Sweet Tart

Look Out for Fructose

Look out for fructose is advice we’ve heard now for almost a decade since Barry Popkin and George Bray suggested that high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) might be contributing to epidemic rates of obesity. In the August issue of Pediatric Obesity, Bray and Popkin acknowledge that their warning has led to a substitution of equally harmful sugared beverages for those with HFCS. And new animal data published in Nature Communications explains how high-glycemic foods — even without fructose — might lead the body to produce fructose that contributes to metabolic disease and obesity.

Acknowledging that all sugary drinks have the same potential for health harm, Popkin says:

The most important issue about added sugar is that everybody thinks it’s cane sugar or maybe beet sugar or HFC syrup or all the other syrups but globally the cheapest thing on the market almost is fruit juice concentrate coming out of China. It has created an overwhelming supply of apple juice concentrate. It is being used everywhere and it also gets around the sugar quotas that lots of countries have.

Advice to eat more fruits and vegetables gets translated into marketing campaigns for fruit smoothies and other foods that add sugar to the diet. “Buy more, it’s good for you,” the seductive little voice says. Such is the appeal of a healthy halo.

Researchers from the University of Colorado provide the important new insight on pathways by which any high-glycemic food — not just HFCS — can promote metabolic disease. Says lead author Miguel Lanaspa:

Our data suggests that it is the fructose generated from glucose that is largely responsible for how carbohydrates cause fatty liver and insulin resistance.

So beware simplistic dietary advice that divides foods into villains and heroes.

Click here to read more in the Guardian, click here to read the new publication by Bray and Popkin, click here to read about the study by Lanaspa et al, and click here to read the study itself.

Sweet Tart, photograph © Jason Paluck / flickr

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