Fruit OK, Added Sugars Aren't
Although it would be almost impossible to avoid fructose without eliminating all sweet and sweetened foods from your diet, it is clear that not all foods containing fructose are equal, says nutritionist Lona Sandon, RD, who is with UTSW but did not work on the study.
Fruit has fructose, but it also has fiber and nutrients, which makes it an important part of the diet, whether you are trying to lose weight or not, she says.
"The health benefits of eating fruit far outweigh the slight increase in fat production that might occur as the result of eating something with fructose in it," Sandon says.
She points out that the breakfast drinks served to the study participants had as much as 65 grams of fructose.
"By comparison, a cup of strawberries has 4 grams of fructose and an apple has about 11," she says.
And what about high-fructose corn syrup?
Audrae Erickson, president of the Corn Refiners Association, sees no need to worry.
"Like sugar, honey and some fruit juices, high fructose corn syrup contains almost equal portions of fructose and glucose. Glucose has been shown to have a tempering effect on specific metabolic effects of fructose," Erickson says in a statement.
"New research continues to confirm that high fructose corn syrup is no different from other sweeteners. It has the same number of calories as sugar and is handled similarly by the body."
But Sandon says there is some evidence that high fructose corn syrup breaks down differently in the body than other sugars.
She adds that people who want to lose weight should limit all added sugars, not just one kind.
"That's really a no-brainer," she says. "I've never had a client who has become overweight eating too much fruit or too many vegetables, but I have had plenty who ate too many foods with added sugar and fat."
Madelyn Fernstrom, PhD, CNS, agrees that demonizing one type of sugar misses the point.
"Everything in moderation," she says. "We are blaming individual sugars or individual fats when we should be focusing on calories. If someone drinks a 64-ounce soda, who cares if it is high-fructose corn syrup or cane sugar? It's still about 800 calories."
The study was partially funded by unrestricted research funds from the Sugar Association and the Cargill Higher Education Fund (Cargill is a manufacturer of high-fructose corn syrup).