Obesity, as we all know, is on the rise here in the US. Over a third of all adult Americans along with 17% of children and adolescents are now obese. Though there are many reasons for increased weight gain including too little exercise from our sedentary modern lifestyle, researchers are pointing the finger at fructose, a sugar found in many soft drinks sweetened with high fructose corn syrup (55% fructose) and health foods sweetened with agave syrup (90% fructose).
If you’ll bear with me, the following information will reveal why we’re being mislead by major food and beverage manufacturers as well as numerous health food companies including our natural food stores that sell millions of bottles of highly refined agave syrup to unsuspecting customers. At the end, I’ll give you something to eat that is delicious and sweet from nature and won’t increase your weight!
Fructose And Weight Gain
A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) shows that refined fructose doesn’t affect the brain’s appetite center to turn off the desire to eat. Using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), researchers confirmed in humans what animal studies have already demonstrated. Refined fructose doesn’t behave like glucose, the sugar that every cell in the body uses for energy. Glucose consumption triggers the brain’s appetite center to limit consumption by reducing the desire to eat more. Refined fructose instead leaves you still feeling hungry and wanting more.
If you’re eating a diet high in refined fructose sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and agave syrup, your brain isn’t sending you the signals to keep you from eating an excess of calories. Dietary analysis has shown that people on high fructose diets gained significantly more weight than people consuming less fructose.
Refined Fructose Is Not Natural
Notice that we are talking about “refined fructose” created by chemical processing, which is very different from the form in which fructose naturally occurs in nature. The fructose found in fruit and honey is bound to fiber, fatty acids, vitamins and minerals and also to glucose to create the sweetener, sucrose, which is 50% glucose and 50% fructose.
The most common sweetener, cane sugar, is sucrose, but it was replaced by food and beverage manufacturers with the advent of cheaper HFCS around 30 years ago – which is also when the obesity epidemic took off. When refined agave syrup hit the market, natural food manufacturers jumped on it as a “healthy” alternative to HFCS and also to cane sugar because of its lower glycemic index.
At first glance, it doesn’t seem like the difference between sucrose and HFCS is that big – only 5% more fructose is in HFCS. And since it has a lower glycemic index that doesn’t cause insulin spikes like cane sugar, doesn’t that make it better?
But here’s the rub. Refined fructose is not nature-identical to the fructose you find in fruit and honey. Think of refined fructose like trans fats – substances which start out natural but are chemically converted during manufacturing into something unnatural to human consumption.
Nature’s fructose can be converted to glucose and used for energy. Man-made or refined fructose is not recognized by the body’s Kreb cycle and can’t be converted into glucose to be used for cellular energy. Instead it is sent to the liver where it starts a host of problems beyond just weight gain.
Refined fructose is metabolized in the liver similarly to alcohol. A high consumption of refined fructose can lead to a condition known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Refined fructose consumption raises triglycerides, a precursor to heart disease and triggers the development of metabolic syndrome, also known as insulin resistance, which leads to type 2 diabetes; both conditions are typically accompanied by obesity. It also causes increased glycation, a cellular aging process where sugar binds to protein and creates rigid tissues that can lead to arteriosclerosis.
Fruits High in Glucose Are Nature’s Energy Foods
The list of harmful effects from refined fructose goes on and on, but I’ll stop here and give you some links for more information if you’re interested. First, I want to leave you with some good news about something sweet you can eat without gaining weight and harming your health.
Dates. Yes, dates, the sweetest fruit we can think of. Why dates? Because the main sugar found in dates is glucose. Glucose is immediately ready for absorption by our cells and supplies energy right away.
Dates are nature’s energy food. You won’t feel a sugar rush from them but you will be energized. They make great post-workout foods to replenish glycogen in your muscles. Your brain won’t let you eat too many dates because your appetite control center will signal that you’ve had enough. Dates are the favored food to break a fast in the Middle East for just this reason – quick energy that is delicious!
Dried dates are the ingredient I’ve used in Teeccino’s Mediterranean flavors to give them a touch of sweetness so you don’t need to sweeten a cup of Teeccino with sugar. Dates are also the dried fruit sweetening my new breakfast food, TeeChia Gluten-Free Super Seeds Cereal. Combined with TeeChia’s complex carbohydrates and soluble fiber, dates help provide the lasting energy that TeeChia is designed to produce all morning long.
Next time you want to indulge in sweetness without guilt, eat a date!
Here’s a list of fruits in order of highest glucose to fructose content:
For more information on the effect of refined fructose on your health: