More fun with fructose

Over on Medscape, an article has just been posted that is relevant to a blog entry of mine from over a year ago (“A Fruitless Call to Arms“).

This recent article by Salwa W. Rizkalla is titled, “Health implications of fructose consumption: A review of recent data,” and it was originally published in the November 2010 issue of the journal Nutrition & Metabolism.

As I’ve previously stated, I regard high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) as a sort of a Franken-food, and I can understand why many view it with more than a little suspicion. But this idea that any and all fructose — whether it comes packaged in its natural fruity container or repackaged with an admixture of water, artificial flavorings and colorings, preservatives, and (as if it needed it!) even more glucose or HFCS — is that which greases the shoot into nutritional hell, is a bit much for me to accept.

So here comes a review article that attempts to evaluate how well the research lines up with the primarily negative media attention that has been focused on fructose. And what does it tell us? Well, it’s a good article, and I hate to boil it down to a single sentence that will give you an excuse not to bother to read it, but I guess it can be summed up in the words of wisdom passed down to me by my Dutch great-grandfather, George White Van Auken, who opined, “Anyone who can get drunk on beer is a damned pig!”

In analogous fashion, anyone who consumes more than 100 grams per day of fructose is likely to gain weight, and that much fructose could have undesirable effects on one’s metabolism. However, anyone who consumes 50 grams or less per day of fructose is not likely to experience a negative effect on their control of lipids or glucose.

How much fruit can you eat and stay at or below 50 grams per day of fructose? Well, the amount of fructose varies between fruits, and it is important to note that fruit doesn’t just contain fructose — it can also contain other forms of sugar. According to USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, here is the fructose content for various raw fruits (size if not stated is medium):

  • Large apple: 13.16
  • Small apple: 8.79
  • Naval orange: 3.15
  • Tangerine: 2.11
  • Banana: 5.72
  • Peach: 2.29
  • Plum: 2.03
  • Prune: 1.18
  • 1 slice of pineapple: 1.78
  • 1 cup orange juice: 5.55
  • 1 cup tomato juice: 3.74

So, if you ate and drank everything listed above in the course of one day, you would consume 49.5 grams of fructose, which is within the guidelines offered by Rizkalla. Of course, that is assuming that you get your fructose from, well, fruit.

Unfortunately, many of us get our fructose, via HFCS, from soda, processed foods — and even our dill pickle relish! A 12-oz can of soda contains about 33 grams of sugar. If the majority of that is HFCS, then a person who drinks two cans of soda a day is already taking in enough to have a possible effect on their sugar and lipid metabolism. Guzzle down one more, and you’re on your way to weight gain, too.

And what’s even sadder about getting your fructose from HFCS is that you miss out on all the other things that are packed into natural fruits and fruit juices. That naval orange that contains 3.15 grams of fructose? It also contains 3.1 grams of dietary fiber, 1.27 grams of protein, and both minerals (like calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium) and vitamins (like C, folate, choline, A, carotene, cryptoxanthin, lutein, and E). You won’t get all that out of a tenth of a can of soda!

Reference: Rizkalla SW. Health implications of fructose consumption: A review of recent data. Nutr Metab (Lond) 2010; 7:82.

Photo credits:

  • GMO Frog Fruit (Biofrog – Frankenfood for You), photo by AZRainman/Mark Rain: “This photo was taken on October 28, 2007.”
  • 1506 Orange, photo by sunnyUK/Tomas: “This photo was taken on February 1, 2008 in Brentwood, England, GB, using a Nikon D80.”

Copyright © 2011 by Candace L. Van Auken. All rights reserved.

I am a writer and an activist for people who are disabled by chronic illness. I am also interested in issues related to the LGBTQIA community and to women making music.

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Posted in Diabetes, Metabolic syndrome, Nutrition, Public health, Research

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January 2011
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