Monday, March 1, 2010

Fructose and Obesity

In the United States, fructose-sweetened products have a lot of commercial advantages over sugar. Unlike sucrose, which comes primarily from sugar cane or beets, fructose comes from a variety of plant sources, like fruit, and sweet vegetables like carrots and corn.

This variety is what gives fructose it's main advantage: it's cheaper to use surplus corn crops instead of importing sugar cane or beets. And because fructose is processed as the plain syrup, it eliminates sugar's additional costs of dissolving and reconstituting into a particular viscosity.

Fructose is also very sweet, with nearly twice the sweetening ability as regular sugar. This also drives down the cost, as it allows the manufacturers to use less fructose by volume than sucrose.

As a result, fuctose is ubiquitous, making up approximately 9% of the American diet.

So what's the problem?

The first concern with fructose over sugar is it's correlation to obesity. Unlike sugar, fructose doesn't need insulin in order to be metabolized by the body. This might be useful, especially for those who are insulin-resistant, but insulin regulates the body's secretion of leptin, a hormone that signals the body into feeling satisfied after eating. With this cue removed, we eat more, even when our bodies have reached their caloric requirements. The result is increased weight gain.


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