By: Gleason Center Editors, Dr. Daniel Gleason DC
Did you know that fructose can damage the liver? Or that just 1 banana contains your entire recommended daily intake of fructose? If this sounds shocking, read more to learn how to avoid fructose overconsumption and stay healthy. In this month's newsletter, Dr. Gleason tackles our addiction to fructose sugar. Fructose dependence has been associated with inflammation, weight gain, weight loss resistance, nutrient deficiencies, fatty liver disease, and more.
Fructose: The Root of Much Evil
Fructose is a type of sugar found in fruit juice, honey, agave syrup and high fructose corn sugar. These are all harmful when consumed in large amounts, which is what most Americans do.
All cells in the body can use glucose whereas only liver cells can deal with fructose.
When people over-consume fructose, the liver becomes overloaded and starts to rapidly age. This is the leading cause of two very common liver diseases; Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) and Non-alcoholic Steato-hepatitis (NASH). The same liver pathway that metabolizes alcohol also metabolizes fructose. Thus, overconsumption of either leads to significant damage. When a pathologist examines biopsy samples of a fructose-damaged liver, it is indistinguishable from one damaged by alcohol (thus the term Non-alcoholic). Just like alcohol, fructose is metabolized directly into fat. It cannot be used for energy like glucose can.
Dr. Lustig, Professor of Pediatrics at the University of California, calls fructose a “chronic, dose-dependent liver toxin.” He goes on to explain that fructose and alcohol both:
Help convert dietary carbohydrate into fat promoting obesity, diabetes, and elevated cholesterol.
Lead to the production of superoxide free radicals resulting in inflammation (the true root of all evil).
Create habituation and possibly dependence, i.e. they are both very addictive.
Carb intake in general and fructose consumption in particular is by far the most common cause of being overweight and obese. These epidemic conditions go hand in hand with Type 2 Diabetes. When we over-consume carbohydrates (sweets and starches) our insulin levels soar leading to inflammation, fluid retention, weight gain, and weight loss resistance. While overeating carbs in the form of grains, potatoes and sweets causes much havoc, eating excess amounts of fructose is even worse.
Dr. Richard Johnson, Head of Nephrology at the University of Colorado reports that his research shows that eating refined sugar including fructose effectively blocks the burning of fat. He states, “When you give fructose to animals they lose their ability to control their appetite, they eat more and exercise less. Fructose looks like it’s playing a direct role in weight gain.”
Fructose, like alcohol, can also be addictive. We have all seen the poor fructose addict walk into a store or the Post Office with a half-consumed two-liter bottle of soda. Some cities, notably New York, have even proposed a tax on soda or restricting the individual serving size. These efforts are met with a firestorm of resistance from soda manufacturers and their lobbyists. If soda were taxed at a rate to compensate for the medical costs that it causes, a bottle of pop would cost $20!
How much fructose is safe to consume on a daily basis? For someone who is obese or diabetic, they should be careful of eating very much of most fruits that have substantial fructose content. Some fruits like lemons, limes, grapefruit, kiwi, and berries have relatively low fructose content. However fruit juices, dried fruits and fruits such as pears, apples, and plums are high in fructose and should be eaten very sparingly. Many experts suggest a maximum daily dose of 15-25 grams of fructose per day. For example, a large banana may have 20-25 grams or a large sweet apple may have 15-20 grams of fructose.
How did we get into this mess? Historically our fruits were small and only available during the fall. Now we have imported fruits all year round. The varieties of fruit we raise are propagated to be large and sweet, unlike their heirloom ancestors. The USDA subsidizes the growing of corn making high fructose corn syrup very cheap to produce. It is added to many foods, even things like salad dressing and ketchup. We have convenience stores, refrigerators, and freezers to make easy, frequent consumption possible.
Excessive fructose and sugar consumption also leads to nutrient deficiencies. We become depleted in many B vitamins as well as some minerals. The fructose-induced inflammation challenges our levels of anti-oxidants like A, D, C, K, E and omega 3 fatty acids.
One of the most powerful steps you can take to healing what ails you and preventing serious health conditions in the future is to limit sugar intake, particularly fructose.
If you like this post, you might also enjoy our: October Newsletter
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