Fructose is a kind of sugar. There are many kinds of sugars: sucrose, lactose, galactose, maltose, dextrose, raffinose, glucose, and bunches more. Fructose is just one type. Fructose is famous for being the type of sugar found in fruit. Because of this association with fruit, considered to be a very nutritious and overall healthy food to be included in the daily diet of every man, woman, and child, fructose has been given unfair judgment. We might want to take a moment to investigate fructose a little further though, because there’s a legitimate possibility that it is the biggest single contributor to chronic disease. For realsies.
As those who have done their homework have discovered, there is a striking correlation between the availability of refined sugar and the widespread onset of disease. Weston A. Price, who observed this phenomenon more exhaustively than anyone else, jumped to the conclusion, like many old-schoolers, that the removal of vitamins during the refining process of any food substance was responsible for the gross physiological changes that predictably took place in every ethnic group examined. He then went on a tangent to fill everyone to the gills with cod liver oil, butter, and bone-marrow beef n’ carrot stew to make up for deficiencies. Not a panacea by any means, but it was a good start.
But vitamin and mineral content alone isn’t the whole story. Still, the observable, irrefutable fact, from a historical/anthropological perspective, is that refined foods, particularly refined sugar, drastically lower the level of human health below that which can be considered par. They are the prime suspects to say the least. Like His Holiness Gary Taubes states,
“If cavities are caused primarily by eating sugar and white flour, and cavities appear first in a population no longer eating its traditional diet, followed by obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, then the assumption, until proved otherwise, should be that the other diseases were also caused by these carbohydrates.”
So the question is why does white sugar and refined grain trigger the downward spiral?
First of all, let’s try to narrow it down. As I was reading Robert McCarrison’s work, I stumbled across something that can further hone in on the potential ring leader. McCarrison studied Indians that were malnourished, obtaining over 90% of their calories from white rice. In other words, they weren’t getting any of the much-needed nutrients that Price postulated were required for excellent dental and bone health. They had full-blown malnutrition, with symptoms of pellagra and beri beri and what not. Yet, no dental caries were found. This is perhaps wildly significant. Tooth decay is considered the canary in the coal mine in relation to the entire degenerative process so widespread today.
This would also explain why the healthiest citizens of any country that I’ve encountered in my travels were those of Thailand, despite the fact that they eat refined grain with every meal almost every day of their lives – just like the French and Japanese who are also far healthier than Americans with fewer signs of metabolic syndrome (obesity, heart disease, diabetes, etc.). Thai people look awesome – at least in Thailand they do. Their skin is clear, their bodies are neither too thin nor too fat. Everybody looks like a million bhat. They look as healthy as these Filipino prisoners reenacting Thriller (trying to find a fat one is harder than finding Waldo).
Potentially, even though refined grains (which are starches, not sugars) aren’t ideal foods because of lack of vitamins, they may not be playing a leading role in the Diabesity epidemic. Only eating them to excess combined with an otherwise high-caloric diet leads to trouble, but again, only sugar will stimulate overeating of starch, and this might have to do with malabsorption of sugar – which leads me to the next bit of evidence I’ve encountered, HFI.
HFI (Hereditary Fructose Intolerance), is a rare disorder (or gift from the heavens depending on how you look at it), in which some people do not produce the necessary enzyme to metabolize fructose properly. The result is severe hypoglycemia like that of a diabetic. Therefore, those with HFI must avoid all fructose-containing foods. One article that I read put a small aside in about how HFI sufferers are known for their magnificently healthy teeth. This too is possibly very significant. HFI sufferers can eat other sugars and any starches they desire, which metabolize into glucose. But it’s the fructose-avoidance that keeps their teeth in perfect shape – suggesting that fructose may act alone as the culprit. I’d love to know if any HFI people have ever become significantly overweight or Diabetic, what their cancer rates are, etc. Don’t think anyone’s followed this though.
Before going any further, it’s important that you know that sucrose, known commonly as white table sugar and labeled “sugar” in any ingredient list, is 50% fructose. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS), suspected by many of being the perpetrator of all that’s unholy, is 55% fructose. Natural fruits and juices from those fruits vary in their sugar ratios, but fructose is typically predominant. Honey is 40% fructose, and most syrups and other common caloric sweeteners contain fructose (and are on the avoid list for people with HFI, as is sorbitol, often used in gum and toothpaste because it DOESN’T CONTAIN FRUCTOSE, but in the liver converts, in part, to fructose after ingestion). The most concentrated form of fructose is found in Agave nectar (90% fructose), recommended by Dr. Oz. (Oprah’s official boy genius on the topic of health), which is sufficient reason to avoid it based on Oprah’s health-guru track record – this and the fact that she’s got a goiter and is weighing in at about two-fiddy right now. She’s probably using agave nectar like it’s going out of style.
Although full-blown HFI is a rare disorder, it is estimated that 2 of 3 children and 1 of 3 adults do not absorb fructose properly. This data is obtained from breath tests that somehow show absorption, or lack thereof, of the fructose ingested. Malabsorption is probably due to a malfunction or a lack of a fructose-digesting enzyme found in the liver called Fructose 1-Phosphate Aldolase, the same enzyme lacking in those with genetic HFI.
