On Nutrition by Ed Blonz

How Dangerous is Corn Syrup?

DEAR DR. BLONZ: You have written about high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which many of my purist friends consider to be the equivalent of dietary poison. Are they correct in this view? I have read elsewhere that some commercial use of HFCS was originally motivated by the cost/sweetness ratio of the product, particularly with the tariff on imported sucrose and its effect on U.S. sugar prices.

I appreciate your reminders about the beneficial effects of striving for balance in our food consumption; they are refreshing and well-stated. -- F.S., Lafayette, California

DEAR F.S.: The sugar/carb/corn syrup issue can best be appreciated through an understanding that the body gets off-course when overloaded with sweets. When added fructose -- not the sugar naturally present in fresh fruit -- is a major player in any too-sweet diet, a number of unhealthful biochemical shifts tend to occur.

A review article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at the potential role of sugar (fructose) in the epidemics of hypertension, obesity, diabetes, kidney disease and cardiovascular disease. The paper suggested that high intakes of fructose are likely to be playing a role, and that certain groups, such as African Americans, are particularly susceptible. The paper correctly points out, however, that there are also illnesses associated with excessive sodium from salt, and with excessive protein.

The issue is not so much that people should reject and run away from any and all sources of HFCS. Bypassing HFCS in favor of an artificial sweetener is not the answer. My read of the evidence is that the way to get ahead of the game is to cast off as many sweetened, processed foods as possible, and stick with the real.

DEAR DR. BLONZ: I am allergic to sulfa antibiotics. Is the sulfur compound produced when eating asparagus also harmful? Should I stop eating it? Which other, if any, vegetables contain compounds of sulfur? -- N.H., Fremont, California

DEAR N.H.: Sulfur is an essential element; sulfa drugs, also called sulfonamides, are particular sulfur-containing compounds. These are not the same as the sulfur naturally found in foods. Methionine, for example, is an essential amino acid that contains sulfur, and is in all complete proteins, as well as nuts, seeds, beans and grains.

DEAR DR. BLONZ: I have a question about mixing fats. I sometimes mix a small quantity of unsaturated fat, such as canola or a mixed-blend oil, with butter when I bake cookies, piecrusts, etc. Would I be inadvertently getting a trans fat result in this simple home blend? -- M.H., San Diego

DEAR M.H.: What you are doing does not present a problem. Trans fats are formed through a multistage, timed industrial process involving high pressure and specialized catalysts. It would be impossible to duplicate this in the kitchen.

Send questions to: “On Nutrition,” Ed Blonz, c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, 64106. Send email inquiries to questions@blonz.com. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.