When it comes to sugar and sweeteners it’s important to know the differences, especially when you’re watching your caloric intake and training for specific goals. Sugar can lead to unwanted weight gain, increase the risk of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.
The average American consumes nearly 152 pounds of sugar in just one year. That’s equal to 3 pounds (or 6 cups) of sugar consumed in one week, accounting for nearly 16% of the daily average American diet.
But sugar is also a naturally occurring substance. Fructose is found in fruit, while simple carbohydrate such as bread, pasta, and baked goods contain glucose. The problem is, added sugars are found everywhere and in everything. So which one is better fructose vs glucose.
What Is Fructose?
Fructose, also known as “fruit sugar,” is a naturally occurring sugar found in fruit and also found in vegetables. Fructose is a monosaccharide that is very sweet and possesses a ketone rather than an aldehyde which distinguishes it from glucose. Monosaccharides are the simplest form of carbohydrates since they only contain one "mono" sugar group. You can absorb fructose from your diet, however it does not end up in your blood stream, since it is converted into glucose by the liver.
Pure fructose is produced commercially from corn or sucrose and added to food and beverages, commonly known as high fructose corn syrup. Although fructose is found in high fructose corn syrup, it should not be confused with crystalline fructose.
What Is Glucose?
Glucose also known as “blood sugar” comes from carbohydrates, and is a monosaccharide, like fructose. Glucose is fuel for the brain and body, keeping our biological mechanisms in sync. When you eat, your body breaks down carbohydrates with the help of the pancreas, producing a hormone called insulin, to deal with rising blood sugar levels. Too much insulin, will create more unwanted body fat and lead to weight gain.
Fructose Vs Glucose
Most sugars are metabolized in the body in a very similar way. Fructose however is digested and metabolized a bit differently than other sugars. A systematic review in 2016 concluded that while fructose does not have a significant impact on health, “fructose containing sugars, can lead to weight gain, obesity, and an increase in cardiometabolic risk factors.” [R].
Both fructose and glucose are considered monosaccharides, yet fructose is derived from fruit and glucose is derived from simple sugars otherwise known as simple carbohydrates. Some natural sweeteners however like honey, contains a 1:1 of fructose and glucose.
A study investigating the differences between fructose vs glucose randomly assigned either glucose or fructose to 32 overweight study participants. For two weeks, participants body composition, blood pressure, calories consumed/day, blood measures (lipids, insulin and glucose) and rates of lipogenesis (fat production) were all measured. Study parameters remained consistent as there was no statical difference between participants in age, weight, and BMI with no statistical difference between the two groups.
The study concluded that both groups had an increase in abdominal fat, but total abdominal and visceral fat was greater in the fructose group (8.6% total and 14% visceral). Blood lipids triglycerides and cholesterol were increased more in fructose than glucose, but both increased. Fasting LDL and cholesterol went up in both groups, yet again was higher in fructose [R].
Here’s the important takeaway. Fructose sweeteners contributed to higher amounts of weight gain, visceral fat, and blood lipid levels than glucose, however fructose-based sweeteners and high-fructose corn syrup are not the same thing as naturally occurring fructose found in fruit.
Is Fructose Bad For You
An important aspect to understand about any sweetener is that they all have a different chemical structure which affects the way they are stored and used by the body.
Based on the most current scientific evidence, most people should try and get less than 50g of added sugar per day, which includes added fructose sweeteners.
Whole foods like fruit and vegetables do not contribute to the problem of sugar, since they contain fiber, water, and important phytonutrients.
Fructose Vs Glucose: Takeaway
Natural fructose found in fruits and vegetables are good for your overall health and wellness. Processed forms of fructose however have some negative side effects, similarly to other processed sweeteners. Excessive amounts of any type of sweetener will contribute to inflammation, insulin resistance, increased development of fat, visceral fat, and puts you at a greater risk for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
A well rounded diet, consisting of high-quality carbohydrates, fruit, vegetables, and lean proteins, is always recommended for optimal health and wellness. The problem is with added sugars, found in processed and packaged foods. Added sugars are fond in everything from crackers, ketchup, bread, salad dressings, and canned goods. They’re even found in “healthy” snacks like sweetened yogurt, and granola bars. Pay attention to the nutrition label and more importantly the other ingredients. Being savvy and smart with your food choices, will ultimately improve your health. Fruit is never a bad choice.
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Khan TA, Sievenpiper JL. Controversies about sugars: results from systematic reviews and meta-analyses on obesity, cardiometabolic disease and diabetes. Eur J Nutr. 2016 Nov;55(Suppl 2):25-43. doi: 10.1007/s00394-016-1345-3. Epub 2016 Nov 30. PMID: 27900447; PMCID: PMC5174149.