Goodbye fructose

As we get deeper into recipes that require some form of sweetener, I see too many people fall into the fructose trap.

Fructose is the stuff that makes sucrose bad. (Sucrose = glucose + fructose.) Dietary glucose is not entirely benign, but fructose is far worse. After wheat, fructose is proving to be a far worse dietary ingredient than previously thought.

Where do you find fructose? Fructose can be found in (roughly in order from worst to least):

Agave
High-fructose corn syrup
Sucrose
Honey
Maple syrup
Fruit

I’ve been discussing fructose for a number of years on my Heart Scan Blog. Here’s a post I made from July, 2009 that discusses some of the clinical data that demonstrate the awful effects of fructose:

A carefully-conducted study by a collaborative research group at University of California-Berkeley has finally closed the lid on the fuss over fructose vs. glucose and its purported adverse effects.

The study is published in its entirety here.

Compared to glucose, fructose induced:

1) Four-fold greater intra-abdominal fat accumulation–3% increased intra-abdominal fat with glucose; 14.4% with fructose. (Intraabdominal fat is the variety that blocks insulin responses and causes diabetes and inflammation.)

2) 13.9% increase in LDL cholesterol but double the increase for Apoprotein B (an index of the number of LDL particles, similar to NMR LDL particle number).

3) 44.9% increase in small LDL, compared to 13.3% with glucose.

4) While glucose (curiously) reduced the net postprandial (after-eating) triglyceride response (area under the curve, AUC), fructose increased postprandial triglycerides 99.2%.

The authors propose that fructose specifically increases liver VLDL production, the lipoprotein particle that yields abnormal after-eating particles, increased LDL, and provides building blocks to manufacture small LDL particles. The authors also persuasively propose that fructose metabolism, unlike glucose, is not inhibited (via feedback loop) by energy intake, i.e., it’s as if you are always starving.

Add to this the data that show that fructose increases uric acid (that causes gout and may act as a coronary risk factor), induces leptin resistance, causes metabolic syndrome (pre-diabetes), and increases appetite, and it is clear that fructose is yet another common food additive that, along with wheat, is likely a big part of the reason Americans are fat and diabetic.

Fructose is concentrated, of course, in high-fructose corn syrup, comprising anywhere from 42-90% of total weight. Fructose also composes 50% of sucrose (table sugar). Fructose also figures prominently in many fruits; among the worst culprits are raisins (30% fructose) and honey (41% fructose).

Also, beware of low-fat or non-fat salad dressings (rich with high-fructose corn syrup), ketchup, beer, fruit drinks, fruit juices, all of which are rich sources of this exceptionally fattening, metabolism-bypassing, LDL cholesterol/small LDL/ApoB increasing compound. Ironically, this means that many low-fat foods meant to reduce cholesterol actually increase it when they contain fructose in any form.

When you hear or say “fructose,” run the other way, regardless of what the Corn Refiners Association says.

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95 Responses to Goodbye fructose

  1. Tony Phylactou says:

    I had my first gout attack about 10 years ago.
    At the beginning I was having attacks every 6 months. Then gradually I was getting them
    every 3 months, then every month and eventually every week.
    It started at my big toe and then it was moving sometimes in my knees,and generally all
    around my joints, in my feet.And the pain was agonising.
    I have tried all the cures you can imagine.I tried ACV, lemons, drinking a lot of water, but
    to no avail.I tried water fasting, juice fasting,baking soda, again without success.
    I almost gave up meat, limiting it to only once a week ,gave up alcohol completely,again
    no success.
    I was living on vegetables, lots and lots of fresh fruit, milk ,cheese beans and so on .My
    eating habits could not be healthier ,or so I thought.But my gout was worsening.
    Then I decided to increase the amount of fruit I was consuming, thinking that if some fruit
    is healthy, more fruit will be more healthy.Some days I was eating fruit only ,others over 10
    portions a day.
    And alas my gout instead of improving it became chronic ,it was there all the time.
    I was desperate I did not know what to do.
    And then one day accidentally I read an article about fructose,which is contained in fruit in
    large quantities.It said that it increases uric acid, in a matter of minutes.
    Fructose is also present in table sugar, and in HFCS, which is used in soft drinks.
    I put two and two together and realised what I was doing wrong.
    I stopped eating fruit and all other sugars, for a period of 3 weeks,and by magic I saw a
    dramatic improvement.Pain was gone, swelling was gone, I was fine.
    I re introduced fruit again in my diet but reducing them to 1 or 2 a day, and my gout completely
    disappeared.
    I do eat more meat now, and occasionally have an alcoholic drink, and thank God everything
    seems to be fine.
    Fructose was my enemy.

