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By now we all know that sugar is one of the most latent and worrying enemies of health. Worst of all, it is present in many forms and has many names, most of its versions are used as flavor enhancers in many processed foods and have a highly addictive effect on humans. Therefore, it is essential to give ourselves the task of paying attention to the labels, it is simpler than you think: any ingredient that ends in “ose” – sucrose, glucose, fructose – means sugar. And when it comes to sugars, fructose is the most controversial of all. The truth is that everything has been said, while some people blame it for causing a lot of health problems and have even suggested banning or restricting its use. Others say that it is the same as any other sugar, so the million dollar question is which version is correct? Read on to learn the truth about fructose and the different types of simple sugars.
A little about fructose:
Fructose is one of the three types of simple sugars, the other two are galactose and glucose. Glucose is the type of sugar that the human body uses for fuel, in fact the body cannot use sugar in any other way. All other sugars that are consumed must first be converted to glucose before they are useful. Fructose is found naturally in fruits, honey, and some vegetables, along with glucose. While the exact ratio of fructose and glucose tends to vary from food to food, it’s usually a 50:50 ratio of each. Galactose is mainly found in milk and other dairy products.
Among the most important concepts to understand about the effects of sugar on the body, the following is worth saying: it doesn’t matter if the sugar is natural or added, the body metabolizes them in the same way. Regardless of whether they are found naturally in food or added to food (such as sodas, commercial juices, candy, and donuts). However, foods that contain natural sugars are healthier and offer other nutrients with great health benefits. They stand out for their content in vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, phytochemicals and water. In addition, the sugars in natural foods are absorbed more slowly in the body, preventing blood glucose levels from spiking.
One of the most alarming versions of added sugar used in many processed foods is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). This product is made up of 42% or 55% fructose (and the rest is glucose). By comparison, table sugar is made up of 50% fructose and 50% glucose. So, there is not much difference between the two when it comes to the composition of the sugar.
In the case of other sweeteners, it is known that They contain varying ratios of fructose to glucose. For example: honey has 54% fructose and 46% glucose, while agave syrup contains 75% fructose, 25% glucose. So, regardless of the type of product you consume, you will get a mixture of fructose and glucose.
So what do these differences mean? If all sugars are eventually converted to glucose, does it matter which one we consume? The answer is yes and the reason is that there is a big difference between how fructose and glucose are metabolized. Glucose goes directly to cells where it is broken down and converted into energy.
On the other hand, fructose is first metabolized in the liver before being transported to the cells. Therefore, eating excessive amounts of fructose can make the liver work too hard, which causes it to convert the excess into fat. This increases the risk of nonalcoholic liver disease, insulin resistance, high cholesterol, obesity, and gout. Another important aspect associated with fructose consumption and weight gain is that it does not trigger the release of insulin or the release of the hormone leptin; the latter sends the signal to the brain that a person is no longer hungry. Therefore, it can lead to weight gain because it can contribute to overeating.
Fructose does not require insulin to be absorbed and has a low impact on blood sugar levels and may be a better option for people with diabetes. According to experts, the reality is that it is difficult to separate the effects of fructose from other sugars, because foods high in fructose also contain high levels of other sugars.
The truth is that in recent months there have been more warnings about it, so every day more people have started to have fructose and HFCS. This has led some of the major food and beverage manufacturers to switch to pure cane sugar. Based on this, there are other people who believe that “natural” sweeteners like honey and agave syrup are better, but in reality, Both contain more fructose than HFCS!
While it is undeniable to say that excessive fructose intake can lead to weight gain, liver disease, and cardiovascular risk, moderate amounts of fructose or any other sugar are not harmful to health. The secret is not to make it a recurring habit, of daily consumption and much less excessive, however, indulging in a sweet treat is part of a balanced lifestyle and a healthy mentality regarding food. Finally, any type of diet that is based on restriction, in the long run has many more negatives than positives.
The recommendation of the experts in medicine and nutrition is clear: We must limit the intake of all added sugars, be it table sugar, HFCS, honey or agave syrup. The bottom line is that there is room for some sugar in a healthy eating pattern, but too much sugar of any kind is detrimental. Most professionals have established a general recommendation not to exceed more than 25 grams of added sugar per day, regardless of the type. Remember that the amount of added sugar is indicated on the Nutrition Facts label on food packages and it is essential to give yourself the task of reviewing it, since many everyday foods that we usually consider free of sugar are actually packed with different types.
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