Fructose and Added Sugars

Q: Should I avoid high-fructose corn syrup? — Tom in  Hanover, Mass.

A: Limiting products with high-fructose corn syrup is a good  idea, but don’t single out that one sweetener. It is important to limit all  added sugars.

High-fructose corn syrup, an added sweetener in food products, contains 55  percent fructose, a short chain carbohydrate. Research finds fructose is  metabolized differently than other sugars. It gets shuttled to the liver,  converted to triglycerides, or fat, and sent to the bloodstream, causing  triglyceride levels to rise, which can increase the risk of diabetes and heart  disease.

Other studies find fructose blunts levels of leptin, a hormone that  regulates appetite, which can lead to overeating and weight gain, and this  weight gets stored in the belly. Too much fructose is also linked to gout.

Ordinary table sugar, or sucrose, contains 50 percent fructose. Other  sweeteners, such as apple and grape juice concentrates, molasses and honey, all  contain at least 50 percent fructose, and they should be limited, too. Look to  the ingredient list on the food label to determine the type of added  sweetener.

Soft drinks are the No. 1 source of added sugars in the American diet.  Research finds even as little as one soda a day increases the risk of heart  disease and metabolic syndrome, a precursor to diabetes.

According to the Corn Refiners Association, sodas are supposed to contain no  more than 55 percent fructose and 45 percent glucose. But when researchers  pulled soft drinks from shelves in California and analyzed them, they found  surprising results:

Pepsi, Coke and Sprite contained “really high fructose corn syrup” with 65  percent fructose. The results, recently published in the journal Obesity, could  explain why soft drinks appear to be particularly detrimental to health.

Although sweeteners with fructose have special health considerations,  over-indulging in any type of sugar is a problem. In the United States, we  consume 20 percent more added sugars than we did in the 1970s, which translates  into an extra 400 calories, enough to cause alarming rates of weight gain.  Excess weight alone, regardless of whether it comes from fructose, increases the  risk of diabetes and heart disease.

The bottom line is all sweeteners should be limited in the diet. The  American Heart Association recommends women should consume no more than 100  calories in added sugar daily and men no more than 150 calories.

A 12-ounce soda contains approximately 150 calories of added sugar, and  other sweetened beverages, such as fruit drinks, juices, sports drinks,  sweetened teas and coffee drinks, can add up, too.

Check grams of sugar on the food label or online to determine the calorie  amount in beverages, cookies, muffins, cakes, cereal and other products. Each  gram of sugar is the equivalent of four calories. For example, a cup of lemonade  containing 23 grams of sugar will supply 92 calories of added sugar to your  diet, and a granola bar with 10 grams will contribute 40 calories.

Joan Endyke is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in food and  nutrition. Send your questions to her at www.wickedgoodhealth.com.  This column is not intended to diagnose or treat disease. Check with your doctor  before making any changes in your diet.

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