  2. Gus says:

    Doc, is there anything wrong with drinking beer? I am not a heavy drinker but I do enjoy a beer and some whisky (fireball brand) every now and then. Any wheat in beer? I like the lite varities- budlite, corona lite, redstripe lite…

    • Dr. Davis says:

      It is wheat, after all, Gus. It has implications that exceed calories.

      How about a nice glass of pinot grigio or cabernet franc instead?

      • Abe says:

        Curious about the beer issue as well. I quite enjoy a glass or two out with the boys or after a tough day of work. If I stick with the barley based beers, are they still a huge issue in moderation because of the gluten? To keep low in carbs I understand you should limit consumption (a light beer has 6-10g), and my beer of choice has no wheat but does have gluten as a result of the barley. Enjoying a glass with my dinner on a saturday night I’m still easily able to keep my carb intake under 40 for the day. Just wondering if there are other concerns.

      • SteveL says:

        Not all beer has wheat, in fact many do not.

  3. Janett N. Royce says:

    Hmm… If I consume ANYTHING but watery fruits like watermelons, grapes, oranges, apples etc. my blood sugar sky rockets. I’m a brittle type 1 diabetic (this thing my doctor calls an “auto-immune disease” when he doesn’t know what causes it) and I’ve been on a high fruit diet to control blood sugars. If I add ANY vegetables my blood sugars go up. Same with complex carbs, starches, rye, grains, wheat, grass fed meat, milk, nuts, other high fats etc. Some fruits like bananas, pineapples and durians will also drive my blood sugar up. But according to you I’m killing myself slowly? I don’t think so.

    In the meanwhile I’m working on my adrenal glands and pancreas. In the beginning I fought through a “glucose loading” phase (blood sugars going up and down) for 6 days when I switched to 100 % fruits. The last 3 of those 6 days I “fasted” on watermelons until my blood sugars slowly stabilized. From the 8th day I didn’t have any further insulin injection needs. I’m 17 days down the road now and seeing great improvements. Had one salad yesterday just to see what would happen and my blood glucose didn’t go too high (76 to 139). What surprised me is that it very slowly went down again. This advice came from my uncle who’s an avid viewer of Dr. Robert Morse’s videos. So I can only say that listening to your advice might bring back the insulin needle. I respect your work nonetheless.
    - Janett

  4. Jagmeet Singh says:

    Hi Dr. Davis,

    I am on wheat free diet for last week. I am feeling much more active and I have lost 4 pounds in a week. But I have a concern regarding replacing my carbohydrate diet with proteins. I am suffering from high uric acid in blood. We have a family history of high uric acid and gout. Is removing wheat with protein diet is safe for me? Please reply.

    • Dr. Davis says:

      This is a tough issue, but not directly relevant to wheat elimination. You may need to have your uric acid levels tracked.

      Note that fructose sources are a big influence on uric acid, in addition to purine sources.

  5. Boundless says:

    > Fructose can be found in (roughly in order from worst to least):
    > * Agave
    > * High-fructose corn syrup

    And if you needed another reason to avoid HFCS, it’s now been linked to CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder), due to imidacloprid uptake by the corn. See:
    http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/press-releases/2012-releases/colony-collapse-disorder-pesticide.html?
    http://news.mongabay.com/2012/0405-hance_colonycollapse_pesticides.html

    So, yes, trace amounts of imidacloprid are in both the corn you eat and any HFCS you eat. If you can’t find your way back to your hive, this might be why. This pesticide amount is probably a minor threat compared to the fructose itself, and other concerns about genetic mods to the mutant product now sold as corn (BT, RR-Ready), not to mention uptake of RoundUp and other herbicides and pesticides.

    • MaryMK says:

      Hello, Dr. Davis, Boundless, & all other readers/writers,
      I’m asking for help–again! Can anyone tell me or refer me to a source that can tell me if there is a difference between fructose and CRYSTALLINE fructose? I’ve done a Goggle search, read the abstract referenced in Dr. Davis’ original ‘Good-bye Fructose” post, and listened to Dr. Robert Lustig in the You Tube video “Sugar, the Bitter Truth.” Dr. Lustig says at one point that HFCS is the same as fructose, doesn’t matter what you call it, etc. However, I also read that the crystalline form apparently is lower on the glycemic scale (22, I think, vs. 73 for HFCS). That may be true but I suspect that it is metabolized the same, i.e., dangerous, way.

      I personally have zero desire to consume fructose in any form other than an occasional apple or orange or berries. However, my husband is on a program designed around a shake product that contains fructose in the ingredient list (second ingredient, no less!). I stopped using it immediately but hubby is still in the thrall of this particular practitioner who now tells him that the fructose in the shake is OK because it is in the crystalline form. I’m having an uphill fight on the home front because I’m on the Wheat Belly journey but have been losing weight by ounces and girth by centimers so I’m not living proof that the other path is wrong. I love my very intelligent husband but I seem to be powerless against his diet guru and want to help save him from going down a sweet but slippery down hill tumble.

