DR. HOOK- How sweet: The lowdown on high fructose

Soda is soda and a pop is a Popsicle in NYC, where I used to live. But when I moved to Kenton, Ohio at the tender age of 7, I ordered an orange pop but got an orange soda instead. The confused worker at the Dairy Freeze told me, "You ordered an orange pop, so drink it!"  He thought I was just off the boat and gave me a scowl (something I would experience quite often in Ohio).

I told my neighbors about this, and they said, "No, you're drinking pop."  

I immediately turned in my application to move back to NYC, but my parents rejected it. Okay, fine. Soda is pop, pop is Popsicle, and aunt is pronounced "ant." See if I care.  

Well, I did care and refused to call soda "pop." And my brother and I drank so much soda while growing up that I'm surprised out heads didn't "pop" off. Can soda make you unhealthy and obese?

High-fructose corn syrup is in practically everything that is sweet nowadays. I was a Child of the Corn, sans the axe, growing up in Kenton, but I never predicted it would be added to so many foods! Fructose is naturally found in fruit and honey– that's right, darling. 

Initially, fructose was studied for its benefits, like not utilizing insulin in its metabolism. A revolution for diabetics!? Low doses work well with the liver to prevent high blood sugars. But as with everything, too much of a good thing turns sweet to sour.

High dose fructose is associated with Metabolic Syndrome X: insulin resistance (leading to glucose intolerance and Type II Diabetes Mellitus), poor cholesterol, increased body fat, and hypertension.

High fructose interferes with the insulin so that muscles don't utilize sugar well. So the sugars go straight to fat or cholesterol. (Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.) The Nurses' Health Study of 1999 showed high fructose was associated with increased C-peptide levels (serum insulin levels are above normal all day long).

In mice, high fructose causes fat collections to increase like Marlon Brando's later-in-life belly. And we all know that increased fat can cause high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and diabetes.  

 Three's Company star Suzanne Somers said, "Sugar is the enemy," which is true in some respects. Sucrose is what most people use as table sugar– two glucose sugar molecules. Fructose is a different type of simple sugar but doesn't sate (satisfy) your appetite like glucose does. Animal studies have shown that they will eat less food sweetened with sucrose, but will eat like Jabba the Hut at a buffet with food containing high fructose. Maybe that's why all these snacks and drinks that are sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup turn some people into Jaws.

I've always heard the folklore about children, "Oh, she just ate a bunch of sugar, so she is bouncing off the walls."  

I've never been a believer in that, but high fructose actually stimulates the sympathetic nervous system to give a high– as well as to increase insulin resistance.

Obesity as well as the use of high-fructose corn syrup has been increasing in the past two to three decades. In my practice, I see a lot of overweight and obese patients with 20-oz bottles of high-fructose-sweetened drinks under their arm.  (I wonder if I can add to my "No Smoking" sign, "No high fructose"?) Giving up a bottle of sugared drinks, like sweetened tea, can help a person lose 10-20 pounds in a year. I've seen it work!

 I drink too much diet soda, which probably isn't good for me, but it's my alternative to high fructose. Sometimes a spoonful of sugar does not make the medicine go down. Sorry if that sounds corny.