The great debate continues – is fructose good or bad for us? Over the last few years we have seen a lot of media coverage and publications on this very question. Some say that fructose is the sole root cause of our obesity problems, while others say it is no worse than any other nutrient.
Let’s break down what fructose actually is, the issues it may cause and what the current research and reviews suggest.
What Is Fructose?
Fructose is a type of sugar and is also known as a fruit sugar formed from simple carbohydrates known as monosaccharides. In terms of its chemical structure it is exactly the same as glucose, another popular sugar, however fructose is the sweetest tasting of all sugars.
Many people associate fructose with fruit, yet it is largely consumed in today’s society via a number of processed foods that we now eat, added as high-fructose corn syrup.
Aside from the sweetness aspect of this sugar, its popularity mainly came about for economic reasons. Fructose has only recently been an addition to our foods (aside from natural products).
The Issues With Fructose
This research, along with others began to highlight some negative health aspects from consuming this relatively new substance. Here’s a quick breakdown of the common issues raised:
Fructose is metabolized by the liver, thus bypassing the muscle cells, our main storage compartment for glucose. Our livers can only hold so much glucose before it is saturated and passes the surplus fructose onto storage (as it is not needed), into our fat cells.
Therefore, if we eat more than we burn off, it will then be stored in fat cells for later use. This rule however, applies to all sugars and not just fructose, but it is still important.
Already mentioned above, as fructose is metabolized in the liver, it does not cause the pancreas to release insulin the way it normally would in relation to carbohydrate consumption.
Insulin is the key hormone responsible for shuttling carbohydrates to the body’s cells. As fructose does not trigger a significant response to sugar, it can remain in the blood. This creates a condition which causes too much insulin in the blood stream.
The result can be an insulin-resistant liver which means its production of glucose becomes dysregulated, meaning it does not effectively reduce glucose output even though there is a plentiful supply of blood sugar available.
This forces the body to release even more insulin (even without the presence of consumed carbohydrates) as the liver continues to produce glucose, causing us to also become insulin resistant at the pancreas.
This commonly leads to a cluster of symptoms believed to cause type II diabetes, obesity and heart disease.
The Benefits And How Much Should We Take?
If you are eating whole unprocessed foods that naturally contain fructose then you shouldn’t be worried about any health issues with fructose.
Fructose can be found in many fruits (and veggies), which not only taste good but also contains a host of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber and polyphenols that our bodies need.
Therefore, eliminating some of these foods because they contain some fructose would not be wise because the benefits far outweigh the negatives. The body does just fine at handling modest amounts of fructose too, and the typical rule of thumb is around 15-25 grams per day.
Many common fruits do not surpass single figure amounts of fructose, meaning a number of pieces of fruit per day can be consumed within those guidelines.
Avoiding a diet high in processed and refined carbohydrates will ensure you stay well within the recommended guidelines, and it all comes down to one thing – balance.