It's easy to get answers about health and nutrition! Just send your question by email to [email protected] and Dr. Harlan will respond to selected questions of general interest. Answers will be posted in the Ask Dr. Gourmet newsletter (sign up now!) and archived in the Ask Dr. Gourmet section of the website.
What research have you done concerning high fructose corn syrup? Some health experts are telling us to stop drinking sodas because of either the high sugar content or the high fructose corn syrup.
I have found that when I eat high fructose corn syrup I can't sleep. It's like I've had too much caffeine. But how do I avoid it, especially when eating out?
We went to Applebee's and I asked about HFCS; it was in everything I wanted to order. I couldn't even order plain cooked vegetables because the seasoning had HFCS in it. Another high class expensive restaurant in downtown Seattle, though, refuses to serve anything with HFCS in it. The manager said, "I think it will be the death of the human race."
You are right that there is a lot of controversy about high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) these days. I have done a lot of reading and looked at the research that we have now and I find that it is inconclusive. We simply don't know for sure if eating HFCS is any more harmful than sucrose (table sugar). Some research says yes and some says no. Some indicates that it has contributed to the problems of obesity and others not.
People have reported reactions such as you have had to many "artificial" foods such as aspartame, Splenda and MSG. Whether this is widespread with HFCS I am not sure. I have not seen such reports in the literature.
I don't believe that HFCS is as evil as some say, but there's no doubt that by being in so many of our foods the calorie content is increased. At the same time, it is not the occasional soda that is causing the issue but rather the fact that Americans consume about 3 quarts a week of carbonated beverages. That's a LOT of extra calories that most folks just don't need.
The key to a healthier diet is to work toward eating fresh food that you cook yourself and thus avoiding such additives. Likewise, eating at restaurants where you know and can trust the owners is important. This doesn't have to be an expensive restaurant, but eating at chain places like Applebee's, Chili's, Red Lobster and Olive Garden is not very healthy in general.
Thanks for writing,
Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP, CCMS