      I am grateful for any insight from Dr. Davis or readers/bloggers. I bow to you all for your insight and inspiration.
      Mary
      (sidebar: Hubby was also informed that the product is being reformulated to use stevia instead of the fructose listed because “too many people don’t understand the difference between fructose and crystalline fructose.” Oh, I am so sure that’s why the change. And I have a bridge in brooklyn for sale.

      • Dr. Davis says:

        I’m of the mind that fructose is fructose, whether crystallized, boxed, or packaged with a ribbon.

        It is metabolized via a unique route, unlike glucose and regardless of glycemic index being high or low, that lead to dramatic metabolic distortions.

      • Steven says:

        Crystal fructose is the latest weapon against good health and common sense
        that has been created by the chemists of the food processing industry. High glucose corn syrup is about 55% fructose; crystal is about 99%!
        According to Dr. Mercola, “Crystalline fructose (a super-potent form of fructose the food and beverage industry is now using) may contain arsenic, lead, chloride and heavy metals. ”
        Those good folks at Pepsi just keep coming out with more and more great ideas!

  6. Pam says:

    So, if we can’t sweeten with Agave, High-fructose corn syrup, Sucrose, Honey, Maple syrup or Fruit what can we use?

  7. Chastity says:

    I’ve started trying to drink more water but still not all the time because it makes me sick if I drink too much. I do drink Sprite Zero (contains aspartame) and I’m completely off Caffeine so I make my decaf green tea or regular tea with either regular sugar or at time Sucralose (is this a good sweetener) or should I be using something else?

  8. Paola Fusato says:

    I noticed you use Stevia as a sweetener for your recipes, but I find it very sweet with a bitter after taste. Is there any other sweetener we can use?

    • Steven says:

      I have been happy with Xylitol in my morning coffee, rather than Stevia, which I, too, find bitter.
      Steven

  9. MaryMK says:

    I have used PureVia instead of Truvia because I found it at Costco and it was considerably cheaper. However, despite the similarities in the names, PureVia contains maltulose (sp?). Is this a safe sweetener? Truvia is shockingly expensive, at least where I shop, unless I buy it at Costa in the 500 pkt size and that’s a lot of ripping open little bitty bags if I want to bake some of the Wheat Belly recipes. Thanks for any help.

    Mary

  10. Jeanne says:

    I recently discovered Now foods Stevia glycerite. It says Better Stevia alcohol free on the label and is thick like honey.
    I have numerous brands and styles of stevia products in my pantry and haven’t found ANY of them without the aftertaste- except THIS ONE. Others may disagree, but I was very pleased to read about it on Maria Emmerich’s blog and just had to try one more product .

    Thanks again Maria! And thanks Dr. D for leading me to her awesome site and recipes.

  11. Debbie says:

    I am currently drinking a shake that has “Non-Gmo Fructose & Stevia” listed as the sweetners. This is what they say about the fructose:

    “We use non GMO fructose from beets (amount on label). It’s not controversial at all. It’s a low glycemic index fruit sugar that works in the formulation as a transport vehicle for the nutrients and for taste”

    Would you recommend this as a sweetner???? Or is it best to avoid???

    • Dr. Davis says:

      To say that “fructose is not controversial” is silly. It is the WORST sweetener of all.

      I generally don’t like developing cataracts, arthritis, hypertension, and diabetes with my shake. I’d say lose it, Debbie!

      • Michael Leuthold says:

        I recommend Xylitol, Google it first & read comments/evaluations before using it.
        BUT: NEVER ALLOW YOUR DOG(S) TO CONSUME ANY FOOD THAT CONTAINS XYLITOL!!!

      • Michael Leuthold says:

        No, Dr. Davis-and this is the ONLY serious disagreement I have with you:

        SPLENDA & ASPARTAME and all their fancy-name relatives are by far the worst sweeteners EVER!

        I simply cannot understand how you could recommend it in the recipes listed in

        ‘Wheat Belly’ ! Consult Dr. Mercola and see/read for yourself what he thinks about these inventions from hell!

        Sincerely,

        Michael Leuthold (in Spokane,WA)

  12. Tania says:

    Thanks for this. It has led me to an excellent article by Dr. Joseph Mercola about the fructose in agave nectar. Mercola’s article is titled “This Sweetener Is Far Worse Than High Fructose Corn Syrup.” Yikes. When I first started a wheat elimination diet last week, I got excited about almond flour (which is basically made of finely ground blanched almonds). I went out and bought “The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook” by Elana Amsterdam. Unfortunately, the sweetener used throughout is agave nectar, and the oil used throughout is grapeseed oil. Both of these ingredients raise red flags now that I have read your book and this blog. My husband got a bad headache two days in a row within hours of eating an almond flour – agave nectar biscuit with 71% Dove Silky Smooth Dark chocolate chunks. We thought it must have been the milk solids in the chocolate (he’s eliminating both wheat and milk in order to see what stops his headaches), but it was probably more likely the agave. However, I also learned today about the good and bad types of dark chocolate in a blog post “Healthy Dark Chocolate Brands Revealed” by Nicole German. I have so much more to learn… not just about the harmful properties of today’s wheat.

