006 Dec;17(12 Suppl 3):S165-8.
- Bantle JP. Dietary fructose and metabolic syndrome and diabetes. J Nutr. 2009 Jun;139(6):1263S-1268S. doi: 10.3945/jn.108.098020.
- Tasian GE1, Copelovitch L2. Evaluation and Medical Management of Kidney Stones in Childre. J Urol. 2014 Jun 21. pii: S0022-5347(14)03821-X. doi: 10.1016/j.juro.2014.04.1080.