Fructose In Fruit: Disease Creator Or Health Promoter?

The fructose in fruit has been unfairly tainted by association, making many people on healthy raw food diets leery.

High fructose corn syrup - if those four words don't bring up a negative association in your mind, you're either very hard to persuade or have been hiding from every major media source and health authority for the past decade or so.

In the early 2000s, reports about the dangers of high fructose corn syrup started appearing in the news, with cited studies correlating it with it weight gain, type 2 diabetes, metabolic disorders, and other medical problems.

There's little question that high fructose corn syrup isn't something we should be eating, but does that mean the fructose in fruit should be avoided too?

Fructose In Fruit Peaches

Fructose: What Is It?

Fructose is one of the three sugars making up most of the carbohydrates in ripe fruit, a number of vegetables, and honey. The others are sucrose (saccharose) and glucose.

High fructose corn syrup is what you get when you extract the fructose present in corn and concentrate it in a gooey syrup.

Because it's so incredibly sweet and cheap (In the United States, the cheapness comes from government subsidization and sugar import tariffs), manufacturers often shy away from table sugar (processed sucrose) to rely on fructose almost exclusively.

The Fructose In Fruit: Taking The Fall For Unhealthy Foods

Fructose In Fruit BlueberriesWhen the first studies on the harm caused by high fructose corn syrup started to get out, it didn't take too long for people to begin throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Instead of simply making a logical conclusion like, say, maybe we should stop eating processed foods, or at least processed foods with high fructose corn syrup, some official and amateur nutritional advisers also started telling people to avoid most fruit because it contained a lot of fructose.

Fruit-avoiding raw foodists had a field day with this, and many I-told-you-sos were issued. Even some people following paleo or primal diets – many of whom seem to think our ancestors didn't eat much fruit in the Paleolithic era, or that it was somehow low in fructose back then - were gratified over their avoidance of fruit.

It's common to this day to hear paleo diet eaters advise each other that the only fruit they should be eating are berries because they're supposedly low in fructose (they're no lower in fructose than any other fruit, modern or wild-growing).

Avoiding The Fructose In Fruit: No Evidence, Lots of Contraindications

The idea that we should avoid fruit because it contains fructose and is therefore harmful is completely unsubstantiated. 

There have been few studies as of yet on the effects of natural fructose on humans, and none I've been able to find have anything bad to say about it so long as its eaten as part of a whole, unprocessed food like fruit.

The one natural fructose study I've found with any relevance compared two energy-restricted weight loss diets, one which allowed a moderate amount of natural fructose and the other that allowed little to no fructose (1).

The moderate fructose diet beat the restricted fructose diet by a significant enough margin that the researchers concluded that not only was fructose not a bad thing, but, “...added fructose intake may represent an important therapeutic target to reduce the frequency of obesity and diabetes. For weight loss achievement, an energy-restricted moderate natural fructose diet was superior to a low-fructose diet.”

Although not studying fructose specifically, other studies have found simply getting overweight people to eat a few pieces of fruit per day leads to significant weight loss (2).

Fructose In Fruit OrangeFinally, it's important to remember that better than any treatment medical science can bring to bear, the beneficial compounds found in raw fruits and vegetables inhibit cellular aging, fuel cellular repair, induce the detoxification enzymes that keep us clean and healthy, and bind the carcinogens which lead to cancer (3).

Fruit specifically has a host of unique effects that prevent aging and the deterioration of the brain. More than any other food, studies continue to show us that fruit consumption is associated with lowered mortality from all cancers combined (4).

Fruit also plays a huge role in keeping us young and vibrant.

Fructose In Fruit: Following Up

It would be extremely foolish to avoid fruit for any reason, and especially useless to quest after a fructose free diet. 

Learn how to adopt a healthy raw food diet based around fruit here. Learn how the fructose in fruit lends itself to a health range of nutrients available on a good diet.

Learn more about the different types of fruit.

Fructose In Fruit: Sources

1) Madero, Magdalena. Et al. “The effect of two energy-restricted diets, a low-fructose diet versus a moderate natural fructose diet, on weight loss and metabolic syndrome parameters: a randomized controlled trial. Metabolism 31 May 2011.
2) Oliveira,  Conceicao. Et al. Weight loss associated with a daily intake of three apples or three pears among overweight women. Nutrition. 2003 Mar;19(3):253-6.
3) Steinmetz, K.A., and J.D. Potter. 1991. Vegetables, fruit and cancer. II Mechanisms. Cancer Causes Control 2 (6): 427- 42
4) Hertog, M.G., H.B. Bueno-de-Mesquita, and A.M. Fehily. 1996. Fruit and vegetable consumption and cancer mortality in Caerphilly Study. Cancer Epidemiol. Biomarkers Prev. 5 (9): 673-77.

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