Fructose: Healthy fruit-product or loaded with toxic calories?


What is fructose?

Fructose is one of the two major components that are found in added sugars. It makes up 50% of your table sugar or sucrose. It is primarily derived from plant sources. However, fructose is not directly beneficial to your health but gets converted by the liver to glucose before can be titled beneficial to the body. The processing of the fructose takes place in the small intestine.

An array of studies have brought to everyone notice that fructose is processed in the small intestine while glucose gets processed in the liver. The processed fructose in the small intestine reaches the liver through the colon.

What are the sources of fructose?

The major sources of fructose are fruits such as dates, dried figs, etc. In general, fruits are a rich source of fructose and contain the necessary nutrients to maintain a healthy life. The sucrose content in fruits is low while the fructose level is found in abundance. It is a natural simple sugar that can be seen in vegetables and honey as well.

In its purest form fructose is used as a sweetener in foods and beverages from the mid of the 1850s. Fructose is commonly known as monosaccharide and High fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which is the most used form of fructose in beverages and sweeteners. HFCS is categorized into two major forms; they are HFCS 55 and HFCS 42. HFCS 55 contains 55% of fructose and 45% of glucose and this is most commonly used in soft drinks, while HFCS 42 contains 42% of fructose and 58% of glucose, and is used mostly in canned fruits, ice creams, desserts, and other processed foods.

Your body on fructose

It is a safe sweetener recognized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Fructose has been a part and parcel of our daily dietary needs. A recent scientific expedition suggested that fructose is not as bad as portrayed by other researches, but in fact, has its benefits.

As stated by, Dr. John Sievenpiper, senior author of a particular study related to fructose “Over the last decade, there have been connections made between fructose intake and rates of obesity, however, this research suggests that the problem is likely one of overconsumption, not fructose.” Below are some of the major benefits contributed by fructose.

Helps in insulin release

Research proves that fructose has lower levels of glycemic and helps in reducing the release of insulin. It has found a very important place in every diabetic person’s dietary.

Dental caries

Proven health risk of sweeteners in food is a very bad result of dental caries. But on the contrary, fructose is among the least carcinogenic when compared to the other relevant nutritive sugars. Fructose is basically used in a crystalline form in beverages, and low-calorie products, enhanced or flavored water, still and carbonated beverages, sports and energy drinks, chocolate milk, breakfast cereals, baked goods, yogurt, fruit packs, and confections.

Adds a delectable taste

The addition of fructose helps unmask fruity flavor and enhances a particular sweetness in most dishes. Fructose is a known sweetener in several foods and beverages. It is also known to be the sweetest when compared to other nutritive sweeteners. Fructose is added in food and beverages based on the quantity of the food. Care is taken by experts to use the prescribed amount of fructose.

Baking purposes

The chemical interaction that occurs between fructose and other starch products including sweeteners results in producing a synergy. The produced synergy is used to raise the height of the cake, give any sweet product the necessary sweetness, and helps in maintaining proper viscosity in beverages and foods. Additionally, it provides the necessary aroma and texture which is a result of the chemical reaction that occurs between amino acids and reducing sugars. This makes baked goods appear more appealing visually.

Increases shelf-life

Fructose has the chemical capability to not hydrolyze in an acidic environment or condition. This chemical capability of fructose helps keep the product with fructose, fresh and remain intact for a stipulated extended storage shelf life. It also helps to keep the ice crystals intact and preserve fruits and thus used in keeping frozen fruits and vegetables fresh.

Makes your cookies moist

This amazing feature of fructose happens when fructose recrystallizes with great difficulty once it is soluble in foods. This chemical property of fructose helps prepare soft moist cookies. This process is also known as Humectancy (the property of keeping food articles moist).

How much fructose is too much fructose?

Too much fructose can be linked to a number of chronic illnesses – starting with the metabolic syndrome. This results in intracellular ATP depletion, uric acid generation, endothelial dysfunction, oxidative stress, and lipogenesis.

