Saturday, March 27, 2010

Avoiding High Fructose Corn Syrup

No matter what specialty of medicine I end up practicing once I graduate medical school, I will be confronting the epidemic of obesity that has overwhelmed America and its devastating health consequences. Partly for that reason, and partly because I want to promote healthy eating for my kids, T, and myself, I am always interested in new studies on healthy eating. I will try to post my finds and tips here as they come up.

I just came across an interesting study published by a group of Princeton researchers (hooray, alma mater!) on high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). You can read a summary of the study here or read the abstract in Pharmacology, Biochemistry, and Behavior . The study found that Rats who had access to high-fructose corn syrup gained significantly more weight than those with access to table sugar, even when their overall caloric intake was the same. High-fructose corn syrup is a processed sweetener used in place of sugar almost ubiquitously in commercially processed foods--everything from soda to fruit juice to yogurt to tomato soup. Now to be fair, the nutritional peril of HFCS compared to plain sugar (sucrose) is far from conclusive: a study published in the journal Nutrition in 2007 compared short-term HFCS v sugar consumption in lean women and found no difference in measured body metabolic responses. The American Medical Association has done reviews of medical literature in the past and has stated that " it appears unlikely that HFCS contributes more to obesity or other conditions than sucrose" but calls for more independent research on the issue. Perhaps this new Princeton study will affect some thinking, but the controversy remains.

Based on research I have read, my conclusion is that HFCS is worth avoiding in place of sugar when possible, if for no other reason than most high calorie foods commercially available use HFCS. Last fall, I decided to make an attempt at removing all HFCS products from my shopping list, instead opting for products that use sugar or making my own versions from scratch at home. First, I was amazed at how many of the "healthy" foods I was buying used HFCS: my yogurt, my pasta sauce, my granola bars, my cereals, the kids crackers, the list goes on and on. I have managed, with some hunting, investigation and habit-changing, to find non-HFCS substitutes for all my favorite products, for about the same price or cheaper, in some cases. Dannon natural yogurt in place of yoplait, Cascadian Farms Organic granola, bars and juices (often on sale at Target or our Rainbow grocery store!) in place of Nature Valley or Quaker Oats, etc. The results have been more fresh fruit and veggie snacking, more home-made foods in our picnic lunches, and (this is just my biased opinion) better satiety for all of us. I am open to changing my mind, but for now HFCS remains on my "try not to buy list."

Happily Ever,
Queen B


Luke and Jen said...

I'm very suspicious that you've cloned yourself. I don't know how you find time to be a frequent blogger, on a Q4 rotation, single-for-the-moment mother of two, and still look up research on high fructose corn syrup and make tons of homemade things! The Lord has heaped many blessings on you . . . and I try not to be jealous of your skills :)

Veronica said...

Hooray for food!! My biggest thing is I refuse any maple syrup that's not all-natural. Most of the mainstream commercial brands are all HFCS! Nathan loves his Aunt Jemima, but just reading the ingredient label on that stuff makes me shudder! She's not welcome in my pantry. Sorry girl.

LOVE my Queen B!

Queen B said...

No need to be jealous, future peds extraordinaire! Thanks for your encouragement! V, I have thought the same thing about pancake syrup...G-Bear loves it so much with her pancakes. Maybe when you get back in May you can share your favorite syrup brand with me?
Happily, Queen B

SnoWhite {Finding Joy in My Kitchen} said...

Hey!! I am so glad that I found your blog... your family looks wonderful. It's been a long time. And, it's nice to "see" you again :)

I've been blogging too -- I have a cooking blog (all recipes from scratch and HFCS Free!) and also a personal blog (you can find them both in my profile); I hope you stop by!