Remember the Glory Days Bruce Springsteen sang about in the 80’s? Some may equate the glory of this time with eating fat free foods. Our favorite treats of the day were being made fat free which, at the time meant we could indulge in large amounts of our fat free favorites with little guilt. But what we didn’t know was when the fat came out of our favorite foods, the sugar went in and it went in with a vengeance. Fast forward to 2013, where Americans are consuming about 100 pounds of sugar each year or 30 teaspoons of sugar a day. Some experts would argue the increase in consumption is the single most cause of obesity and diabetes, with fructose being the sugar of choice for the average consumer.
Fructose is a widely used sweetener that is twice as sweet as glucose. Fructose is also very inexpensive to produce compared to other forms of sugar and this allows manufacturers to use it in a number of products we consume daily. Fructose is one component of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which is commonly used in many processed foods such as ketchup, canned soups, packaged breads, crackers and chips. Some experts argue that fructose is a better choice for those with diabetes and insulin resistance because it is sweeter which encourages people to use less. In addition fructose also has a lower glycemic value compared to glucose with less impact on insulin. However fructose results in higher ghrelin levels which boost appetite rather than suppress appetite like insulin does.
When foods that contain corn syrup or fructose are eaten, they must be processed by the liver before Insulin can be secreted. This causes the liver to work overtime and can eventually lead to a fatty liver, resistance to Insulin, elevated triglyceride levels and more belly fat which causes more inflammation throughout the body.
Although we need more research into the long-term effects of glucose and fructose, the current evidence identifies 3 key points:
1. Fructose is only safe IF taken in its primary natural form (whole Fruit) in normal amounts
2. Eating excessive amounts of refined sugars leads to obesity and its related diseases because large amounts of the rapidly absorbed fructose overwhelms the liver
3. All rapidly absorbed forms of glucose (think high glycemic index), contribute to obesity and chronic diseases
Take away: When consuming sugar in all forms it is best to consume as little as possible following a recommendation of 20 grams/day for women and 30 grams/day for men.
Lisa Tolarchyk | Nutrition & Exercise Counselor | C.B. Daniel, MD | CEO/CMO