Fructose: How Sweet It Ain’t
By now we’ve all heard the news, sugar is not only packing on the pounds, it supports chronic diseases of inflammation. From tooth decay and gum disease to heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, scientific evidence now indicates we are living the sweet life at the risk of death.
This year the FDA announced the new Nutrition Facts label for packaged foods. The new label, mandatory on all food packaging by 2018, should make it easier to see how much sugar is in a food product. Since sugar often goes incognito on packages, hiding behind some 61 different names, the new labels offer much needed transparency.
But food products aren’t the only place sugars lurk. Foods, traditionally deemed healthy, like fruits and vegetables, contain both sugar (glucose) and fructose. Of these naturally occurring simple sugars, research indicates fructose is much more effective at stimulating fat storage in the blood, liver and fat tissues. And, of the two, fructose is associated with insulin resistance at a higher rate than glucose or starch, regardless of calorie intake.
Do we need to be concerned about the fructose in fruit?
While fructose is fructose, regardless of where it is sourced, when fruit is eaten whole, fiber intact, it contains compounds such as vitamin C, antioxidants and flavonaols, that can block the harmful effects of its fructose.
Though more research is needed, these compounds might explain why, unlike fructose from added sugars, fructose from natural fruits is not associated with high blood pressure. Or why, removing fructose from added sugars improved metabolic syndrome in obese Mexican adults, even if natural fruits were eaten. http://diabetes.diabetesjournals.org/content/62/10/3307
The key to safe forms of fructose appears to lie in eating whole food. According to Dr. Robert Lustig, “Fiber is the reason to eat fruit.” Lustig, author of Fat Chance, says the fiber in fruit provides satiety and the slow release of sugar.
Fiber in whole fruit also, “changes our intestinal flora, or microbiome, by helping different species of healthy bacteria thrive.” To get the most bang for your fruit eating buck, it’s important to eat a variety of fruit in a variety of colors.
But, If you’re a juicer, beware. When you pulverize your fruit and vegetables even if the whole fruit and veg components are in there, (but especially if they’re not) a dramatic transformation happens. Your food, in essence, has been pre-digested. This less-complex form allows you to drink more of it, and drink it faster, than you could have if you had chewed it.
And most damaging, because your body doesn’t have to work on breaking down the fibrous cellular structure, the fruit’s fructose is released directly into your blood stream at a faster rate.
Unlike juiced fruit, dried fruit keeps its cellular structure. But for what it keeps in structure, it loses in natural water content. Water, like fiber, provides a sense of fullness. Simply compare a handful of grapes to a handful of raisins. Raisins concentrate the sugars and calories with a smaller volume making them less filling and more caloric than the grapes. In turn, volume for volume, there is more fructose in raisins than grapes.
When it comes to fructose, eating juiced and dehydrated fruits is less optimal than their wh
ole counterpoint. And, while fruit consumption can, and does, contribute to an increased risk of associated inflammatory diseases, most Americans consume excess fructose from High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) containing products like soft drinks and sweets.
If you’re struggling to recover from chronic disease, eliminating HFCS food products from your diet is a great place to start. These products are not only devoid of nutrients, but fiber. Unlike glucose which, eaten in the right amount, can be used biologically for energy, free floating fructose has no biologic purpose.
Fructose is metabolized almost exclusively by the liver. This processing contributes to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and drives the production of waste products and toxins that create a chain of events that can lead to a multitude of chronic diseases.
These chronic diseases are the intersection of choice and consequence. Navigating the crossroad safely is the opportunity.
Artwork Credits: Sugar Skull Rakka Deer; Killing Your Liver,