For years there has been a fructose vs. glucose argument. Is one worse for you than the other? Are they both equally evil? Is one sugar the same as the next?
The results of yet another sugar study indicates that fructose is worse than glucose, and that fructose consumption contributes to overeating, obesity, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes. This latest study may be the tipping point researchers have been looking for to prove what they’ve suspected all along.
Your Brain On Fructose
A study conducted by the Scientific American, which was recently published in the Journal of American Medical Association, looked at the effects both fructose and glucose has on the hypothalamus; the region of the brain that regulates appetite.
When twenty healthy adult volunteers were given a 300-calorie drink sweetened with 75 grams of fructose, the hypothalamus was more active and showed greater signs of hunger.
When the volunteers were given a similar drink sweetened with glucose, the appetite-center was less active and participants showed signs of fullness. Dr. Robert Sherwin, an endocrinologist from Yale University, went so far as to say, “Glucose turns off or suppresses the activity of areas of the brain that are critical for rewards and desire for food. With fructose we don’t see those changes. As a result, the desire to eat continues – it isn’t turned off.”
Fructose and Obesity. Is there a Connection?
According to researchers at the University of Southern California and the University of Oxford, out of a total of 42 countries studied, the U.S. has the highest consumption of high-fructose corn syrup per capita. Is it a coincidence that the U.S. also has the highest obesity rate in the world?
Kathleen A Page, M.D., and lead author of the study said in an article written for Medscape that “Increases in fructose consumption have paralleled the increasing prevalence of obesity, and high-fructose diets are thought to promote weight gain and insulin resistance.”
High-fructose corn syrup has made its way into most of the products that we consume on a regular basis including soda and other sugary drinks, condiments, frozen foods, boxed breakfast cereals, heat and eat meals, breads, crackers, commercially prepared baked goods, and salad dressings. Fructose is also found naturally in some fruits, vegetables, and honey. For a list of foods that contain the highest amounts of fructose check out this article at About.com.
One More Problem With Fructose. Malabsorption
Beyond uncontrollable hunger, and cravings, fructose is also responsible for the digestive disorder Fructose Malabsorption (FM) that some people suffer from. FM occurs when the cells of the small intestine are unable to absorb the fructose. This unabsorbed fructose draws water into the small intestine and becomes a sugary pool for bacteria to grow and ferment. The result is an array of symptoms similar to those of Irritable Bowel Syndrome: bloating and diarrhea, abdominal cramping and pain, and nausea. FM can also interfere with the absorption of some other important nutrients such as tryptopan, folic acid and zinc which can lead to aching eyes, fuzzy head, fatigue, fatty liver and depression.
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What You Can Do
If you plan to make one dietary change that will have the greatest impact on your health, limiting the amount of fructose you eat would be it. Figuring out which foods contain this type of sugar can be the tricky part. Food labels don’t provide a break-out of glucose and fructose amounts. The label will only tell you what the total sugar content for the product is per serving so the key is to cut down on the total amount of sugar that you consume.
The World Health Organization recommends that no more than10% of your daily calories should come from added sugar which amounts to about 35 grams for the average female and 45 grams for the average male. The American Heart Association is less lenient. The AHA recommends no more than 30 grams a day.
Jonathan Purnell, a professor of medicine at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland says that people should avoid processed and refined foods and drinks that contain fructose as well as glucose and eat more natural foods to reverse the trend. The majority of our calories should come from fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins.
To get a handle on your sugar intake you’ll need to put an action plan in place so you can effectively reduce how much you’re eating. One of the best ways to do this is by tracking your sugar intake each day with an app or website like Fooducate. Gradually work on decreasing your consumption until you’re at or below the goal set by the World Health Organization.
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