Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Sudden Switch From Sucrose To Fructose Made Us Fat And Sick

Fructose looks innocent enough, but just how harmful is it?

We all know that consuming sugar can be detrimental to your weight loss plans, especially if you are livin' la vida low-carb. The overconsumption of sugar is arguably one of the most ignored causes of obesity, diabetes, and other health ailments in the world today. But why has sugar become such a major part of our society unlike in past generations.

It all goes back to around the time my generation was born in the early 1970s when manufacturers decided to stop using sucrose, aka table sugar, as the primary sweetening agent found in most soft drinks at the time and switch it over to fructose, a form of sugar extracted from fruit, instead. Sounds innocent enough, doesn't it? But not so fast.

Prior to switch from sucrose to fructose in the 1970s, the average American consumed about 1/2 pound of fructose, mostly in the form of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), annually. In 1997, wanna know how much fructose people in the United States were eating? Hold on to your hat because this is a SHOCKER--60 POUNDS A YEAR!!!

The part that really stinks to high heaven is the fact that HFCS is in EVERYTHING nowadays. It's almost impossible to pick up very many foods at all in your local grocery store without coming across this health menace. That's one of the major concerns science journalist Michael Pollan shared in his outstanding book The Omnivore's Dilemma.

A fructose molecule gives a skeletal view of this dangerous sugar

You may be wondering what's so bad about fructose compared with sucrose. There are several metabolic issues at work that should shed some light on this:

- Fructose needs the liver to break it down

The process of metabolizing fructose uses up lots of energy molecules called Adenosine triphosphate, or ATP. When this happens, the body reacts by feeling really tired and repeating this strain on the liver has been found to cause fatty liver disease and could lead to metabolic syndrome. Additionally, the more fructose that is in your system, the greater risk you are putting the protein in your body. And that's not a good thing at all!

- Fructose needs sucrose to be absorbed properly

The abundance of fructose combined with the lack of sucrose in the modern diet means most people are putting a strain on their lower intestine to digest the fructose. This causes pain gas and abdominal issues, including bloating and diarrhea.

- Fructose doesn't just add calories, it's harmful on its own

While most of the so-called health "experts" talk about sugary sodas as merely "empty calories," the fact is the fructose in them is what causes the most problems in the weight and health of those who consume it.

This is a scary thought for me personally because I used to consume the equivalent of 16-20 cans of Coca-Cola on a daily basis before I started livin' la vida low-carb. That's about 45g sugar, all in the form of high fructose corn syrup, per can. So I was guzzling down--BRACE YOURSELF--upwards of 900 grams of sugar (much of which is fructose) just in my soda consumption before the Atkins diet. And we won't even talk about the HFCS that was in all those snack cakes I used to eat, too! EEEEEEK!

I thank the good Lord above that I didn't do major damage to my body putting my body through fructose shock treatment because the negative side effects of this sugar are difficult to ignore despite the spin Audrae Erickson from the Corn Refiner's Association attempted to use in defense of HFCS. She claimed that it is merely a natural product that everyone should be eating as part of their healthy diet. Yeah right! Just wait until you see what this stuff does to your body and see if you buy into that lie.

Studies have already shown that fructose speeds up the process of becoming obese, but it gets even worse than that! Fructose is KNOWN to raise your triglycerides which also leads to obesity and metabolic syndrome. Uric acid is raised in the body and the risk of getting gout increases leading to inflammation of the arteries which rapidly begins clogging your arteries (see, it's not the fat you consume, but the SUGAR in the form of fructose that leads to cardiovascular problems).

Many people also have fructose intolerance, similar to lactose intolerance with milk-based products, that causes their body to experience severe cramping, gas, stomach pain, indigestion, and worse. If you thought eating maltitol was bad, then you ain't seen nothing until you have experienced an intolerance to fructose!

