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Life Extension Magazine October 2013
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Are You Suffering from Fructose Poisoning?

By Roman Hartley

Abnormal Lipid Profiles

As we’ve seen, the effects of fructose in the liver produce marked increases in the production of fats, especially dangerous triglycerides. Elevated triglycerides and lowered HDL cholesterol levels together make up another component of metabolic syndrome.

A high fructose intake produces very high after-meal triglyceride levels in both animal and human studies.35-38 In humans, this has been shown to be directly related to fructose-induced impairments in the way triglycerides are cleared from the blood.35,38 Animal studies confirm this effect and also demonstrate that fructose induces many genes that increase new fat production and raise triglyceride levels.4,39

One human study demonstrated that just seven days of elevated fructose consumption increased fat deposition in liver and muscle, while increasing VLDL-triglycerides.40 Similar studies comparing the effects of excessive calories from either glucose or fructose showed that fructose (but not glucose) produced high 23-hour triglyceride exposure and new fat formation in the liver.12,41 Another study showed that ingesting fructose caused a 2.5 mg/dL drop in beneficial HDL.15

All that excess fructose-induced fat production leads to increased fat deposition in the liver.42 Excessive liver collections of fat, beginning as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), are considered the liver manifestation of metabolic syndrome; up to 30% of adults now suffer from this condition.42,43 Fructose is now widely recognized as a major contributor to NAFLD.42 NAFLD progresses to produce non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, a precursor to liver cirrhosis and eventual liver failure.42

Is Fructose Really Different from “Natural Sugar?”
Is Fructose Really Different from “Natural Sugar?”

“But isn’t fructose a natural sugar?”

If that’s what you’re thinking, you’re right—it is. And that’s exactly what the food industry wants you to think as well.

The corn sweetener industry wants to debate any connection between fructose and the epidemic of obesity and metabolic syndrome. They’ll tell you that fructose is a natural product, and that the animal studies showing fructose to be dangerous used “hyper doses” of fructose, at 40, 50, or even 60% of total calorie intake, a ridiculous amount.57 Yet research clearly links fructose to increased risk for conditions associated with metabolic syndrome, abnormal blood lipids, heart disease, and other serious health concerns. 3,15,36

Let’s clear up this confusion once and for all.

What exactly is fructose? Fructose is a naturally occurring sugar found primarily in fruits and vegetables.58 Glucose is a naturally occurring sugar found in carbohydrates.58 Sucrose (table sugar) is made up of 50% fructose and 50% glucose.58

Please don’t avoid fruit and vegetables because they contain fructose. The slower absorption from whole fruit/vegetables should enable your liver to safely clear it. A limited study showed that people consuming very high fruit diets did not suffer adverse effects on body weight, blood pressure, and insulin and lipid levels after 12-24 weeks.59

Since the 1960s, the food industry has been loading up a growing proportion of the American food supply with a substance that’s vastly cheaper than sucrose: high fructose corn syrup.60,61 High fructose corn syrup can have up to 5% more fructose than table sugar (which we already consume in too high of quantities), it’s up to around 1.3 times sweeter than table sugar (increasing our need for sugar-sweetened foods), and it’s nearly impossible to avoid.58,62

High Blood Pressure

When lab rats are given drinking water with 10% fructose, they develop hypertension, yet another manifestation of metabolic syndrome.44 High fructose consumption in humans has a similar effect, raising the risk of hypertension by 9% in women and 11% in men.3

Just two weeks of excessive fructose consumption in healthy adult men raised their systolic (top number) blood pressure by an average of 7 points, and their diastolic (bottom number) by 5 points.15 And just one serving of soft drinks raised blood pressure by 1.6 and 0.8 points systolic and diastolic, respectively.45

Laboratory studies now show that there are a number of ways in which fructose consumption raises blood pressure. Fructose triggers very high rates of uric acid production in the liver, which in turn causes blood pressure to rise.16,46,47 High uric acid is a common finding in people with metabolic syndrome.48 Treating fructose-induced hypertension with the gout drug allopurinol returns both uric acid levels and blood pressure to normal.15

Fructose also triggers excessive sodium retention, which is a major contributor to hypertension.45,49 Conversely, a low-fructose diet lowers blood pressure in chronic kidney disease patients.50

Central obesity, insulin resistance, lipid disturbances, and high blood pressure are the four “classic” components of metabolic syndrome.51 Increasingly, however, raised markers of chronic inflammation are recognized as playing an essential role in the condition as well.51,52 Let’s look briefly at how fructose promotes inflammation.

