Fructose is a type of sugar known as a monosaccharide (single sugar), which is the building block of carbohydrates. All carbohydrates provide four calories per one gram, including fructose.
Fructose is commonly referred to as ‘fruit sugar’ because it primarily occurs naturally in fruits and other plants as sugar cane and vegetables. You can also get fructose from honey, sugar beets and sugar cane.
fructose is 1.2-1.8 times sweeter than the regular table sugar (sucrose). It is actually the sweetest naturally occurring carbohydrate.
During its breaking down process in the body, insulin is not required, and it tends to have a low impact on blood glucose.
It’s process of digestion differs from other types of carbohydrates.
Fructose and glucose are both single sugars and have been found to have the same chemical formula but different structures, making fructose sweeter than glucose.
Fructose occurs in plants and fruits but not alone, it always occurs with other types of sugars.
Where does fructose come from?
“Fruit sugar” as it is sometimes referred to, is a naturally occurring sugar found primarily in fruits (such as apples, dates, figs, pears and prunes), and also can be found occurring in vegetables (such as artichokes, asparagus, mushrooms, onions and red peppers), honey, sugar beets and sugar cane. “Pure fructose is produced commercially from corn or sucrose into a crystalline form for use as an ingredient in packaged foods and beverages”.
Although fructose is in high fructose corn syrup (a 55:45 mixture of the monosaccharides fructose and glucose), crystalline fructose should not be confused with high fructose corn syrup.
Is fructose a natural or added sugar?
Fructose can either be a natural sugar or an added sugar, it all lies solely on the source. It is considered a natural sugar when we consume it directly from whole plant foods or fruits, then, it is considered an added sugar when we consume from packaged foods, beverages which high fructose corn syrup has been added to during manufacturing.
While there is really no recommendation for fructose consumption, current dietary guidance recommends limiting the consumption of added sugars to less than 10% of total calories—in other words, i.e < 50 grams of added sugars if you consume 2,000 calories per day.
How is fructose digested?
Fructose has raised so much dust and debates among nutrition scientists because of the unique way the body handles it. It is somewhat digested in a different manner from other sugars, leading scientists to question its role in health. A 2016 review concluded that while fructose does not appear to have a unique impact on health, “fructose-containing sugars can lead to weight gain, increase in cardiometabolic risk factors and disease only if it provides the excess calories.”
No matter the source of the fructose, be it directly from plants or beverages, fructose when consumed is handled by the liver. The liver converts it to energy sources for bodily processes and doesn’t require insulin for this process. Unlike glucose which is released into the tissues by the help of insulin.
Some people have trouble absorbing fructose when eating it in large amounts and some are unable to absorb fructose at all. About one in 20,000–30,000 people are born with HFI each year. Because individuals with HFI (hereditary fructose intolerance) cannot metabolize fructose, foods and beverages containing fructose, sucrose or the sugar alcohol sorbitol must be avoided totally.
Are there health implications of fructose?
The rise in concern of added fructose to carbonated drinks and its direct link with obesity has led to a huge questioning on the impacts of fructose.
Although fructose might not really have adverse impact on blood sugar, it would have very detrimental effects on weight, LDL levels, triglyceride levels if taken in excess as added sugar from beverages and packaged foods.
According to recent research, fructose intake has been linked to uric acid levels, higher risks of gout development in men.
Due to the increase in use of fructose as sweetener, overconsumption is inevitable, thereby leading to detrimental health effects.
Why is fructose added to foods and beverages?
One major reason for adding sugar to packaged foods and beverages is its sweet taste. To sell, you have to make the product appealing to the taste buds yes?
The sweetness of fructose also has a fading ability, meaning that it doesn’t last for a long period after consumption.
Well, this doesn’t stop the fact that it still contains calories like other carbohydrates.
Other reason why fructose is added to beverages includes:
– Its hygroscopic nature which helps it absolve water, thereby improving texture.
– Fructose is also a good humectant; it can help retain moisture which could help improve and extend shelf life.
Fructose is a naturally occurring sugar found in fruits and plants. It can be beneficial to health if consumed from natural sources than when it is an added sugar. Overconsumption of beverages and carbonated drinks would have very adverse effects on the health than give benefits. Its better to stick to natural sources of fructose.