In light of my horrendous consumption of 900+ grams of fructose just from sodas before 2004, you might think you can get away with a lot less of that with no ill effects. But you would be wrong. The fact is all you need is as little as 60g fructose commonly found in ONE large soft drink from McDonald's or Super Big Gulp from 7-11 and the potential damage to your liver and the accumulation of body fat will commence. Is there any wonder how my weight ever got to be over 400 pounds now?

The scary part about fructose is that it is not just in sugary soda. Most people get hundreds of grams MORE of this stuff in their body when they eat foods like bread, cookies, cake, ketchup (yep, HFCS is in it, too!), snack cakes, and even fruit. You'll notice all of those foods just happen to be HIGH-CARB, too, so it's yet another reason why you should be livin' la vida low-carb. ;)

But even those of us on the low-carb lifestyle should be mindful of the fructose that is put in barbecue sauce and other grilling condiments because of something known as advanced glycoslated end products, or AGEs. This one should be easy to remember because AGEs lead to an advancement in aging. We already know a high-carb/high-sugar diet leads to age-related macular degeneration and a whole host of other health ailments, but this one should make you pay close attention.

AGEs are created when a chemical reaction happens when proteins are heated in combination with fructose sugars. Toasting or grilling leads to a process known as cartelization where the protein reacts to the fructose it comes in contact with to cause stiffening of the arteries and an increase in blood pressure. The AGEs also damage your kidneyes, eyes, and essential organs. Our bodies will absorb 10 percent of the AGEs we consume--enough to cause some serious damage if you are not careful.

Try to avoid using sugary sauces when cooking meats, but also keep in mind that a lot of grilled meats have sugar injected into them. That's why getting the best quality of grass-fed, organic beef, for example, is going to be the healthiest for your low-carb lifestyle. Just because it tastes good doesn't necessarily mean it's good for you.

Most egregious of all regarding fructose that comes from HFCS is that fact that the corn has been genetically modified (GMO). These GMO crops are a huge question mark as it relates to your health. There are absolutely ZERO long-term studies on the safety of consuming ANYTHING with GMO in them and God only knows what this is doing to our body. Yep, we're one big human experiment for the corn producers as they make out pretty good on this. The highly-refined process of creating HFCS makes this potentially hazardous substance that much worse. YIKES!

Hopefully now you understand a little better why our modern-day society is so full of fat people who are sicker than they've ever been before. It's no coincidence people! The next time you are at the grocery store, just pick up anything off the shelves in the middle aisles and you'll see that arch nemesis of weight control and health known as fructose in just about EVERYTHING! Be smart, make better choices, and refuse to allow this stuff inside your body. You'll be glad you did.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Contrary to popular belief, sucrose (table sugar) and high fructose corn syrup contain about the same amount of fructose.

Fructose and glucose are monosaccharides, or "single sugars." Sucrose is a disaccharide. Each molecule of sucrose is made up of one fructose and one glucose. Thus, sucrose is 50% fructose.

HFCS composition varies, but the type commonly added to soft drinks is, I think, 55% fructose. The remainder is mostly glucose. Those 20 cans of Coca Cola contained a mere 495 g of fructose, not 900 g.

Any way you slice it, US per capita consumption of caloric sweeteners is about 100 lbs/year, roughly half of it fructose. And that doesn't include the significant amounts of fructose naturally present in fruits and fruit juices, widely considered a healthful substitute for sweets. A cup of orange juice contains about 12 grams of fructose, about the same as a cup of cola. Your liver doesn't know or care whether the fructose came from corn, oranges, or sugar beets. The deleterious metabolic effects are the same, no matter the source.

11/02/2007 12:50 AM  
Blogger wave41 said...

Fructose is often marketed as a "low carb" sweetener. Whey-Low comes to mind as one of the current brands. This should dispel the notion that it's an acceptable item in any diet.

11/02/2007 1:57 AM  
Blogger JD said...

HFCS is 55% fructose and 45% glucose whereas sucrose is a 50/50 mixture. How much this weighting to the fructose side may be the difference. But in any case be it fructose or sucrose it is all essentially sugar with all its attendant issues.

