We’ve heard a lot about high-fructose corn syrup, and almost universally, health-conscious individuals (and even ordinary citizens) know the stuff is bad for us. But what about fructose? Since childhood, we’ve basically been taught that fructose is the form of sugar that we find in fruit. This means that the products that contain fructose as a sweetener are pretty healthy, right? Isn’t it true that fructose comes from fruit?
Actually, the answer to both questions is a resounding ‘No’. Most commercial sweetener labeled fructose is actually produced – it amounts to nothing but refined sugar at its worst. Its only resemblance is the chemical makeup; when it’s looked at closely, it is exactly like the sugar found in fruit.
Fructose is Just Pure Sugar
Fructose is easy for companies to produce, so they want to make it seem enticing, but in truth, fructose alone has nothing to do with fruit. While it’s true that fruits do contain fructose, the total fructose level comes out to a fairly minimal amount that negates itself because of the many other benefits of fruit. Fruit contains fructose, but it also contains fiber, vitamins, and micro-nutrients that are actually good for you, while fructose is just pure sugar.
However, this fruit connection allows fructose to seem innocent, harmless, and even good for you. Perhaps these are some of the reasons that the average American person’s overall caloric intake consists of a staggering 9% fructose — they consume about 60 pounds of fructose per year. That’s not measured IN other things – that’s fructose alone.
Fructose Raises the Level of ‘Bad’ Cholesterol
The reason fructose is so bad for you is that it actually raises levels of LDLs (“bad” cholesterol) and triglycerides in the blood. A number of credible sources have proven this to be accurate. Both LDLs and triglycerides contribute to increased amounts of visceral fat in the abdomen, and they also lead to increased risk of cardiovascular problems and diabetes.
Fructose can also interfere with the health of those who are on a restricted calorie diet. A University of Minnesota study found that even the rats who were otherwise fed a reduced-calorie diet had raised triglyceride levels when fructose was introduced. This means that even if you otherwise eat a balanced diet, fructose can mess with your overall health. Fructose is not good for you in its pure form, outside of fruit.
Sweeten Naturally or Don’t Sweeten At All!
So you can see that fructose is just as bad as the much-maligned high fructose corn syrup. Actually, HFCS (High-fructose corn syrup) is nothing but a combination of fructose and glucose – fructose needs to be unmasked as just another commercial refined sugar. It’s also important to remember that like all sugars that we put in the body, fructose is connected to raised acidity, an overabundance of intestinal flora that leads to bloating, gas and other adverse effects. I’ve said it before, and so have other Skrewtips writers – you should sweeten naturally or don’t sweeten at all.
For more about sweeteners, check out these articles:
Maria (Niina) Pollari is a poet, editor, writer and translator. She wrote two chapbooks, Fabulous Essential (2009) and Book Four (2011). Pollari’s writing has been featured in numerous literary journals as well as the Brooklyn Rail and Jezebel.com. She has received her Master’s in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College.