Two recent studies provided the first evidence that fructose helps raise blood pressure. One study further suggested that people who consume junk foods and sweetened soft drinks at night could gain weight faster than those who don't.
Fructose accounts for about half the sugar molecules in table sugar and in high-fructose corn syrup, the sweetener used in many packaged foods.
In some circles these days, it’s becoming increasingly fashionable to claim that the many ills attributed to fructose are overblown. After all, you might hear, it’s just sugar, no better or worse than any other sort of sugar, right? It’s a natural substance found in fruit, after all, so how bad could it possibly be?
The delusion that fructose is an acceptable form of sugar is quite prevalent even in many nutritional circles.
You can thank the Corn Refiners Association for that line of thought. The CRA has been pouring millions of dollars into an ad campaign designed to create the notion that fructose, and especially high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), is nothing more than a harmless snack.
This could not be farther from the truth.
Fructose contains no enzymes, vitamins or minerals, and it leeches micronutrients from your body. A mountain of evidence has accumulated demonstrating that it is absolutely terrible for your health.
Fructose and Fruit
It is true that fructose is found in fruit. However, eating small amounts of whole fruit does NOT provide tremendous amounts of fructose and is not be a problem for most people, unless diabetes or obesity is an issue. Berries, especially blueberries, raspberries and cranberries, are some of the healthiest fruits around, as they are loaded with powerful antioxidants -- and have relatively small amounts of sugar.
But in fact, you can get too much fructose from fruit sources, especially if you consume your fruit in the form of juice.
When fruit is intact and whole, its fiber will somewhat moderate the release of fructose into your bloodstream, as well as somewhat moderate insulin release. Fruit juice contains little to no fiber -- but it does contain about eight full teaspoons of sugar per eight-ounce glass. This fructose is brought rapidly in your body, promoting obesity and other problems. Humans were not meant to drink their calories.
Even Worse Than Table Sugar
Table sugar (sucrose) is far from being a food I recommend; all sugar can cause serious health problems. But the fact is, fructose is the worst of the lot. It is metabolized to fat in your body far more rapidly than any other sugar, and, because most fructose is consumed in liquid form, as fruit juice or as soda, its negative metabolic effects are significantly magnified.
Those negative effects include:
- Metabolic Syndrome
- An increase in triglycerides and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels
- Liver disease
And now, according to the research described above, it appears that fructose can lead to high blood pressure as well. High blood pressure is a serious health concern that can cause heart disease and increase your risk of having a stroke. It’s especially dangerous because it often has no warning signs or symptoms.
High Fructose Corn Syrup
Until the 1970’s, most sugar was sucrose derived from sugar beets or sugar cane. But sugar from corn, especially HFCS, is now more popular because it is much less expensive to produce. As a result, the use of HFCS in the U.S. diet increased a staggering 10,673 percent between 1970 and 2005! HFCS also contains nearly twice the fructose of the sugars that came before it.
HFCS is now present in a dizzying array of products, especially processed foods, and it is the sweetener used in most sodas. It is a prime factor behind the current obesity epidemic, which is largely fueled by sugary sweet soft drinks.
Soft drinks are the leading source for calories in America, and the major reason why about 9 percent of average dietary energy intake in the United States now comes from fructose. Think about that -- very nearly one in ten calories! Would a meal look healthy to you sitting on your plate if nearly 10 percent of it were pure sugar?
But HFCS isn’t only a problem because it’s a nutrient-free source of endless calories. It also harms organs like your liver and pancreas, leading to bone loss, anemia and heart problems, just to name a few. HFCS has been found to inhibit the action of your immune system's white blood cells. Unbound fructose, which is found in large quantities in HFCS, can interfere with your heart's use of minerals such as magnesium, copper and chromium.
Still think fructose is harmless?
The average American drinks an estimated 60 GALLONS of soda every year, and one extra can of the sweet stuff can add up to 15 extra pounds over the course of a year. Right off the bat, you can greatly reduce your fructose intake by eliminating all soda and sugary drinks from your life.
Since HFCS is present in many processed foods, to avoid it completely you need to focus your diet on whole foods. And if you do purchase any processed foods, make sure you read the label -- and put it back on the shelf if it lists high fructose corn syrup as an ingredient.
However, like most areas in life, you want to choose your poisons carefully. Even though fructose is clearly something you want to avoid, except for the small quantities obtained through the moderate consumption of whole fruit, it is not as bad as artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners damage your health even more rapidly than HFCS. So ideally avoid ALL sodas, even diet sodas.
One of the best steps you can take to improve your health is to replace all soda and sweet drinks with pure, clean water.