What Is Fructose?

Learn What Fructose Is and If It's Good or Bad for You

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. It is one of two sugar molecules (glucose is the other one) that make up sucrose (the sugar that's found in sugar cane, sugar beets and so forth).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).

Related: What Are Simple Sugars?

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

70% of all food contain some type of added sugar. Added sugars are found not just in foods that taste sweet, but also surprising 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, etc.) may raise the risk of obesity, heart disease and diabetes in both children and adults.

The Link Between Fructose and Obesity and Other Diseases

Increasingly, it's thought that the fructose in sugar-sweetened beverages and other foods in the food system are partly responsible for the obesity epidemic. The increase in fructose in our diets has correlated with a rise in obesity and metabolic syndrome.

Researchers have found some evidence that indicates the consumption of fructose in the form of high fructose corn syrup contributes significantly to weight gain and possible insulin resistance.

A 2016 study in the Journal of Diabetes and Its Complications 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.

Pronunciation: Frook-tose

Also Known As: Fruit sugar

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