Fructose, Blood Pressure and your Liver!

October 02, 2009

Foods that are high in fructose, both naturally and by adding ingredients, are making not so sweet headlines lately

Foods that are high in fructose, both naturally and by adding ingredients, are making not so sweet headlines lately; a recent study examined the link between a diet high in fructose link to increased blood pressure, and another study, its suspected relationship with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Foods high in fructose, certainly aided by the use of  high fructose corn syrup as an ingredient, pervade the products on supermarket shelves and the average American’s diet.

Fructose, a “simple sugar” and also a basic carbohydrate, is naturally found in fruits and honey; its chemical structure is almost identical to glucose, the brain’s main source of fuel. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is not entirely made up of fructose, but it is in fact an almost even mixture of the two simple sugars, glucose and fructose. The Food and Drug Administration allows products that contain HFCS to use the term ‘natural’ on their label, thus allowing this versatile shelf life extender and processed food sweetener to be a part of many foods proudly sporting the ‘natural’ label, which for many consumers is still confusing.

The Spanish study looked into fructose and blood pressure in men and found that a greater consumption led to significantly increased blood pressure. Increased fructose intake was also found to raise one’s risk of developing metabolic syndrome, which encompasses a group of risk factors associated with the development of heart disease and diabetes.  According to the American Heart Association, high blood pressure affects over 73 million Americans over the age of 20, which amounts approximately one in three adults.

The second study focused on non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and dietary fructose intake, specifically soft drink consumption. NAFLD encompasses a spectrum of diseases associated with an accumulation of fat in the liver – which can lead to scarring and impaired function: cirrhosis, and insulin resistance and thus type 2 diabetes, among other things. The study found that a staggering 80% of subjects with NAFLD were consuming a significantly greater amount of soft drinks than those who were NAFLD free. In fact, the NAFLD group’s carbohydrate intake from soft drinks was five times that of their healthy counterparts.

Both study’s authors comment that the majority of sugar consumption in the U.S. comes from sweetened drinks and foods that are high in sugar or high fructose corn syrup.

A few fructose free and fructose smart tips to share:

  • Although fructose is the predominant sugar in fruit, fruit is still a very important part of a healthy balanced diet as it contains vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants and other bioactive compounds.
  • Choose drinks sweetened with Stevia, a derivative of a plant in the daisy family found in South America. Stevia adds virtually zero calories and has no effect on glycemic index. Use Stevia to make your own sweetened beverages or as a sugar substitute in food.
  • If you are used to drinking a lot of sugary drinks including soda, fruit juices and even those decadent coffee drinks, slowly cut back on the habit. Aim for consuming these beverages as a treat once a week. Like any habit, if you go “cold-turkey” you will most likely crack and go right back to your old ways.

This is an easy change we all need to consider and stick with for a healthier life. And hey! We’ve recently heard President Obama comment on the possibility of a nationwide soda tax in the near future…so it might be a good money saving idea to start cutting back now!


Center for consumer freedom: million dollar add campaign to dispel HFCS as weight gain culprit…