Fructose is a simple sugar that occurs naturally in foods. It gives fruits their sweet taste. Crystalline fructose obtained from processing corn or sugar is used in food and beverages as a sweetener. Although originally marketed as a health supplement, crystalline fructose became available as a food ingredient about 20 years ago.
Why should I be aware of this?
- It is around 1.2 times the sweetness of table sugar in most food applications.
- Fructose has no enzymes, vitamins, and minerals.
- Fructose is not metabolized the same as other sugars. Instead of being converted to glucose which the body uses, it is removed by the liver.
- Because it is metabolized by the liver, fructose does not cause the body to release insulin the way it normally does.
- There is unproven contention that fructose converts to fat more than any other sugar.
- Fructose might not be as beneficial to diabetics as previously assumed.
- Fructose is also associated with more appetite, though reserach on this is still inconclusive.
All about fructose
Fructose is a single sugar or a monosaccharid. It has the same chemical formula as glucose but a different molecular structure. It is also called fruit sugar. Fructose is found in fruit, berries, melons, sweet potato, beetroot, onion and honey. Fructose and other sugars are carbohydrates, an important source of energy for the body.
Fructose and appetite
Most of us can handle small quantities of the fructose that is naturally present in foods. However, our bodies are not very well equipped to handle very large quantities of sugars, including fructose. Over the last few decades, HFCS use in foods has been on the rise. From the manufacturing point of view, HFCS has more advantages than sucrose as it is slightly sweeter, is easier to handle, a has longer shelf life and is much cheaper than sucrose. As a result, HFCS has found its way into a number of foods in the modern diet, resulting in an increased fructose intake.
Why is fructose popular
- Crystalline fructose offers unique benefits when used in a variety of products, including improved product texture, taste and stability.
- When combined with other sweeteners and starches, crystalline fructose boosts sweetness, cake height (in baked goods) and mouth-feel of foods and beverages.
- In addition, it produces a pleasing brown surface color and pleasant aroma
How much fructose to consume in a day
There are no specific dietary requirements or recommendations for fructose. The National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends total carbohydrate intakes should comprise 45 to 65% of calorie intake. The IOM also found that diets with more than 25% of caloric intake from added sugars were associated with significantly decreased levels of essential nutrients (e.g., calcium, magnesium, and zinc) in some population groups. The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend “choosing and preparing foods and beverages with little added sugars or caloric sweeteners".
Fructose and Health
Fructose has been recommended for diabetics for years, as it has a low glycemic index compared to cane sugar, does not require insulin and does not cause a rapid rise in blood sugar. However, the current thinking is that these benefits of fructose for diabetics may be overshadowed by cardiovascular concerns and the adverse effect on plasma lipids.
A small amount of fructose is desirable in that it stimulates glucose metabolism. But larger amounts cannot be processed by the liver fast enough and are, in turn, converted into fats and released into the blood as triglycerides. The increased level of triglycerides poses a health risk as a causative factor in heart disease. Other health concerns include combining (chelation) of micronutrients, especially copper and zinc with fructose, which may lead to these nutrients' deficiency.
It has also been speculated that high fructose levels can cause obesity as it does not produce a feeling of fullness. The hormones that control hunger and food intake are not stimulated and it can lead to greater food intake. However, this theory needs to be confirmed as yet and is based only on preliminary research.
Apart from these effects, food containing more fructose than glucose such as apples, pears, melons, honey, etc can cause abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea and flatulence in people who have fructose malabsorption— a condition where excess fructose (i.e more fructose than glucose) cannot be absorbed in the stomach and small intestine. This condition should not be confused with herditary fructose intolerance which is a genetic disorder usually detected in childhood.
Though more research is needed to establish the detrimental effects of fructose on human health. Unless you are a fructose malabsorber, it is safer to consume naturally sweet foods such as fresh fruit, freshly squeezed fruit juice and honey in place of the artificially sweetened foods. All simple sugars offer only “empty calories” and it is healthier to reduce the total amount of sugar in the diet, along with reducing the consumption of processed foods containing fructose.
Is corn syrup fructose different than fructose found in other foods?
No, all fructose works the same way in the body. Whether the fructose comes from corn syrup, cane sugar, beet sugar, strawberries, onions, or tomatoes, its processing within the body is same. Only the amounts are different. For example, a cup of chopped tomatoes has 2.5 grams of fructose, a can of regular (non-diet) soda supplies 23 grams, and a super-size soda has about 62 grams.
What can I do?
- Eat less refined food, like pasta and bread and cereals.
- Eat more salads, vegetables and proteins.
- Even if you eat out a lot, order the salads, your meat cuts without heavy, refined sauces and skip dessert.
- Read food lables carefully.
- Fructose Malabsorption and Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Fructose: Sweet, But Dangerous
- Questions and Answers About Fructose
- Fructose Maybe Not So Natural...and Not So Safe
- [http://www.westonaprice.org/modernfood/highfructose.html The Double Danger of
High Fructose Corn Syrup]
- Facts about fructose
- ↑ International Food Information Council: Questions and Answers about Fructose