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The Fructose Frenzy

October 20, 2013 0 Comments

imagesWith Halloween just a week or so away, it’s not uncommon to see an overabundance of sweets this time of year, particularly candy. (Although the stores had all their stuff out as early as August but that’s another story.) But whether it’s Halloween or Easter, of all the “bad” foods to eat, sugar is certainly the most recognizable. While even the most conscientious eater will say they don’t eat sugar because they don’t eat candy or don’t indulge in sweets, it’s really hard to totally avoid because it’s everywhere. It has several monikers and forms but ultimately sugar is sugar. None of which is more misunderstood than fructose.

Even Adam Couldn’t Resist

Fructose is the sugar found in fruit. It is nature’s way of essentially alerting us that a food item is safe to eat. Some fruits have a low amount of fructose (i.e. strawberries) while others have higher amounts. (i.e. apples). The point missed when comparing fruits and their fructose content however are all the other nutrients that come along as part of the package, namely the vitamins, minerals, fiber, and water. It also constitutes a very small percentage amount of calories compared to most things we eat. However, when fructose is used as a sweetener minus the vehicle in which it is usually ingested, fructose becomes a problem.

A Toxic Problem

Being a sugar, fructose is absorbed pretty easily in the body but unlike glucose (which gets absorbed almost immediately anywhere in the body), gets sent and absorbed by the liver first to then be broken down further to glucose. It’s a naturally occurring process and effective mechanism when the occasional piece of fruit is eaten throughout the day. The problem is, much of the fructose we enjoy isn’t even fructose or close to it. A term all too common these days is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). HFCS can be found everywhere and I mean everywhere; even in things you thought contained no sugar such as condiments for example. Why? It’s cheaper and much, much sweeter than glucose, fructose, whatever-tose. While food manufacturers would lead you to believe HFCS is good and healthy for you because it comes from corn and corn after all is healthy it couldn’t be a bigger marketing scam than “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter.” HFCS is made from the process of extracting the sugar from corn (dextrose) and converting it to fructose where it gets its high sweetness properties. The fructose in HFCS isn’t even extracted from fruits; it is purely manufactured. When foods containing HFCS are ingested, the liver is inundated with larger amounts of fructose than it can naturally handle, even if it is was from 20 apples at once. The liver handles this magnificently by converting the “toxin” (fake fructose) into free fatty acids which in turn are converted to triglycerides, much the same way it metabolizes alcohol. The end result? Aside from an increase in adipose tissue (fat), the result is a fatty liver and a multitude of health problems that have their origin from a toxic, poorly functioning liver.

It All Comes Down To Money

So how did something supposedly good for us (fructose) become so awful? Welcome to the world of mass food production where the only goal is how much of a product can be sold at cheaper manufacturing costs and still taste good enough that people can’t stop ingesting them. As previously stated, HFCS is everywhere and in its wake giving fructose itself a bad name. It’s cheaper than real, natural sugar, it has a longer shelf life, and it simply tastes good. It is much easier to eat too much HFCS and less likely to eat too much fructose. Does that mean fructose by itself is inherently bad for you? Absolutely not but just like anything else, you can eat too much of a good thing. The lesson here is to not confuse fructose in its natural form with an unnatural manufactured by product that acts and tastes like fructose. It can save you from committing a huge sin.


Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

Filed in: General, Nutrition, Wellness • Tags: , , , ,

About the Author:

Jeff Harrison is a fitness coach based in Pottstown, PA. He received a BS in Exercise and Sport Science from Penn State University and is an NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), NSCA Certified Personal Trainer (NSCA-CPT) and ACE Advanced Health and Fitness Specialist (ACE-AHFS). Jeff's articles have been published in peer-reviewed journals as well as consumer oriented websites and magazines.

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