11/02/2007 3:45 AM  
Blogger LCforevah said...

jd, I can't remember which blog I read it on(proteinpower?), but the author was saying that the 55% makes a great deal of difference over the long term. The increase in cases of fatty liver has happened since the introduction of HFCS, not before.

jen, the introduction of table sugar brought its own set of problems in the 19th and 20th centuries. Increases in diabetes and cancer being two.

In one of Dr Weil's books he goes over the history of using glucose only for intraveneous feeding, because when fructose was tried, it led to liver failure and death.

I used to buy steak at a nearby cafe because it was such a good bargain--a lot less than junk food. It turns out they buy meat brined in--you guessed it--HCFS and salt! It has finally dawned on me that I have to cook all my own meat if I'm to make any progress, and it's just a lot safer. Plus, I get to add the few veggies I select. I just had salmon in balsamic vinegar with a bit of onion, mushrooms, and celery--yum!

I just don't have the time to second guess every cafe, restaurant, and fast food place near work--it's just better this way.

11/02/2007 2:38 PM  
Blogger renegadediabetic said...

Most low fat products, such as salad dressings, have added sugar and usually HFCS. For several years, I choked down the HFCS-laced low fat & fat free dressings & condiments, thinking they were healthy for me. They were just making things worse, as in eventual type 2 diabetes.

11/02/2007 2:56 PM  
Blogger Low Carb Band-It said...

And did you know that Weight Watchers, encourages the use of fructose - it's the sweetener of choice for their "Core Program" (it's different than points and supposed to super "healthy") HA!

11/03/2007 4:21 PM  
Blogger Pot Kettle Black said...

Hi Jimmy,

Couple quibbles. Fructose != HFCS. There are some critical differences, the first being that fructose is 100% fructose, and generally not impacting insulin response. HFCS is generally 55% fructose, 45% glucose, though other mixtures exist with more and less fructose. Sucrose is, of course, 50% fructose. So, while I will accept that the onset of HFCS has coexisted with the growth of waistlines and the onset of fatty liver, recall your Taubes and remember that correlation != causation. At the same time as HFCS is being introduced, you have fat being removed from the diet, total calories rising, and total carbohydrate consumption rising. What's the magic bullet? I dunno, but all are correlated.

Second, GMO foods. You use standard scare monger techniques in your brief discussion of GMO foods. You indeed have no idea if they are bad or not. There are no studies showing that they are doing anything that normal crops aren't doing as well. Your rhetoric is that of the very fear mongers who talk about low carb as if it's unnatural. I will grant you that GMO might be faster modifications than crop selection and selective breeding, so isn't necessarily natural, but for a generally evidence and study driven blog, this fear mongering rhetoric is out of character and poorly directed.

Last thing. Is there actual news in this post or is it more along the lines of a slow posting day and you felt like posting. Usually, some news puts you off on something. This doesn't seem to have a clear origin.

11/05/2007 9:25 AM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

THANKS Pot! I appreciate your comments and hear you about your points. Even still, I was simply sharing my opinions to start the discussion.

Why did I blog about this without anything instigating it? I do that from time to time, especially since there are lots of issues I haven't dealt with before (believe it or not!). And fructose was one of them.

11/05/2007 9:31 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

I think we know that all sugars, including HFCS, are not good for us. As mentioned earlier HFCS is essentially the same as table sugars so I don't think its fair to place the blame on one and not the other. Neither need to be completely cut out of our diets but they do need to be consumed in moderation.

12/07/2007 3:01 PM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

THANKS Elizabeth! But even "in moderation" those sugars cause my body to go crazy with insulin-making and would NOT be healthy for me. That's why I have all but eliminated them completely from my diet and I LOVE IT! The best thing I could have ever done for my weight and health.

12/07/2007 3:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi! I just need to clarify that in trying to avoid HFCS I should avoid products containing fructose on the label? Thanks!

5/19/2008 8:01 AM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

Yes, if you see the word fructose, run like the wind! :) It's about the worst sugar you could possibly eat.

5/19/2008 8:22 AM  

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