If you are striving hard to lose belly fat, then it’s advisable to avoid fructose, as it influences weight gain. The combination of fructose and glucose results in sucrose. The intake of this particular product can cause obesity, diabetes and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

The liver gets affected as a result of the presence of triglycerides. Triglycerides cause damage to the liver and also affect the fat present in the bloodstream. Triglycerides are also known as fats and are interlinked in affecting fructose consumption, as it causes promotion in the accumulation of fat cells in the body.

The excessive intake of fructose can alter the composition of your blood lipids. It raises the levels of cholesterol (VLDL) leading to fat accumulation around several organs. It increases the blood levels of uric acid and leads to gout and high blood pressure.

Fructose has a major drawback, it doesn’t suppress appetite but it urges a person to overeat. Those with fructose intolerance should avoid the following foods which consist :

Fructose, High-fructose corn syrup, Honey, Agave syrup, Invert sugar, Maple-flavored syrup, Molasses, Palm or coconut sugar, and Sorghum.

Excess of consumption of fructose causes abdominal discomfort. As a result of abdominal discomfort complaints like bloating and flatulence can be seen. Fructose consists of many addictive properties normally found with drug abuse, which in the long run can lead to cravings, bingeing, and withdrawal symptoms. Regular consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is particularly bad and has been associated with an increased risk of cancer in men and women.

Signs you are intolerant to fructose

The malfunction of fructose which is also known as dietary fructose intolerance occurs when the relevant cells lining the walls of your small intestine fail to break down the fructose in an effective manner. A very rare condition that can be found with fructose intolerance is the hereditary fructose intolerance.

This specifically rare genetic disorder is found in 1 in 20,000 to 30,000 people. Below are the major symptoms associated with fructose intolerance, nausea, bloating, gas, abdominal pain, diarrhea, mood swings, vomiting, chronic fatigue, and malabsorption of nutrients such as iron. People diagnosed with ay gut disorders like  IBS, Crohn’s disease, colitis, or celiac disease, are more prone to develop fructose intolerance.

Diagnosis of fructose intolerance

The most common fructose intolerance diagnosis is done by a hydrogen breath test. This test is performed for more than three hours. The patient is required to eliminate the intake of carbohydrates or fructose on the night before the test and remain fasting on the morning of the test. At the test center, the patient is given a high fructose drink and breathe is analyzed in intervals of 20 to 30 minutes. This test specifically emphasizes on the hydrogen levels as hydrogen is produced when fructose remains unabsorbed in the intestines. The produced hydrogen in the intestine is reflected in the breathing of the patient and based on the levels the patient is diagnosed.

What to do if you are fructose intolerance?

Once diagnosed as a fructose intolerant person it is mandatory to avoid the following foods, sodas, certain cereal bars with fructose, certain fruits, such as prunes, pears, cherries, peaches, apples, plums, and watermelon, apple juice and apple cider, pear juice, sugar snap peas, honey, desserts such as ice cream, candy, and cookies containing fructose sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, agave nectar, crystalline fructose, fructose, sorbitol, fructooligosaccharides (FOS), corn syrup solids, and sugar alcohols.

A diet called “fermentable oligo-, di-, monosaccharides and polyols.” You may be confused with such a long name, well in short FODMAP diet. A fodmap diet helps to manage any issue related to fructose intolerance.

Should you consume fructose?

Fructose is the most important carbohydrate present in fruits. It has been surrounded by controversies for decades. However, the fructose derived from fruits has a different effect altogether on your body. Fruits have the natural and essential quantity of fructose that is needed for your body. Whereas other artificially sweetened foods have an excessive amount of added fructose which is deemed harmful for your body.

In certain circumstances, the presence of fructose in fruits acts as a very good dietary fiber. The consumption of a required amount of fruits on a daily basis helps in providing the necessary fiber content needed for the body. Fruits are just not fructose producers but also contain water, fiber, antioxidants and necessary nutrients for the body.

However, fruit juices contain a higher quantity of fructose and should be avoided. According to a meta-analysis of clinical trials evaluating fructose intake, 25-40 grams of fructose per day was deemed absolutely safe. This quantity equals to 3-6 bananas, 6-10 cups of strawberries, 10-15 cherries, or 2-3 apples per day.

The intake of fructose in the form of fruits has no concerns and is absolutely safe to consume under a said amount. It would be a wise decision to keep away from sweets and other artificial forms of fructose.

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