For years the authorities have told us that we should be consuming a lot of fruits and vegetables. While eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables is better than one consisting of processed, refined and fast foods, as fruits are packed with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, there are a number of potential health hazards associated with too much fruit consumption. Instead, we should be eating a lot of vegetables and a moderate fruit intake.
What Is Fructose?
Fructose is a simple sugar found in fruit, and is metabolized into fat by the liver. Diets high in fruits have been linked to metabolic and endocrine issues. Fructose has shown to increase the risks of high blood pressure, elevated triglycerides, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, obesity, diabetes, insulin resistance, and kidney disease, as well as feed cancer cells.
Fructose is absorbed differently by the body than other sugars like glucose. Glucose increases insulin production, allowing the sugar in the blood to be transported into cells, providing them with energy. Glucose also regulates appetite and fat storage by increasing leptin production, and decreases production of ghrelin, which helps regulate food intake. Fructose, however, does not stimulate insulin or leptin production the same way and does not suppress ghrelin.
Because sugars and refined foods elevate blood sugar levels, they are linked to insulin resistance. Even though fructose doesn’t affect blood sugar levels in the same manner and increase insulin production like glucose or sucrose, diets high in fructose are also linked to insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas which, as mentioned earlier, acts as a transport mechanism allowing glucose and nutrients to be pumped into the cells.
As cells become resistant to insulin, they in a matter of speaking close the door of the cells, not allowing insulin to do its job and transport blood glucose and other nutrients into the cells. As those cell doors close, glucose continues to flow through the blood, and because it has nowhere else to go, it’s stored as fat, leading to diabetes and obesity. In addition, because the nutrients are blocked from entering the cells, nutritional deficiencies occur on a cellular level.
Fructose has been also linked to metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome, which has become a worldwide epidemic health problem, is characterized by obesity (especially abdominal fat), hypertension, insulin resistance and abnormal lipid profiles. As the consumption of fructose has increased in the past 35 years, by about 500%, rates of obesity and Type 2 Diabetes have also increased.
Fructose also gets converted into triglycerides very easily, and we all know that elevated triglyceride levels are linked to an increased risk of heart disease.
Sugar’s Effects On Cancer Cells
In 2010, the journal Cancer Research published a study showing the way different sugars are metabolized and the effect they have on cancer cells.
While glucose feeds cancer cells, fructose is easily metabolized by cancer cells to increase proliferation. Cancer cells use fructose for cell division, which in turn speeds up the growth and spread of cancer.
Studies also show that fructose elevates uric acid levels in the kidneys. High uric acid levels increase risk of gout, a form of arthritis, as well as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and kidney stones. It’s important to note that normal uric acid levels are about 3.5-4mg/dl. Uric acid levels higher than 4 are a key indicator that one might suffer from fructose toxicity.
Now, it’s important to mention that fructose in liquid form, like juices, sodas, etc. will have a much greater impact on uric acid levels, as it is a much more concentrated form than when eaten in fruit, as the fiber and other nutrients in the fruit will slow the absorption somewhat. However, eating an abundance of fruit is still linked to elevated uric acid levels.
Also, the adult liver can only metabolize about 2-3 Tbsp. of fructose daily. The rest is stored as fat around the liver, leading to fatty liver disease, similar to that present in alcoholics. Fructose also gets converted into triglycerides more efficiently than glucose, which we all know, elevated triglyceride levels are linked to an increased risk of heart disease.
Your Bodies Bacteria
Magnesium and other essential vitamins and minerals are depleted from the body by fructose. This may actually accelerate bone loss and increase symptoms of muscle cramps, chronic pain and poor sleep. Fructose also creates internal inflammation in the body, which can partly be responsible for joint pain, as well as impede one’s recovery from exercise and decreased immune function.
The stomach is full of bacteria, both good and bad. The good bacteria are one of the main parties responsible for immune health. Fructose, however, feeds the bad bacteria, causing it to grow and multiply. When stomach flora balance is off, it causes Candida to grow. Candida is a systemic yeast infection that when not managed, can cause a myriad of health issues to occur.
Some of the symptoms of Candida are yeast infections, constant fatigue, brain fog, bad breath, abdominal pain, increased food allergies, constant sweet cravings, joint pain, fungus, rashes like eczema, and depression.
Different Types Of Fruit Consumption
Again, there is a difference between eating fresh fruit in its whole form versus fruit drinks and other sugars like High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). Fresh fruit, as mentioned earlier, is full of vitamins, minerals and flavonoids, all of which have a plethora of health benefits. Many flavonoids are shown to have an impact on antioxidative activity, free-radical reduction, and coronary heart disease prevention as well as contain anti-cancer properties.
While moderate fruit consumption will bring a number of those health benefits to otherwise healthy individuals and athletes, there are many that should avoid fruit consumption all together. Those who need to be careful about their fruit intake are people with high insulin levels, or those who suffer from any of the following:
- High Cholesterol
- High Blood Pressure
- Yeast Infections
Fruit juice, fructose sweetened foods and beverages and HFCS, however, should be avoided by all. They will bring a high concentration of fructose to the blood, potentially leading to all the health hazards previously discussed. It’s worth mentioning that juicing, though we’ve been told is incredibly healthy, is not recommended, unless the pulp and other cellular material from the fruit are contained in the juice.
Athletes who otherwise eat a very clean diet, but consume a lot of fruit may not have the immediate negative impact that the average person eating the Standard American Diet (SAD) might have, but over time, as activity decreases, that high fruit consumption may lead to those same physiological imbalances. On the other hand, if that athlete’s main goal is body fat reduction, then limiting, or even avoiding fruit is highly encouraged.
In regards to timing one’s fruit intake, eating fruit earlier in the day or post workout would be preferential over eating it right before bed. It would not be advisable to consume fruit alone, be sure to add, at the very least, a lean protein source with that piece of fruit, and even some healthy fats like raw nuts or nut butters, healthy oils or omega 3s, in order to help slow the absorption of fructose.
Healthier Fruits To Consume
Below is a list of the healthier fruits one should consume:
- Coconut – antiviral, antibacterial, normalize body lipids, healthy fat
- Berries – antioxidant protection, excellent source of vitamin C, carotenes, zinc, calcium, magnesium, high in fiber, low in sugar
- Papaya – rich in antioxidants like carotenes and flavonoids, high in vitamins B and E, folate and fiber, great source of potassium and magnesium, rich in papain (enzyme that helps with digestion), immune system support, anti-inflammatory properties
- Avocado – excellent source of raw monounsaturated fat which is easily burned for energy, high in potassium (twice that found in a banana), great source of folate, vitamins C and E, riboflavin and B6
- Mango – rich in carotenoids and vitamins B and C, calcium, iron, potassium, selenium, folate and zinc
- Pineapple – contains bromelain (enzyme which aids in digestion, reduces inflammation and anti-cancer), rich in antioxidants, provides immune support, great source of manganese, thiamin and riboflavin (all of which are important for energy production)
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