Rise in Obesity Rate Tracks Rise in Fructose Consumption

The prevalence of obese and overweight individuals has increased dramatically in the decades since 1980.63 Between 1988 and 2000, the number of obese Americans (those having a BMI of 30 or more) grew from almost 23 to 30.5%.64 In the same time period, the proportion of overweight Americans (those having a BMI of more than 25 to 29.9) rose from 55.9 to 64.5%, while extreme obesity (defined as a BMI of 40 or more) rose from 2.9 to 4.7%.64 By 2010, the picture was even worse: For the first time in history, the average American was overweight (with a BMI of 28.7), and nearly 36% were obese.65

This alarming increase in body size parallels an increase in something else: fructose consumption.

Between 1970 and 1990, Americans’ consumption of high fructose corn syrup rose by more than 1,000% (that’s not a typo), vastly exceeding any other dietary changes in that period.8 By 2008, Americans were getting a full 10% of their calories from fructose. 20 During that entire period, Americans were gaining weight at unprecedented rates, and the prevalence of metabolic syndrome was steadily rising. By 1990, the year the obesity epidemic really took off, the skyrocketing rate of total fructose consumption matches the rapid rise in the percent of obese Americans.

Rise in Obesity Rate Tracks Rise in Fructose Consumption

Inflammation: The Role of “JNK” Food

The human liver contains a natural stress-response system that goes into high gear as a result of various kinds of stress, especially stress from toxins. Officially called “c-Jun terminal kinase,” this system is known to scientists simply as “JNK.” Fructose (and foods that contain high amounts of fructose) activate the JNK pathway, which contributes to insulin resistance and ultimately to inflammation.11,53,54

Even low- to moderate-sugar sweetened beverage consumption promotes inflammatory changes in otherwise healthy young men.5

Such changes have been shown to produce a 20% increase in cardiovascular disease risk for the highest consumers of sugar-sweetened beverages.6 Even children aged 3 to 11 years show increases in their cardiac risk factors in direct proportion to their consumption of such beverages.55

As noted earlier, fructose-induced inflammation has been shown to contribute to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which has been referred to as “diabetes of the liver.”21

Nutrients That Protect Against Fructose-Induced Metabolic Syndrome

Supplement

Effects on Fructose-Induced Metabolic Syndrome in Laboratory Animals

Amla (Indian gooseberry)

Prevents insulin resistance and abnormal lipid profile37

Anthocyanins (from dark fruits)

Protects fat cells from insulin resistance36

Astaxanthin

Prevents insulin resistance56

Coffee extracts

Attenuates glucose intolerance, hypertension, and cardiovascular remodeling66

Ginger

Lowers triglycerides, ameliorates fatty liver,27improves insulin resistance32

Green Tea

Ameliorates insulin resistance67

Quercetin

Reduces abdominal obesity and inflammation68

Resveratrol

Corrects imbalanced lipid profiles, normalizes blood pressure69

Spirulina

Corrects blood sugar, lipid profile, liver function70

Urtica dioica (stinging nettle)

Ameliorates insulin resistance, decreases serum glucose71

Carnosine, Benfotiamine, and Pyridoxal-5-phosphate (vitamin B6)

Protects against glycation72,73

Summary

Despite the best public relations efforts of the corn sweetener industry, there’s no longer any doubt that Americans are slowly being poisoned by fructose, which has become ubiquitous in our food supply.

Study after study has shown that when we consume fructose in large quantities, our bodies treat it as a toxin. Fructose goes directly to the liver, where it disrupts a host of normal metabolic processes, producing each and every component of metabolic syndrome: central obesity, insulin resistance, abnormal lipid profiles, elevated blood pressure, and inflammation.

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to avoid fructose and high fructose corn syrup. Since the 1970s, high fructose corn syrup has been added to just about every prepackaged product you can think of.

If you haven’t already eliminated fructose from your diet, now is the time to do so. Read product labels. Don’t be fooled by industry propaganda. Recognize that both high fructose corn syrup and table sugar provide vastly more fructose than your body can safely handle. And consider protecting yourself from this mass poisoning by taking nutrients that reduce the risk of fructose-induced metabolic syndrome.

If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Health Advisor at 1-866-864-3027.