Unclear on the fructose concept

tea-label-blogsize.jpg

MD and I stopped in a Whole Foods the other day to load up, and I came across this bottle of tea while I was looking for something cold and carb-free to drink.

The manufacturer of this product (and I’m sorry, but I can’t remember what it was, and, unfortunately, I didn’t take a picture of the other side) is either ignorant or thinks that its customers are ignorant. I’m sure the ‘brains’ of this outfit either read or heard that high-fructose corn syrup was a substance that is not healthful. I suppose that they came to the conclusion that it was the corn syrup that was the villain, but it’s the fructose in the corn syrup that’s the problem. The other component of corn syrup is glucose, which is much less harmful than fructose.

So, based on this misunderstanding of what it is in corn syrup that’s a problem – the fructose – these folks wrote up the label contents as pictured above. Their product has fructose crystals as the second ingrediant, but not from that nasty corn syrup. They want their customers to know that it’s just plain ol’ fructose. Unclear on the concept indeed.

Yeesh.

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17 thoughts on “Unclear on the fructose concept

  1. Hi Dr. Mike.
    It is timely that you should post about fructose today. Just yesterday I had a request to develop and demonstrate recipes using agave nector. I did some quick research and found it to be almost pure fructose, as I expected. I found drastically different opinions about it, ranging from Dr. Oz (Oprah’s doc) who said it is the ONLY sweetener that anyone should ever use, to others who disputed the claims made by the producers that it was very low glycemic, healthful, raw, and natural.

    The only scientific information that I found required a fee, and I feared that I would not understand it anyway. What is your opinion of agave?

    Hi Judy–

    Agave nectar contains anywhere from about 60% fructose to 90% fructose depending upon the strain of plant. Both of these amounts are higher than the amount of fructose in the most commonly used high-fructose corn syrup, which is 55% fructose and 45% glucose. The agave nectar does contain a few antioxidants and other healthful plant-based chemicals, but, in my opinion, they do not compensate for the very large amount of fructose.

    Many people who should know better recommend fructose because it has a low glycemic index, in other words it doesn’t run blood sugar up to the same extent glucose does. But fructose doesn’t run blood sugar up because it is metabolized differently than glucose. It is dumped directly into the liver where it is converted to fat and often stored in the liver. It is a driving force behind the development of insulin resistance and all attendant problems. When researchers want to give lab animals insulin resistance, they feed the animals high doses of fructose.

    Fructose, despite its ‘fruity’ sounding name, is better avoided irrespective of how attractively it is packaged, i.e., as the healthful sounding agave nectar.

    Hope this helps.

    Cheers–

    MRE

  2. Apparently consumers (and diabetics) are being told that Fructose is a health food. This is a description from NOW Brand Fructose:

    Fructose

    Also known as “fruit sugar”, fructose is roughly 50% sweeter than ordinary sugar, tastes wonderful, and does not raise blood sugar levels like table sugar. When taken in moderation, fructose can be taken by diabetics after first consulting with their physician.

    Hi Amy–

    This description is correct but misleading. Fructose does not raise blood sugar as much as ‘ordinary sugar,’ which is itself half fructose because fructose in metabolized differently. It gets dumped into the liver where it is converted to fat and acts to promote insulin resistance.

    Cheers–

    MRE

  3. That is too funny, I looked at the exact same product in my market yesterday and put it back because it had the word Fructose on the label!!!

    Hi Elaine–

    I’m glad you didn’t buy it.

    If enough people don’t buy, maybe they’ll stop using the stuff.

    Cheers–

    MRE

  4. Just for information purposes that is a bottle of Inko’s White Peach White Tea. Other members of my family are quite fond of it, as I was at one point. It only contains 14g of carbs per bottle (7 per serving) but it still doesn’t taste quite as good as water :-p

    http://healthywhitetea.com/flowers_whitepeach

    Hi Jason–

    Thanks for filling in the blank for me. I was so taken with the way they proudly announced the fructose while denigrating the corn syrup that I missed the name of the product.

    Cheers–

    MRE

  5. But doesn’t fructose come from fruit?

    I mean, it even sounds like fruit when you pronounce it.

    It must be healthy and good for you. How can fruit be bad for you?

    And best of all it’s low in saturated fat!

    Hi Billy–

    Uh huh, right. Not only does it contain no saturated fat, fructose is organic and can be natural as well. But, still, it should be avoided like death. Even if it does sound like fruit when pronounced.

    Cheers–

    MRE

  6. I was in a health food store looking for some diabetic-friendly ice cream for my mother – the one tub I found stated ‘no sugar only natural fructose’ – it also said something along the lines of how much better fructose is for diabetics!! What the hell?! Needless to say I tossed it back into the freezer compartment and went out and bought an ice cream maker and made some REAL low carb ice cream for my mother!

    This is something I’ve noticed a lot with the products in health food stores – because something is ‘natural’ apparently it’s good for you. Utter twaddle. Raw sugar is still sugar. Even when I was (foolishly) vegan I didn’t fall for that crap.

    Hi Anita–

    Organic and natural are the two words that lead many people less critical than you down the path of dietary disaster. I’m glad you saw through it.

    Cheers–

    MRE

  7. A friend who has PCOS and is Insulin Resistant is on Weight Watchers. I know what you’re thinking! (I’m not THANKFULLY). And is on the Core Program that is actually a bit healthier than the traditional “eat whatever crap you want as long as it’s in your points for the day” program. But they actually RECOMMEND fructose. It’s the sweetener of choice. Sad, really.

    Hi Yvonne–

    It’s worse than sad. And totally misguided.

