You may have heard that the obesity epidemic in America is caused by high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) found in most sugared drinks and many types of foods. However, the evidence now blames any sugar in drinks and not the high fructose corn syrup in particular.

Researchers in the Netherlands showed that beverages sweetened by HFCS do not affect energy levels, appetite-related hormone levels or obesity any more than milk or drinks sweetened with sucrose (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, December 2007). People did not eat more food after drinking HFCS beverages than they did after drinking milk or non-HFCS sodas. They also showed that the obesity hormones (insulin, ghrelin, glucose and glucagon-like peptide 1 or GLP-1) were affected similarly by all types of sweetened drinks.

A sucrose-sweetened beverage contains 64 per cent glucose and 36 per cent fructose, while the HFCS is 41 per cent glucose and 59 per cent fructose, a not very significant difference. The researchers concluded that “energy balance consequences of HFCS-sweetened soft drinks are not different from those of other iso-energetic drinks: a sucrose soft drink or milk.” Currently, many scientists believe that any sugar in drinks promotes obesity because sugar in liquid form does not fill you up to make you eat less in the same way that sugar in solid food does. If you want to lose weight, I recommend that you exercise more and eat less, and avoid sugar in liquid form.


Reports from

Runny nose: allergy or fungus?
Muscle soreness


Dear Dr. Mirkin: My daughter’s coach is encouraging her to take creatine. Is it safe?

When you exercise almost at your maximum, you start to run out of oxygen and must get your energy from a system that does not require oxygen. Muscles contain creatine that can serve to power your muscles when you run out of oxygen, so in theory you can do more work using creatine. Some athletes take creatine supplements to help them take harder workouts which, in turn, make them better athletes. A concern is that if creatine helps them work harder, it might increase their chances of injuring themselves, particularly in the heat. Flat-out exhausting exercise in hot weather can raise body temperature and even cause heat stroke. However, a study from the University of Wisconsin- LaCrosse failed to show any harm from hard exercise in the heat when an athlete takes creatine (Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, August 2007).

No good studies have been done to show what amounts of creatine are safe to take beyond what your own body makes, so let the buyer beware. Taking too much creatine can cause weight gain, increased insulin production and possibly kidney damage. Also, the industry that distributes creatine is unregulated and you have no way to know what you are actually buying.


Dear Dr. Mirkin: Is coconut oil the best oil for frying?

The author of a popular natural health newsletter is selling coconut oil based on this claim. He is correct that frying with various oils causes carcinogens to form, but nobody has shown that coconut oil doesn’t also form these same carcinogens.

Fats are classified by how many double bonds they have in their structures. Double bonds are the weak links in a molecule that break down with heating to form all sorts of harmful chemicals that increase cancer risk. Monounsaturated fats have only one double bond in each fatty acid. Polyunsaturated fats have more than one double bond. Since saturated fats have no double bonds, and all the others have double bonds, saturated fats are more stable and less like to break down to form heterocyclic amines. Plant sources that are high in saturated fats include coconut, palm and palm kernel oils. Animal-source frying oils such as clarified butter are also high in saturated fats.

However, they all break down with burning and high- temperature frying. You should not burn any fats. If you enjoy deep-fried foods, keep them as occasional treats; don’t believe that using any particular type of oil will make them healthful.


Recipe of the Week

Creamy Asparagus Soup

You’ll find lots of recipes and helpful tips in The Good Food Book – it’s FREE