While fructose is generally seen as a natural sugar because it is found in fruit, honey and dates — sadly it has become a tool for commercial food companies to save money when used as high fructose corn syrup — the worst sweetener ever!
Food giants use fructose as high fructose corn syrup because it is cheaper and sweeter than table sugar. Table sugar is composed of fructose and sucrose. The sucrose is taken up into the cells very quickly, but the fructose is metabolized by the liver and too much can lead to fatty liver disease.
Emerging Epidemic of Fatty Liver Disease in Children
There is an emerging epidemic of non alcoholic fatty liver disease in children. This has previously been an adult disease as a result of alcoholism or hepatitis infection. Dr. Vos, a pediatrics professor at Emory University School of Medicine who studies and treats kids with fatty liver disease, suspects a connection between too much sugar in the diet of these children and the condition.
It’s clear that there is more consumption of fructose in the Standard American Diet then ever before. Including high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) which is disguised under several names.
Where is all this fructose coming from?
Fruit Juices and Soda provide plenty of fructose
If you eat processed foods and drink even one soft drink a day, you are getting way more fructose than you should, as HFCS is in many processed foods and sodas and will add quite a high amount of fructose and cause weight gain.
Fruit juices also have a great deal of fructose, almost as much as soda. I have never been a big fan of fruit juice as it is empty sugar calories without any nutrition and highly glycemic. Having all that fructose makes it even less appealing.
In general, an 8 ounce glass of fruit juice has about 25 gms of sugar which means it has about 12 gms of fructose. In comparison, a 12 ounce can of soda has about 40 gms of sugar and about 20 gms of fructose. You can see how easy it is to over indulge in fructose when you are drinking these sweet drinks.
How much fructose is safe?
While much of the research into this question is obscure, a growing body of research suggests that greater than 50 grams of fructose a day is detrimental and may start to cause Metabolic Syndrome and all the consequent problems. However, some suggest that 25 grams should be the limit, and for people with known Metabolic Syndrome or it’s risk factors, 15 grams of fructose a day.
The Other Issue
Aside from the issue of people getting way too much fructose through soft drinks and processed foods, is the issue of the genetic modification of high fructose corn syrup. Almost 100% of the corn in this country is genetically modified — the long term effects of which is anybody’s guess.
While the EU has allowed labeling of GM foods, I wonder if that also applies to labeling of high fructose corn syrup. Either way, it will be in the foods and drinks and will be consumed by a large percentage of the people who will think it is healthy due to the new health claim.
EU Ruling Makes it Easy to Overindulge
The EU has now ruled that food and drink manufacturers can claim their sweetened products are HEALTHIER if they replace more than 30% of the glucose and sucrose they contain with fructose. However this actually makes their sodas and fruit drinks even worse!
The decision was taken on the advice of the European Food Safety Authority (Efsa), on the grounds that fructose has a lower glycemic index – it does not cause as high and rapid a blood sugar spike as sucrose or glucose. But they do not take into account the fact that fructose is metabolized by the liver, stored as fat in the liver and can cause damage there as explained above — damage that is insidious as it has no symptoms.
According to Barry Popkin – distinguished professor in the department of public health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in the US, who co-authored the groundbreaking paper linking high-fructose corn syrup to obesity in 2003 — Consumption of high-fructose corn syrup in beverages may play a role in the epidemic of obesity
…the ruling would lead to claims from food and drink firms that would mislead consumers… This claim is so narrow and it will confuse a whole lot of people… that’s what the industry does an awful lot of. People see it and think, ‘ah maybe it’s healthy.’… It brings into question the whole area of health claims. They are made on such short-term effects.
They are simply looking at the lower glycemic index of fructose, not the big picture of people consuming too much sugar in general.
I smell buy-offs here… What happens in the EU between policy makers and food manufacturers stays in the EU if you get my drift.
Soft drink makers, cereal makers, yogurt makers, etc. are all delighted by this announcement. The ruling goes into effect early in January 2014.
Do you know someone who still drinks soda and fruit juice or eats packaged food? Let them know about this!