Feb 10, 2013

Fructose is the new "Fat"





So, last night, I picked up The Great Cholesterol Myth: Why Lowering Your Cholesterol Won't Prevent Heart Disease and perused it in the book store. It's by an MD and a PhD, and is backed up with lots of studies. In it, the authors explain why sugar, corn syrup and anything high in fructose are so harmful to our bodies in general and especially our heart health. The quick summary: because they're processed first by the liver. (This article by the editor of Harvard Health Publications provides a quick and easy to understand summary of the subject.)

Which isn't to say that ANY fructose is bad; it's just the over-prevalence in the modern American diet that is problematic. A meta-analysis published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reached the conclusion that "obesity and diabetes rates were low when total [dietary] fructose intake was in the range of 25–40 g/d [grams per day]," adding the caution that, "Conclusions as to the safe and prudent amounts of fructose consumption will require carefully controlled dose-responses studies in different populations...."

This has prompted me to do some research on fructose found in various types of sweet substances. Here are some things I've discovered...


Here is a University of Vermont study (See Table 1) which found that higher grades of maple syrup -- those that are lighter in color -- may contain lower levels of fructose than their darker cousins.


A short list of the highest offenders, from the Wheat Belly Blog by Dr. William Davis:
Where do you find fructose? Fructose can be found in (roughly in order from worst to least):
  • Agave
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Sucrose (white sugar)
  • Honey
  • Maple syrup

Self Magazine's incredibly helpful nutrition database has a page listing more than 700 foods highest in fructose

And here's the opinion of one Paleo dieter, from a forum thread on PaleoHacks:
The monosaccharide form of fructose, which is found in corn syrup, is supposed to be the most harmful. Surprisingly, the honey has about 42gm of monosaccharide fructose per 100gm serving, while molasses has about 13gm and maple syrup has about 4gm (source). So with regard to monosaccharide fructose, maple syrup would appear to be the least toxic.
However, in the previous thread on honey, studies are cited which show that honey does not have the same harmful effects as other sweeteners, and may even be beneficial. This is probably because honey is a whole food whose ingredients have complex interactions that somehow mitigate some of the possible harm from the fructose.
(Update, 3/12/13) And here's a great post on Green Lite Bites, exploring the nutritional aspects of several natural sweeteners.

Probably more info to come...

I am not a health professional and this post is not intended to be professional medical advice.

photo credit: Wikimedia

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