    • Dr. Davis says:

      Hi, Tania–

      Healthy eating shouldn’t be so tough. Unfortunately, it is!

      But being empowered in diet means being empowered in health. It is becoming absolutely essential to be armed with understanding.

  13. WILL Barber says:

    I am using Xylitol sweetner and love it.
    I have tested it on my blood sugar meter and it does no raise sugars at all and no after taste.

  14. Bettye says:

    Give Coconut Palm Sugar a try. It is the nectar of the coconut flower before the fruit is formed. Its now in all the health food stores and Whole Foods. Delicious.

    • Boundless says:

      CPS still has a claimed GI of 35, vs. 100 for glucose. I suspect that’s too high for a low carb diet, and is definitely off the list for a ketogenic diet.

      • James says:

        Hi boundless

        Shouldn’t you also look at the glycemic load or even bood sugar levels one hour after ingestion ? I’d not be surprised if one found a wide variance among a good sample of people. That’s what makes it tricky …
        In my experience, which is quite recent, after 1.5 month very low carb / high fat and maybe 3-4 weeks ketogenic for accelerated body fat loss, I find myself at a good weight and feel great. So I am reintroducing low glycemic fruits and very fat dairy (I don’t drink milk nor indulge in bad quality cheese any longer though) which adds a bit of carbs in my current diet because I want to stabilize my weight and add variety to our meals. I have not counted really but I suspect my carb load is very small still (~ 30 – 50g maximum on week-end days where I “indulge” a litlle). Since I also practice intermittent fasting and move my butt every day, I am quite happy with this balance. It could well be that spring and summer time will influence my diet some more (more raw veggie stuff) but winter time is quite OK with plenty of fat and a bit of good meat on a regular basis.

        • Boundless says:

          > Shouldn’t you also look at the glycemic load or even blood sugar levels one hour after ingestion ?

          Well, sure. That’s the bottom line (along with considerations of side effects from proposed alternative sweeteners). And folks suggesting new sweeties never seem to provide this data.

          But the claimed GI gives is a clue. Dr.Davis has said that a GI of zero is the target. This stuff is well above zero.

          We also don’t know exactly what saccharide it is. As we see in the base article of this thread, just because something is “natural”, “organic” and not glucose does not make it an ideal comestible.

  15. Barb says:

    Can I use Splenda as a sweetener ?

  16. catrina says:

    Hello.
    I am new to this way of eating, this is my first week. Could you please tell me if I can drink Diet Coke, I usually like 1 can a day and also if I can use Kraft salad dressings.

    Thank you.

    • Boundless says:

      > … Diet Coke …
      What sweetener is used?
      The acid load, from carbonation, isn’t necessary.
      The flavorings might be OK.
      The water is usually fine, but is much cheaper when just purchased as water.

      > Kraft salad dressings
      Watch out for sugars, unhealthy oils and maybe even wheat.
      This may rule out most of them.

  17. Katie says:

    I have been using Ideal brand and it is Xylitol, Maltodextrin and Sucralose. It sweetens and does not seem to have an aftertaste. I do like this product for baking and cooking many recipes. I also purchased Now Better Stevia a month ago and didn’t think it was sweetening very well. Well, read the labels! I discovered that it says to Shake well before using. So much better results. It sure is easy to add a few drops to recipes (and my morning hot chocolate). It is very easy to eat wheat and not realize it until later…wheat is in so many things! I recently read that it is in Tylenol and would like to know if this is true. Thank you for all the good advice that the Dr. has given us, and the blog too.

  18. Steve says:

    For all those struggling with which sweetener is better: Avoid them all – you don’t need them! After a couple of months with no sweeteners, they all taste like crap and you will naturally be averse to them.

  19. Lizzie says:

    Hi Dr Davis, I am looking for an alternative to Natvia for baking etc, how do you rate coconut syrup? A low GI factor and also high in amino acids?

    • Dr. Davis says:

      I would avoid, Lizzie, as it is rich in sucrose.

      Most of us have become so darned carbohydrate/sugar intolerant due to years of carbohydrate overexposure that minimizing future exposure really helps regain control over health.

  20. Lizzie says:

    Hi Dr Davis, what are your thoughts on coconut syrup to replace sweetners in baking? Low GI and also high in amino acids?