In the XIX and early XX centuries, an average American took in about 15 grams of fructose, mostly from eating fruits and vegetables. Today the average consumption of it in developed countries is about 55 grams per day – almost 4 times higher! It is an alarming fact, because it suspiciously parallels increases in obesity, diabetes, and a new condition called nonalcoholic fatty liver disease that now affects up to one-third of Americans.
This tremendous increase of fructose is resulting from a huge variety of manufactured foods that have to be sweet – candies, ice creams, chocolate bars, cookies, pastries, donuts, ketchup, snacks, sauces, yogurts, diet products and etc. But the major part of it we consume with soft drinks – sodas, ice teas and other sweet beverages. All this has happened “thanks to” the invention in 1970s of HFCS – High Fructose Corn Syrup. It is a sweetener made from corn starch (by the way, today over 90% of all corn is genetically modified) that has been processed by glucose isomerase to convert some of its glucose into fructose. HFCS is far cheaper to produce and about 20% sweeter than table sugar.
The problem is that sugars are not created equal. Sucrose (table sugar), glucose and fructose are absolutely different in the ways our body metabolizes them. Fructose in form of High-Fructose Corn Syrup is the worst of the worst! It is the fastest way to destroy your health.
HFCS in our food can hide in tens of names. Just out of curiosity, check the ingredient list of any soda of any famous brands and you will see the names like these: corn syrup, glucose-fructose, isoglucose, glucose-fructose syrup, maize syrup, glucose syrup, tapioca syrup, dahlia syrup, fruit fructose, or crystalline fructose. If the label doesn’t say “sugar” or “cane sugar,” you can be pretty sure it’s some form of high-fructose corn syrup.
Glucose tends to pass through the liver and can be metabolized anywhere in the body, actually every cell can use it for energy. In contrast to glucose, only liver cells can break down fructose. However, the uptake of fructose by the liver is not regulated by insulin.
Fructose metabolism in the liver goes much faster than glucose metabolism, because it skips one step of transformation. Fructose intensifies synthesis of triglycerides (fat) and very low density lipoprotein – VLDL. (Just to remind: LDL – low density lipoprotein, it is referred to as the “bad” cholesterol; HDL – high density lipoprotein is the “good” cholesterol.) VLDL is the worse from the “bad” cholesterol, the main culprit of fat-related health problems (but it is not included in the standard cholesterol test and requires a specific test). VLDL thickens the artery walls, constricting the passage of blood and leading to high blood pressure. VLDL is stored in the body as visceral fat, the fat that is formed within the abdominal cavity and is therefore stored around a number of important internal organs such as the liver, pancreas and intestines. It is the main cause for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. VLDL is the deadliest kind of fat.
Uric acid and free radicals are other end products of fructose transformation in the liver. Uric acid can turn off production of nitric oxide, a substance that helps protect artery walls from damage. Free radicals can damage cell structures, enzymes, and even genes. Another effect of high fructose intake is insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes.
Today, afraid of being obese, people replace fat, often healthy fat, with refined sugar and thus in fructose. But if you take a closer look at what fructose does to the body, you can see that low-fat diet rich in refined sugar is really a high-fat diet.
We have to keep in mind though that fructose, in small amounts, has been in people’s diet since creation of the world and that we usually handle small amounts of it very well. In vegetables and fruits, it is mixed with fibre, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and flavonoids, all which moderate negative metabolic effects of fructose.
Figuratively speaking, glucose is “good” sugar; fructose is “bad” sugar.
The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN)
The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) was asked by the UK government to examine the latest evidence on the links between consumption of carbohydrates, sugars, starch and fibre and a range of health outcomes (such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, bowel health and tooth decay) to ensure the government’s position on consumption was up-to-date.
SACN found that high levels of sugar consumption are associated with a greater risk of tooth decay and high energy intake. Drinking high-sugar beverages increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, causes weight gain and increases in BMI – Body Mass Index, a measure of body fat based on height and weight. Expert nutritionists recommend:
- halving sugar in diet
- minimizing consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages
- having more fibre in diet by taking more fruit and vegetables and wholegrain foods
Starchy carbohydrates should still form basis of your diet. The best sources of natural carbohydrates are starchy vegetables. Starch is a complex polymer of glucose molecules that are easily digested and absorbed as glucose. Starchy vegetables have been consumed for ages by our ancestors as nutritious foods and a dense source of energy.
The problem is NOT SUGAR; the problem is AMOUNT and TYPE of it.