Is This Form of “Sugar” Making You Sick?

Ingesting 200 grams of fructose for 2 weeks elevated triglycerides, increased blood pressure & insulin resistance, and decreased healthy HDL cholesterol.

What do the Atkins diet and the Japanese diet have in common? The Atkins diet is “high fat, low carbs,” the Japanese diet is “low fat, high carbs,” yet both display the ability to reduce chronic disease. The common link, both diets are low in “fructose.”

According to Dr. Richard Johnson, a researcher and clinician at the University of Colorado, Denver and author of the book The Sugar Fix, “fructose” is the number one risk factor for the development of obesity. Have I got your attention? Let’s look closer at fructose.

What it is and how it affects us. Fruit contains “fructose.” As the fruit ripens, the amount of fructose goes up; however, natural fruits contain vitamin C and other factors that are needed to break down and counteract the effects of fructose. So, two, three, or even four fruits a day are not a problem for most people. Each piece of fruit contains around 8 grams of “natural fructose.”

So what’s the big deal? Well, another form of “fructose,” high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) or the combination of sucrose and HFCS is a problem. High fructose corn syrup is a sweetener made from corn. You’ll find it as a sweetener in many processed foods, canned goods, beverages, especially soft drinks and juices. Sucrose or table sugar is a disaccharide and contains approximately 50% glucose and 50% fructose. But according to Dr. Johnson the sugars are bound together. High fructose corn syrup contains 55% fructose. But the fructose is not tightly bound and gets absorbed instantly and goes right to the liver.

Dr. Johnson states that glucose increases insulin production, but fructose increases insulin resistance. Studies at Duke University show people who drink soft drinks have a higher percentage of fatty liver disease primarily due to fructose. The average American ingests 70 grams of fructose a day. That’s the average American, but 25% of Americans ingest 130 grams or more of fructose daily.

Dr Johnson shared a study where participants ingested 200 grams of fructose for a mere 2 weeks and found elevations of triglycerides, increases in blood pressure and insulin resistance, and decreases in the healthy HDL cholesterol. Fortunately, these changes were reversed after abstaining from fructose. This is a profound study even though the amounts of fructose were excessive. If this study can cause these results in 2 weeks, that happens in 2 years? We may not ingest 200 grams of fructose daily but the more sugar we eat, the more our bodies up regulate the ability to absorb it, and we become more sensitive to it as we age.

Dr. Johnson suggests we set 25 grams of fructose per day as a goal, one third of what is consumed every day by the average American. Just to give you an idea, one 12 ounce can of soda contains around 25 grams of fructose. One liter of soda would yield approximately 75 gram of fructose. Because fruit juice is so concentrated and processed it’s almost as bad as soda.

Remember the 2004 movie Super Size Me where Morgan Spurlock ate at McDonald’s Restaurants three meals a day for 28 days. He agreed to “super-size” all his meals for one month and became sick. The then 32-yearold Spurlock gained 24½ lbs., a 13% body mass increase, a cholesterol level of 230, and experienced mood swings, sexual dysfunction, and fat accumulation to his liver. It took Spurlock fourteen months to lose the weight gained from his experiment.

Based on Dr. Johnson’s work, maybe it was the high fructose corn syrup in the drinks that made him so sick. In reality, the effects of fructose are far reaching. Studies have shown fructose to cause weight gain, high blood pressure, low energy levels, insulin resistance, fatty liver, inflammation, and vascular disease.

If you start looking for it on labels, you’ll find it. It’s in the sauces, in the condiments, in the breadings, in the buns, and in the drinks. It is the commercially preferred artificial sweetener. It may be hard to completely avoid, but do your best to keep an eye on the grams of fructose you ingest daily. For optimal health, remember, Dr. Johnson recommends around 25 grams daily.

On the Wellness Minute my patients sign up for and receive weekly via an email video, you hear a lot about making small lifestyle changes. This is one change you can make that will go a long, long way.

Dr. Jason Godo, DC