The Fructose Connection

Interesting Timing

A very interesting connection has been made recently suggesting that sugar-sweetened soft drinks and fructose increase the incidence of gout. It may be coincidence, but the prevalence of gout, the most common arthritis in men, had doubled in the United States within the past few decades - and this is the same period during which fructose sweetened soft drinks have become the single largest source of calories in the American diet. It has been found that men who drank more sweetened drinks had more gout, proportional to the number of drinks per week. This includes sweetened fruit juices as well as fructose sweetened soft drinks, but not diet drinks.

Fructose is Better Than Sugar, Right?

So, why is fructose being used in the first place? In a bid to lower the glycemic index (GI) of processed foods it was considered a healthy move to add fructose since it does not affect insulin production, therefore it is thought to be a low GI sugar. Glucose, on the other hand, raises insulin levels. In order to improve the taste of low fat/diet foods, the food industry have been adding fructose in the form of corn syrup and sucrose (half fructose) to foods.

Currently there is evidence emerging indicating this may be making the obesity epidemic even worse - starting with damage to the liver cells (hepatocytes). There is only one organ in the body which can handle fructose and that is the liver. Glucose can be taken up by every organ in the body, being metabolized by muscles, brain, kidneys, the heart and others. Only about 20 percent of the glucose load ends up in the liver. Fructose causes a reduction or depletion of phosphate of the liver cells which ultimately causes an increase in uric acid. Uric acid increases blood pressure which in turn causes gout. Gout is the collection of uric acid crystals deposited in joints which then become inflamed and painful.

It All Goes Back to Basics

So, what's the bottom line? Basic biology teaches that sugars which are not used as energy are stored as fat. A low fat diet which is rich in processed sugar-dense foods is, in reality, a high fat diet because fructose acts like fat when not burned as energy. We were never built to eat refined sugars. We should be eating our carbohydrates, especially fructose, in the form of high fiber, unprocessed foods like fruit and vegetables. It's all in your diet. By reducing your intake of low fiber, sugar/fructose laden processed foods (even if the label calls it low GI) and upping the intake of fresh fruit and vegetables, you can perhaps avoid such health issues as gout, fatty liver and increased insulin levels.