Back in 1977, average daily consumption of fructose was about 37 grams per person per day.
Recent surveys show that it’s up to 54.7 grams, or about 10 percent of total caloric intake. And for teenagers- who consume a ton of sodas– fructose intake averages a whopping 72.8 grams, the equivalent of 18 spoonfuls of the stuff every single day.
Why should we care? It’s deadly. Fructose is one of the worst sweeteners you can possibly consume.
Table sugar (sucrose) is made up of fructose and glucose. Studies that compare the effect of these two simple sugars (glucose and fructose) consistently show that it is the fructose part of table sugar that does the most damage, raising triglycerides and creating insulin resistance.
High-fructose corn syrup- while it’s been demonized a lot recently- is only marginally worse than plain old sugar (high fructose corn syrup is about 55% fructose and 45% glucose while table sugar contains equal amounts of both).
Recently, researchers at the Department of Physiology at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland decided to investigate the effect of a high-fructose diet on the children of diabetic patients. Twenty-four healthy young men were enrolled in the study; 16 of them were children of diabetic parents, 8 were not.
In the first part of the study, all of the 24 young men were fed a “regular diet” and in the second part, they were switched to a diet that added 35% more calories from fructose.
The researchers expected that the children of diabetics might be more susceptible to disorders associated with insulin and fat metabolism, so there was reason to expect that the children of diabetic parents would be particularly vulnerable to the effects of a high fructose diet.
And indeed, the children of diabetic parents did start the study with higher levels of triglycerides and lower levels of insulin sensitivity. But the fructose caused havoc not only in the children of diabetics, but in the children of non-diabetics as well.
In other words, high fructose is bad for everyone.
The high-fructose diet decreased insulin sensitivity in both groups (by about 5%).
It also increased blood levels of triglycerides by a whopping 110 % in the children of diabetics. But the children of diabetics were not the only ones affected: the high-fructose diet increased triglycerides by a stunning 50% in the children of non-diabetic patients as well!
It gets worse. In both groups, deposits of fat in the liver increased by more than 75%.
To me, fructose is like fur. Fur looks great on its original owners- it belongs on the backs of animals where it looks just fine, thank you very much! On the backs of people at the opera…. Not so much..
It’s the same thing with fructose!
Fructose belongs in fruit, where it is surrounded by fiber, phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals and other good stuff. Extracted from its natural source and concentrated as a sweetener, it’s a metabolic disaster.
I have no problem with consuming fructose in fruit (unless you are a diabetic or very insulin resistant). I have a huge problem with extracting fructose from its normal sources, producing cheap fructose-based syrups made from corn, and then sticking it in every food and food product in the supermarket.
That’s a recipe for disaster.
By the way, my personal favorite sweetener is Xylitol. It mixes great in hot beverages, stands up to heat, is sweeter than sugar, has a very very low glycemic impact, and actually has some health benefits, preventing bacterial adhesion to surfaces.
Save this week with 15% off Xylitol – read about it here
J Clinical Nutrition 09; 89: 1760-1765