Moderate Amounts of Fructose-Containing Beverages Quickly Change Metabolism

31 Mar 2013

High fructose corn syrup and soda pop in general have taken a lot of heat over the past decade because of the rising weight of America. Some argue that the youth of America is consuming large quantities of this sugar and it is leading to the burgeoning obesity epidemic.

But is obesity the primary concern or is there something much more sinister that occurs when we consume these sugar-sweetened beverages? The answer, as I pointed out in my book Fructose Exposed is that if sugar (specifically fructose) is consumed in excess daily for a long period of time then many people will develop the metabolic syndrome through altered fructose metabolism that occurs in the liver.

I ran across a new study since my book was published that helps clarify this further. Scientists had healthy young men consume moderate amounts of various sugar-sweetened beverages for only three weeks and monitored the physiologic changes that took place over that short period of time. They consumed fructose alone, glucose alone, table sugar alone (50% fructose in table sugar) or no sugar for only three weeks.

The results verified again that blood markers of inflammation, fasting blood sugar levels and bad cholesterol profiles all developed in just three weeks of consuming fructose containing beverages (see the chapter in my book on the details of metabolic syndrome). The changes did not occur in individuals when they avoided all sugar products or when they consumed only glucose-sweetened products. The fructose and table sugar-containing beverages were the only sugars that induced these metabolic changes. These metabolic changes are all predictors of increased risk for developing heart disease, stroke and blood vessel disease.

We all need to realize that when we regularly consume fructose containing foods and beverages in even moderate amounts, as shown in this paper for only three weeks, metabolic changes have already started to occur that are preventable.

As I pointed out in my book, if you treat yourself with sweets once in awhile these metabolic changes are far less likely to occur and fasting from fructose will restore normal metabolism as it relates to the metabolic syndrome in most of us.

In an era of health care reform, I would urge all of you to dramatically decrease your fructose intake as this could have dramatic health benefits over your lifetime. As I pointed out in a recent post on this site, metabolic syndrome is now a better predictor of heart disease than the “gold standard” risk factors we have followed for the last forty years. The sooner we decrease our daily fructose intake the sooner we can impact our risk of developing heart disease. This would truly be real healthcare reform.

Fructose Exposed, 2010
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2011;94:479-85.