    Best–

    MRE

  8. You have hit on yet another of my pet peeves.

    The last time someone suggested that things that were “natural” were automatically better, I suggested we both have a nice poison ivy salad. Nowadays we have a new version of this: It is in “Whole Foods” so it must be good for me!” This tea is a perfect example.

    I’ll give you one guess as to what “soy wax” really is in those “all natural soy wax candles” that they sell. ha! (Ok, no…not talking about eating candles after all…but the point that people only want the illusion that they are living healthfully or in a way friendly to the environment. Its all labeling/packaging.)

    Hi Anne–

    Let me make my one guess (and it is a guess because I’ve never even heard of ‘soy wax’): partially hydrogenated soybean oil? Right?

    Cheers–

    MRE

  9. I don’t know if this is along the same line… But I’m wondering if there is anything different about “brown rice syrup” that is an ingredient of one of the Kashi brand granola bars I have in the pantry. (Cliff Bars list the same) I’m guessing ’tis all the same story… searching for the sweetness grail.
    Thanks,

    Tim

    Hi Tim–

    Brown rice syrup is basically glucose, maltose (two glucose molecules hooked together) and some other liquid complex carbs. It’s not fructose, but it still raises blood sugar.

    Cheers–

    MRE

  10. So I need to throw away my ketchup (it is spicy ketchup, as it’s laced with Tabasco). For some reason I was thinking small amounts were probably okay. But since you mention it’s one of the culprits in insulin resistance–better to avoid it. What are some good substitutes?

    Thanks!
    Alex

    Hi Alex–

    A little ketchup here and there probably won’t hurt much; just don’t overdo it. Also, there are diet and/or diabetic ketchup products that contain no or little sugar.

    Best–

    MRE

  11. I wonder how much fructose is in the second ingredient, “all-natural white peach extract”? Looks like 29 calories of sugar water to me. “Natural” on a label is a red flag for me to figure out what they are trying to hide/obscure.

    29 calories of sugar water is pretty much what it is. And even worse, it’s 29 calories of fructose water.

    Cheers–

    MRE

  12. Hey!!! Waving arms!!!! anybody home?

    i read that… “Your comment is awaiting moderation.”

    That’s been a few days now.

    Is this about Q&A, or Snake Oil? …the Star-Ledger wants to know!

    Q & A or Snake oil?!?! Where does it say Q & A? On my software is says ‘Comments’ not Q & A.

    Cheers–

    MRE

  13. Hello Dr. Mike,

    Thanks for your comments on my comments!

    Why is HFCS worse than sucrose if the latter breaks down into fructose and glucose in equal amounts?

    Let me take a guess: HFCS is a heterogenous “mixture” of fructose and glucose while sucrose which is a disaccharide. This is a real guess! Look forward to your answer.

    Regards,

    Alex

    Hi Alex–

    There are several types of HFCS. One that is 90% fructose/10% glucose and the more commonly used one that is 55% fructose/45% glucose. If we consider that people eating the standard American diet consume about 20% of their calories as sugar. If this is HFCS, then the average American gets about 10 extra grams of fructose per day compared to 30 years ago when the only sweetener was sucrose. But it’s not this extra 10 grams that is troubling. I don’t eat any sugar per day. None. Therefore to make the averages work, someone is eating 40% of calories as sugar, making this person consume an extra 20 grams per day of fructose compared to 30 years ago. 20 grams per day is about 4 teaspoons of pure fructose, which is more than plenty.

    Cheers–

    MRE

  14. Dr. Mike,

    I hope you still read and reply to these older posts, but anyways:

    I recently read “The New Glucose Revolution” and then picked up a copy of your book the following day—wow, much different. Both books claim that they are not “theories” but “proven science”. PP was more convincing.

    This post reminded me of a couple of questions I’ve been driving myself insane thinking about. The first is in TNGR they state that 100g of fructose is better than 100g of glucose because of it’s low GI rating, but here you say that pure glucose is better—why?

    Second, after reading your book I now know that I want to keep my insulin levels low, but I’m curious: If a carb is a low-GI, won’t it keep your blood glucose levels low enough (or hardly change it) because of the rate of digestion that your insulin won’t rise? And if you eat lots of low-GI foods—because your body can’t possibly process the food faster (I’m guessing)—won’t it always keep your insulin levels low?

    Last, I’m really trying to wrap my head around the part of the book where you were speaking about the growth hormone for building strength opposed to eating lots of protein, or eating a high-GI carb, just after a workout. Being involved with some of the worlds fittest athletes, I’ve never heard of not eating until an hour after a workout. It sounds interesting.

    Thanks,

    Jeremy

    The idea that 100 g fructose being better than 100 g of glucose is absurd. Fructose is much more harmful. And it the reason I discount the idea of the glycemic index. Fructose is a low-glycemic carbohydrate, and, as such, can be consumed as part of a low-glycemic diet, which, in my opinion, is not a good thing.

    I’ve changed my mind a little about the consuming of carbs after a workout reducing the output of GH.

  15. I am a defender of Inko’s. My entire family drinks it. It is a white tea, not sugar water. And, even if it was, as you say, sugar water, compared to 99% of the beverage offerings in stores (excluding flouride-less water and saccarin-based diet drink) it is MUCH MUCH lower in calories than other offerings and therefore considered by many to be a contributor to a healthier lifestyle.

    Also, according to my understanding, fructose crystals have a different metabolic makeup from HFCS and packs more sweetness in less calories. And, it is all natural.

    You can find plain-packaged fructose crystals at many of your better health food stores.

    Thank you for allowing me to voice my opinion.

    Fructose is fructose and is one of the most damaging sugars around. Pure crystalline fructose is 100 percent fructose whereas HFCS is 55 percent fructose. Gram per gram the former is more harmful than the latter.

    Cheers–