For a long time, obesity and poor health in general has placed the blame on many things for its incidence, such as high fat intake or excessive sugar consumption. The latest one to gain traction, however overdue it may be, is fructose.
Fructose is also commonly referred to as “fruit sugar”, as it is most commonly found in various fruits like apples and oranges. Many processed food nowadays also contain an ingredient known as high-fructose corn syrup, a sweetener made from corn starch. Like glucose, fructose is a monosaccharide. The difference between them is how the body processes them. While glucose is metabolised by the muscles, fructose is broken down in the liver. Here are some ways how fructose can adversely affect your health:
1. Increase fat
When fructose is broken down in the liver and its glycogen stores are full, triglycerides are produced. This is a kind of fat that can build up in the liver and damage its function. Additionally, the triglycerides can be released into the bloodstream and cause the arteries to clot, leading to potential heart disease.
2. Produce uric acid
Uric acid is another chemical that is produced in the breakdown of fructose. It decreases the production of nitric oxide, which is crucial is maintaining the well-being of arteries and protecting them from damage. High levels of uric acid in the body can lead to gout and high blood pressure.
3. Generate free radicals
Free radicals can cause damage to our cells and even alter the DNA to a certain extent. Therefore, having high levels free radicals in the body can compromise your body functions and even accelerate the aging process.
4. Develop insulin resistance
The consumption of fructose can lead to insulin resistance for the body. This means that less glucose would be converted to glycogen for storage in the muscles and liver, which in turn causes the glucose level in the blood to remain elevated, resulting in insulin resistance, obesity and diabetes.
While this is by no means a call to avoid fructose consumption altogether, it is important to monitor your overall intake. Even though only less than 1% of ingested fructose is converted to triglyceride, the numbers can add up if consumed in excess. As many processed food products contain ingredients that are high in fructose, it is entirely possible to encounter this if one isn’t mindful of their dietary habits. Reading food labels to fish for products that contain added fructose is a good first step to combating this. Cutting down on processed food can also significantly reduce your overall fructose intake. These foods may taste good, but they’re not the best for your health!