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Are Fructose Fears Unfounded?

Is fructose to really to blame for rising rates of obesity? How much fructose can you safely consume?

By
Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS
Episode #189

The other day, some of us were having a conversation about fruit on the Nutrition Diva Facebook page and a reader posted a list of scary statements about fructose, anxiously demanding to know whether or not they were accurate. His list included things like this:

“You can eat as much fructose as you want but you’ll never feel full. In fact, you’ll feel hungrier;” and,

“Fructose is converted directly into fatty acids in the liver;” and,

“Fructose leads to insulin resistance, Type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome;” and,

“Eating fructose is like eating invisible fat because it slips past the body’s defenses. Therefore we need to avoid eating fruit during weight loss.”

Apparently, these “facts” were gleaned from a book written by a television personality associated with a popular weight loss reality show.  According to her Wikipedia entry, this individual has no formal education, training, or credentials in nutrition, biochemistry, or health sciences. Her degree is in Media and Communications—which is perfect…because she has a career in television.

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Unfortunately, she’s also written a number of books on weight loss and acts as a “weight loss coach” on television. I say “unfortunately,” because she appears to be spreading a lot of misinformation, faux science, and needless anxiety. And when it comes to fructose, there’s plenty of that to go around already.

So, are these charges against fructose true? Some of them—such as the fact that fructose is converted into fatty acids in the liver—have a basis in fact, but are not nearly as ominous as they sound. Others—such as the one about fructose acting as an invisible fat and slipping past the body’s defenses—are closer to paranoid fantasies. Let me see if I can clarify what you do—and don’t—have to fear from fructose.

Let me just take a quick time-out to mention say that there is a fairly rare medical condition known as fructose malabsorption, in which even small amounts of fructose can cause problems. The information that follows would not necessarily apply to these folks. 

We Don’t Eat Fructose, We Eat Food

First of all, when considering the impact of fructose on the body, it’s important to remember that we don’t eat fructose. We eat food. 

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About the Author

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show. 

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