But I don’t want to go too deep into the science yet because I hardly understand it myself at this point. There is practically no firm data or research out there convicting fructose outside of a few speculative mentions by Gary Taubes and a few others. Suffice it to say that, from the little research that has been done and my own independent investigation, fructose is a prime suspect — especially paired with rapidly-absorbed, insulin-spiking glucose like it is with white sugar and HFCS. There may be little inherently wrong with it as a substance, but consuming the absurd amount that we do could certainly damage the liver’s ability to metabolize it properly, burn out the enzymes required to digest it, or something along those lines. Keep in mind that all types of cholesterol, triglycerides, and lipoproteins (as in LDL and HDL) in which they are carried are synthesized in the liver from sugars, particularly the kind that goes straight from mouth to liver (and cannot be absorbed directly into the blood), which is our buddy fructose.
Also I must reiterate the bogus-ness of the Glycemic Index one more time. Since fructose does not cause an immediate rise of blood sugar due to the fact that it must be synthesized by the liver first (which takes time), foods that contain fructose are low on the glycemic index and are thus considered “good” carbs or “slow” carbs. That’s what’s led agave to the top of Dr. Oz’s class. And all other things that contain fructose look awfully healthy on the Glycemic index. It’s gotten refined sugar out of jail, made high-fructose corn syrup look like an even healthier type of sugar than say, honey or table sugar (despite it being worse).
It’s also made fruit look like an excellent carbohydrate source, but it is not. It is a hypoglycemia-triggering carbohydrate, a candida-feeding carbohydrate, impairs digestion of other foods, causes skin breakouts and dry skin, destroys teeth, and is an overeating-trigger. It undeniably affects me that way, and I am not alone. The raw vegan scene in Maui is a constant reminder of this, as the North shore is teeming with ravenous, tragically-misguided people with off-colored teeth and faces that “look they caught on fire and somebody tried to put out the flames with track shoes (anonymous).” Got fruit? Got agave? Mmmm, dates. Little do they know they’d be far healthier on a steady diet of DQPC’s.
“Too much fruit causes over emotionality because it causes low blood-protein and blood-fat levels, disrupts the sugar levels, irritates tissue, and leeches fats from the nervous system, causing lesions in the myelin. Some people should not eat fruit except on rare occasions…I have met 8 people of 2,300 who were able to maintain health and eat a high-carbohydrate fruit diet without ill symptoms.”
– Aajonus Vonderplanitz; The Recipe for Living Without Disease
America is obsessed with fruit. Words can’t describe how hard it is to get through to people that fruit might be a problematic component in a person’s diet. Remove it from your diet completely for months (which is in sync with nature anyway), along with all other fructose-containing sugars before formulating your own unwavering opinion. You too may find yourself saying, “fruc fructose.”
Lessons from Nature
The only way I’ve been able to make sense out of this is by looking at the role of fructose in nature. Fructose is concentrated in fruit. Fruit has its own agenda – get eaten to spread seeds and achieve successful procreation. So, just like the food corporations, fruit would be best served by developing a mechanism that causes its eater to love its taste yet be woefully unsatisfied, have a huge appetite, and keep coming back for more, and more, and more, and more. That’s how fruit affects me, and this is perhaps not a fault on my part, but a great success on the part of the fruit for developing a sweet-tasting and addictive substance. It’s at least a thought-provoking hypothesis.
Fruit only emerges in bursts, where creatures devour it over a period of a few weeks, months at most, until fruiting season is over. Even in the tropics there is fruit seasonality. Those who did eat fruit ate it for a few months at a time and then had virtually no fruit in the diet for over half the year. That’s one reason I recommend fruit consumption only in binge format in the form of a cleanse for a period of a few days followed by extended fruit abstinence to get blood sugar and hormones back under control. I do recommend fruit on occasion for constipation relief.
Fruit didn’t comprise a significant portion of any diet analyzed by Weston A. Price.
In monkeys, our most biologically identical cousins, fruit, and therefore high amounts of dietary sugar, is the trigger to reproduction. Sugar abundance simultaneously triggers fat storage and reproductive hormones and signals to the body that it is adequately nourished in order to reproduce. Monkeys will not reproduce without the presence of sugar. The enormous amount of sugar consumed in the modern world (something that is only derived from fruits for a few months of the year in nature) could be a very significant factor, as mentioned in the last post, in the early development of secondary sex characteristics. Average age of first menstruation has mysteriously declined from 17 a century ago to less than 12 today. Sugar, particularly fructose, is a prime suspect.
In closing we go back to Reverend Taubes, from Good Calories, Bad Calories:
“Regarding the potential dangers of sugar in the diet, it is important to keep in mind that fructose is converted more efficienctly into glycerol phosphate (a molecule associated with the storage of body fat) than is glucose. This is another reason why fructose stimulates the liver so readily to convert it to triglycerides, and why fructose is considered the most lipogenic carbohydrate.”
Lipogenesis is the conversion of carbohydrate to fat that takes place in the liver, responsible for high triglyceride levels and thus fatty blood, altered cholesterol ratios, the storage of fatty acids into the adipose tissue, and other abnormalities associated with obesity, heart disease, and other related degenerative disorders of abnormal fatty acid metabolism.