Is Fructose Safe?

The bottom line, according to a an article in the December 2011 issue of Acupuncture Today, is no, especially not in the quantities that the average person eats these day (an average of 28 teaspoons (over a half a cup) a day in added sugars). Fructose, the sugar found in fruit, and also in table sugar, agave nectar, and, of course, high fructose corn syrup, is sweeter than glucose. It is sometimes touted as safer than glucose, because it is low-glycemic, but research has been finding that it is actually worse (see, for example hunger or this article in Time Magazine).

Coconut sugar, on the left, which looks and tastes like brown sugar, is preferabe to white table sugar, on the right, which is about half fructose.

A new health craze, coconut sugar, on the left, which looks and tastes like brown sugar, primarily contains sucrose, just like white table sugar, though it is only about 18% sugar (the best analysis I’ve seen is at Nature’s Blessing). Sucrose is half fructose and half glucose.

But why is that the case? It’s natural, found in fruit, and doesn’t trigger the insulin release that is a problem for diabetics. In fact, for a while, fructose was recommended for diabetics, but it isn’t any longer. The problem lies in the way it’s metabolized in the body. If you’re eating fruit, it gets digested slowly, but, if you’re drinking a liquid, or eating a candy bar (crackers, bread, etc.), it goes into your system quickly and lands in your liver, where it turns into fat, and causes increased production of uric acid. Fructose also doesn’t appear to trigger feelings of fullness, so that people tend to consume too much at a time. This is one reason why soda and fruit juice are blamed for the increase in obesity, diabetes, and health problems in the world.

This doesn’t mean that you should switch to artificial sweeteners, which are toxic. Instead, do your best to reduce your sugar loads. Since sugar is added to many packaged foods, making your food from scratch using healthy ingredients will allow you to control how much goes into your system. Eat whole fruits, instead of drinking juice. And remember: in Traditional Chinese Medicine it’s all about balance. A little sugar won’t kill you, but 48 teaspoons a day is way, way too much. If you don’t want to cook all the time, get in the habit of reading labels, and choosing foods that are lower in added sugars.

If you want some help with healthy eating habits and weight loss, consider seeing an acupuncturist. Traditional Chinese Medicine is a powerful tool for improving your well-being. If you want coaching about a sugar addiction, or for more information about the problems with sugar consumption, go to Debbie St. Clair.

We are presently accepting new patients in Bend, Oregon. Call (541)420-6574 to schedule an acupuncture appointment.

About Ann

Ann Stanley has practiced massage and craniosacral therapy in Bend Oregon for the past nine years. She incorporates myofascial release and lomi-lomi techniques into her massage. She is writing a novel, plays the flute and piano and has a Ph D in applied mathematics. She did research for many years on mathematical models for the spread of infectious diseases, first at Los Alamos National Laboratory and then at Iowa State University.
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