Why fruit sugar is good for your health and processed sugar is not

Juan Carlos Laguna Egea, Barcelona University and Marta Alegret Jorda, Barcelona University

Fruit is a plant food that is incorporated into all healthy diets. It is characterized, among other things, by its sweetness, especially when it has matured correctly. That sweet taste of the fruit is because it contains a large amount of a type of sugar that, guess why, is called fructose! It also contains glucose but in much less quantity. But today we will focus on the first one, the one that could be the most harmful to our health.

Fructose is also, along with glucose, a component of white (or table) sugar and corn syrup. Both sweeteners are used as common ingredients in the preparation of processed foods, sauces and condiments, sweets and sweetened soft drinks.

And this is where the problem begins. Several studies associate the increase in the consumption of these products with the higher incidence of metabolic diseases, such as obesity, diabetes, fatty liver and blood lipids.

Quantity and quality, two keywords

Quantity: A higher consumption of food products that contain sugary sweeteners implies a higher consumption of calories. If these are not burned, they accumulate in the form of fat in the body and promote the development of metabolic diseases.

Unfortunately, the consumption of high-calorie diets, poor in fruits and vegetables and rich in fats and this type of sugar, has become global, facilitating the epidemic growth of this type of pathology.

On the other hand, if you go to the dietitian or nutritionist or consult any dietary guide, you will always find the same advice: if you want to be healthy, eat about five servings of fruit and vegetables, divided into the different meals of the day.

A moderate daily consumption of a natural, unprocessed food, such as fruit, is healthy. And let’s apply common sense, we are not talking about consuming two kilos of pears and a melon a day!

Quality: Fructose transforms into fat very easily in the liver. For the same amount ingested, for example, of fructose and glucose, the former produces a greater amount of fat in the liver.

In this sense, fructose, in excess, has a greater potential to alter metabolism and facilitate the appearance of metabolic diseases than other sugars.

But then, do these pathologies also occur with the consumption of fructose from fruit?

Packaging is everything

We all know that, after all, we are evolved monkeys. For millions of years, our ancestors lived and adapted to the consumption of a varied diet, rich in vegetables and fruits that they collected throughout the day.

When we take fructose, we do not ingest it as such, isolated, but rather it is incorporated in its natural packaging (the fruit itself), with all the other components of it: fiber, minerals, vitamins, etc.

That is why we must properly chew each piece we take. The goal is to mix its various components, including abundant fiber, with our saliva and digestive juices. This causes the fructose contained in the fruit to enter our body slowly.

Thus, intestinal cells consume a large majority of the fructose they absorb, so that very little of it reaches the liver through the blood to be transformed into fat.

This is how industrial sugar works in the body

When we take a large amount of fructose, present in a sweet, a sauce, an ice cream or, above all, in liquid form, in a sugary drink, the situation is very different.

We flood our digestive tract of fructose, dissolved in water, which is rapidly absorbed by intestinal cells, but to the point of overflowing them. Then it reaches the liver, where it is transformed into fat.

The liver is responsible for distributing this excess fat throughout our body. If this happens in isolation, it does not matter. But if we consume these foods abundantly and frequently, in the long run we will have health problems. The excess fat deposited in our body could cause obesity, diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, etc.

Over time, metabolic disorders will increase the risk of a heart attack or even a cancerous process. For example, a recently published study in which a higher incidence of cancer is associated with the higher the consumption of sugars.

But be careful! This association only occurs with the consumption of sugars in liquid form, not in solid form. In addition, when the association between the appearance of cancer and the consumption of fruit juices is specifically studied, this is also positive, the incidence of cancer increases with greater consumption of fruit juices.

Is fruit sugar good or bad?

So is fruit sugar good or bad? If you have read the above, you can guess the answer. The consumption of fruit as such in our diet is healthy. That implies that we bite it, chew it, mix it with other foods, to facilitate its digestion. In this way, the components of the fruit, including fructose, are slowly incorporated into our body.

When we drink a fruit juice, even if it is natural, things change. We eat much more fruit than if we had to peel, bite and chew it. In addition, as we do not take fructose in its natural packaging, it is absorbed suddenly, quickly, reaches the liver and … once there we already know what happens. Therefore, fruit is eaten as such and juices are a pleasure that we can indulge in from time to time.

And if you decide to have a juice, please don’t remove the pulp! The pulp helps the sugar of the fruit to slowly incorporate itself into our body, in a more similar way to what happens when we eat the fruit directly.

Juan Carlos Laguna Egea, Professor of Pharmacology, Barcelona University and Marta Alegret Jorda, researcher in the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutic Chemistry, Barcelona University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. read the original.


Leave a Comment