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What is UP With This War on Fruit (Fructose)?

Headlines. They can be what brings you in to an article or turns you away - but they shouldn't be what you take away from reading (or not reading)!

I have noticed a lot of headlines surfacing about the 'dangers' of fructose, or how fructose is the 'deadliest' sugar, and how fructose is worse for your liver than alcohol. These headlines are frustrating because now, it is starting to trickle out of people's mouths: "That has FRUCTOSE in it, don't eat it!"

Let's break it down:

  • Fructose is a monosaccharide that is naturally found in fruits and even some vegetables.

  • Fructose is generally more sweet than table sugar.

  • Fructose is the reason your fruits taste sweet.

  • Fructose has a low glycemic impact (more stable blood sugar).

  • Fructose, when ingested in small amounts during meals, has been found to help control blood sugar levels compared to other carbohydrates [1, 2].

  • Fructose has been found to be no more fattening than other sugars when eaten in excess [1, 2].

  • Sugar itself is NOT BAD - too much sugar, any kind of sugar, is, and can lead to dyslipidemia, insulin resistance, diabetes, and increased central adiposity.

  • Certain systems in your body prefer sugars as a fuel source to run effectively, including the brain, nervous system, and immune system [3, 4].

There are studies that show that too much (i.e. excessive) fructose consumption elevates triglycerides, increases harmful LDL (so-called bad cholesterol), promotes the buildup of fat around organs (visceral fat), increases blood pressure, makes tissues insulin-resistant (a precursor to diabetes), and increases the production of free radicals (energetic compounds that can damage DNA and cells) -- but the sources of the fructose need to be mentioned: desserts, breakfasts, pastries, breads, cereals, and sugar-sweetened beverages. Read: Eating fruit is NOT the problem! In fact, fruit provides a limited amount of fructose as compared to many processed foods available on the market [5].

Bottom line: Do not stop eating fruits because you are afraid of sugar, or fructose in particular. The health benefits from the fruits and vegetables alone outweigh the risk of you "overconsuming" fructose, unless you are also filling your plate with overprocessed junk food anyway (just another reason to cut that 'crud' out, too).

Note: Some health food lines use fructose to sweeten their foods. Depending on the amount, it can be entirely ok! If you aren't sure if it's too much fructose, read the label and ask someone who will know.

More questions? Send us an email, or drop a comment!

  1. Tappy L, KA L. Metabolic effects of fructose and the worldwide increase in obesity. Physiol Rev. 2010 Jan;90(1):23-46.

  2. Cozma AI et al. Effect of Fructose on Glycemic Control in Diabetes: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Controlled Feeding Trials. Diabetes Care 2012;35:1-10

  3. Fehm HL, Kern W, Peters A. The selfish brain: competition for energy resources. Prog Brain Res.2006;153:129-40.

  4. Wolowczuk I, Verwaerde C, Vilitart O, Delanyoe A, Delacre M, Pot B, Grangette C. Feeding Our Immune System: Impact on Metabolism. Clin Dev Immunol. 2008, 2008: 639803.

  5. Harvard Health Letter. Published September, 2011.

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