You may have been hearing a lot about fructose being bad for you, and some health experts believe fructose is worse than sucrose when consumed in excess.
What does science have to say about this? Let’s have a look at the evidence:
What is Fructose?
Along with sucrose, and glucose, fructose makes up the sugar content in table sugar. Glucose is the main energy source for our body’s cells, and the fructose has to be converted into glucose by the liver before our bodies can use it.
It’s also an ingredient in sweeteners like agave syrup, and high fructose corn syrup. If the ingredients list shows added sugar, it’s likely to be high in fructose.
Because fructose causes only a low spike in blood sugar levels, it’s often recommended by health professionals as a ‘safe’ sweetener for type 2 diabetics.
Why is it Bad For You?
Because glucose and fructose are metabolized differently in the body.
Every cell in the body can use glucose, but the liver is the only organ that can metabolize fructose in big amounts. A diet that is high in calories and fructose means that the liver becomes overwhelmed, and starts turning the excess fructose into fat.
Researchers are debating these findings, so more human-based evidence is needed to be sure.
What Does Fructose do to the Body?
There is evidence to show that fructose may:
• Raise the levels of LDL cholesterol, leading to fat deposits around the organs, and possibly heart disease
• Increase blood levels of uric acid, leading to high blood pressure and gout
• Cause non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
• Cause leptin resistance, contributing to obesity
• Encourage overeating, as it doesn’t suppress appetite as well as glucose
• Cause insulin resistance, which can lead to obesity and type 2 diabetes
Not all of this has proven scientifically to be absolutely true, but more studies are being done that will give a clearer picture.
Don’t Confuse Fructose in Sugar With That in Fruit
None of this applies to whole fruits, even though they contain fructose. They also contain fibre and nutrients, and it’s very hard to eat the amount of fruit required to reach harmful levels of fructose.
Fruits and vegetables contain natural sugars, and are beneficial to health. Added sugars generally aren’t. In the West, our diets have become so full of processed foods and added sugars that we could be harming our health and well-being.