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Number of Calories Is Key continued...

Cleveland Clinic’s Laura Jeffers, MEd, RD, LD, agrees.

“Fructose may not be the villain,” says Jeffers, who reviewed the study for WebMD. “People should be aware of the total calories they’re consuming rather than worrying about one type of sugar.”

But do we need another study telling us that? No, says David Heber, MD, PhD, director of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition.

“It’s much ado about nothing,” says Heber, who says that we should be focusing on how much fructose we consume and where we get it.

“There’s too much fructose in our diets, and it’s not coming from fruits and vegetables,” says Heber, who was not involved in the study. “If fructose comes from those things, I have no problem with it.”

Better Evidence Needed

Sievenpiper says his team’s study was based on the “highest level of evidence available,” but adds that “most of the trials had methodology issues, were too short, [and] were of poor quality. We don't think that this group of studies is particularly representative of real-world situations.”

He would like to see large, long-term trials that may be better able to determine whether fructose itself -- rather than simply the amount of calories -- plays a particular role in weight gain.

“The studies need to be done in real-world formats,” he says.

That means looking at the high fructose corn syrup that’s added to so many products, at the fructose found in fruits and vegetables, and at the means by which fructose is consumed, such as in sweetened soft drinks.

“Energy in fluid form does not tend to be compensated,” he says, meaning that it adds calories to the diet but does not satisfy hunger as well, which can easily lead to overindulgence. “Maybe the format is important.”

Sievenpiper and his team received funding from several outside sources, including the Coca-Cola Company and the Calorie Control Council, a trade group that represents the diet food and beverage industry. However, he says that none of the funders had access to his data or influenced the review in any way.

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