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Fructose and Weight Gain: A Bad Rap?

Experts examine whether the sweetener known as fructose contributes to the obesity epidemic.
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Hidden Calories

"There's no reason to avoid fructose itself," says Madelyn Fernstrom, PhD, CNS, director of the Weight Management Center at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. If you're looking to lose weight -- or at least not gain any -- Fernstrom recommends that you limit your consumption of fructose-sweetened beverages and snack foods just as you would any simple carb. Of course, cutting back your total calorie intake wouldn't hurt either.

Keep your total carbohydrate intake to no more than 50% of your daily diet, Fernstrom advises, and make sure that most of those carbs come from fiber-rich sources such as whole grains and vegetables rather than added sugars or processed foods.

"There are hidden calories in beverages and foods such as sodas, cookies, and cakes, but that's not solely because of fructose," says Fernstrom.

Added sugars in general -- no matter in what form -- can be a significant factor in obesity, says bariatric surgeon Michael Trahan, assistant professor of surgery at the University of Texas Medical Branch.

Reading food labels is a good way to limit your intake of fructose and other sugars, adds Trahan. Avoid any packaged food product that lists as one of its first three ingredients anything ending in "ose" -- the chemical suffix that indicates "sugar."

To satisfy your sweet tooth, choose fruit instead -- "nature's candy," says Fernstrom. "Few people are overconsuming natural fructose by eating fruit."

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