What Is Fructose and Is It Good or Bad For You?

A Popular Sugar Linked to Health Problems

Health story on the different kinds of sweeteners and how our bodies respond to them. Sucrose, gluc : News Photo CompAdd to Board Health story on the different kinds of sweeteners and how our bodies respond to them. Credit: Kirk McKoy / Contributor / Getty Images

Fructose is a simple sugar and is one of two sugar molecules that makes up sucrose, the other one being glucose. Sucrose is the sugar that's found in sugar cane and sugar beets.

Fructose is often called fruit sugar, since it is a type of naturally occurring sugar found in many fruits (berries, melons, apples) and vegetables (beets, sweet potatoes, onions).

Fructose has come under a lot of scrutiny recently.

This article will explain what fructose is, where it's found, and its implications for your health.

We're Eating More Fructose Than Ever Before

In all likelihood, you eat way more fructose than your great-great-grandparents did. In the 1800s, Americans averaged about 15 grams of fructose a day, mostly from fruits and vegetables. Today, that number has quadrupled, as fructose has become more abundant in a wide variety of processed foods.

What Foods Contain Fructose?

All foods that contain sugar contain fructose (since fructose is one of the two molecules that make up sucrose). As a stand-alone sugar, fructose is nearly twice as sweet as sucrose (table sugar) and can give a similar rise in blood sugar as sucrose.

Fructose is commonly used in processed foods partly because it is less expensive to produce than sucrose and it takes less of it to produce the same level of sweetness. Fructose is often consumed in the form of high fructose corn syrup, which is fructose that has been combined with corn syrup and chemically treated to increase the concentration and sweetness of the fructose.

It also makes up almost half of regular sugar molecules (the chemical structure of high fructose corn syrup and table sugar is almost identical).

You may be surprised to learn that 70 percent of all foods contain some type of added sugar. Added sugars are found not just in foods that taste sweet, but also foods such as tomato sauce and salad dressing.

One of the main ways people ingest added sugars, though, is through sugar-sweetened beverages. In fact, Americans drink five times as much soda as they did in 1950. Numerous studies have suggested that drinking sugar-sweetened beverages (such as soda, energy drinks, sweet iced tea) may raise the risk of obesity, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes in both children and adults.

For example, one study found that rats that were fed fructose gained more abdominal fat, saw an increase in triglycerides, and also developed insulin resistance. They also showed signs of developing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

A Word From Verywell

If you are worried about your fructose intake, talk with your doctor about seeing a nutritionist or dietician. You will likely be surprised at how much fructose you consume, and how cutting back actually helps you feel better.   

Source:

Lozano et al. High-fructose and high-fat diet-induced disorders in rats: impact on diabetes risk, hepatic and vascular complications.Nutr Metab (Lond). 2016;13:15.

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