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Carbohydrates present the main and easily accessible source of energy for the human body. Fructose is a monosaccharide that is part of sucrose. This nutrient ensures such functions as energy and glycogen production and fat storage. The research shows that despite such beneficial functions, the excess of fructose may cause overweight and obesity (Tappy & Lê, 2010). This nutrient was selected due to its great importance for the human body as well as its potential about the rapidly growing obesity rates worldwide.
Fructose is one of the most common carbohydrates contained in fruits. Unlike glucose, it can penetrate from the blood into the cells of the tissues without the participation of insulin – a hormone that lowers the blood glucose level. For this reason, fructose is recommended as the safest source of carbohydrates for people with diabetes. Among the key roles and functions of this nutrient, one may note the participation in brain nutrition, the balance of the sugar level, the formation of glycogen, musculature support, and so on (White, 2013).
The deficiency of fructose in the human body is usually expressed in apathy, irritability, and sadness for no apparent reason that may lead to depression and the decrease of natural energy. On the contrary, the symptoms and consequences of an excess of fructose involve overweight and obesity as well as the inability to control one’s eating patterns.
People with diabetes and those who intake large amounts of the mentioned nutrient are at a high risk of its excess and adverse impact. The deficit of fructose may be experienced by people with fructose malabsorption and intolerance. Taking into account the increased consumption of fructose-containing sugar across the world, the above population should be timely diagnosed and prescribed a fructose-restricted diet (White, 2013). However, there is no specific population, for which the given nutrient is especially significant since it is important for every person. The sources of fructose are cherry, banana, mango, grapefruit, pickled onion, grape, apple, etc., while some medicine is also available.
Review and Discussion of Current Research
The thorough review of the existing scholarly literature shows that the attitudes of researchers regarding the use of fructose are ambiguous. On the one hand, van Buul, Tappy, and Brouns (2014) believe that fructose is rather functional, since it prevents the development of caries and plaque, does not load the pancreas, and is also much sweeter than sugar. On the other hand, Tappy and Lê (2010) argue that it promotes obesity and causes the development of gout. However, all of them are unanimous in the fact that fructose contained in various fruits and vegetables and used in adequate amounts cannot bring the body anything but benefit. It seems essential to consider both opinions in detail.
As for the positive side of the increased intake of fructose, one may mention that it stabilizes the level of sugar in the blood and it is absorbed basically without insulin serving as an effective sweetener for patients suffering from diabetes. The average daily dose for people with diabetes should not exceed 50 g. Part of the fructose enters the liver cells, which turn it into a more universal “fuel” – glucose. In other words, fructose is also capable of raising blood sugar, although to a much lesser extent than other sugars.
Fructose is easier than glucose, it can turn into fats. The key advantage of fructose is that it is 2.5 times sweeter than glucose and 1.7 times than sucrose. Therefore, fructose does not cause hormonal bursts, promotes normal metabolism, and, in comparison with sucrose, increases sugar in blood level three times more slowly. Its use instead of sugar can reduce the overall intake of carbohydrates.
In the United States, several sugar substitutes are banned due to their impact on mass obesity, especially those based on fructose. The fact is that in the US, the production of baking, chocolate, and sweets contains large amounts of fructose, which may be dangerous in such dosage. Since fructose instantly dissolves in the body and increases the blood sugar level slowly, it may be considered an option for people with diabetes. However, this does not mean that people with this disease should completely replace sugar with fructose and consume it in unlimited quantities.
While researching and analyzing the body’s reaction to this nutrient, Tappy, and Lê (2010) reveal some obvious harm of fructose. For example, a person’s body does not feel saturated with regular use of this nutrient, since it affects the production of a special hormone called leptin, which signals the brain of satiety. Therefore, people constantly experience hunger, and this leads to a strong appetite and overeating, thus resulting in excess weight. Consistent with the above statement, the Agrawal research project suggests that excess intake of fructose adversely affects epicardial adipose tissue (EAT) phenotype and causes obesity (“Grant abstract,” 2017).
A small calorie content – about 400 calories per 100 grams – fructose is by no means a dietary product (Sánchez-Lozada et al., 2010). Since it is processed in the body only by the liver and almost completely absorbed by the liver cells, the excess intake of fructose converts it to fatty deposits. It is fraught with obesity and dangerous liver disease – fatty hepatosis (Sánchez-Lozada et al., 2010). More to the point, the metabolism of fructose is similar to those of alcohol, because fructose enters directly into the liver. Its excess can provoke diseases typical for alcoholism such as cardiovascular and liver-related ones.
Recommendations and Conclusions
Summing it up, fructose is a valuable nutrient, the key role of which is energy production. People with diabetes and overweight should avoid fructose. This nutrient does not affect the feeling of satiety and can provoke obesity. The best solution to preventing obesity and reducing the risk of diabetes is to minimize the consumption of sugar substitutes and any products that contain large amounts of fructose (White, 2013).
Food should be the reach of natural vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Specifically, fruits contain fibers, which regulate the absorption of sugars and, accordingly, the level of sugar in the blood. As a rule, people get fructose from any sweet fruits and berries.
White (2013) claims that plant fibers act as antidotes, preventing an overdose of fructose in the body. Therefore, the consumption of adequate dosage of fructose will never become a factor causing obesity or the one that sharply increases insulin in the blood. Thus, both excess and deficit of fructose make an adverse impact on the human body. Speaking of the areas of future research, it is possible to emphasize the need to explore the impact of fructose-sweetened beverages and the associations between insulin sensitivity in humans and fructose consumption.
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Sánchez-Lozada, L. G., Mu, W., Roncal, C., Sautin, Y. Y., Abdelmalek, M., Reungjui, S.,… Johnson, R. J. (2010). Comparison of free fructose and glucose to sucrose in the ability to cause fatty liver. European Journal of Nutrition, 49(1), 1-9.
Tappy, L., & Lê, K. A. (2010). Metabolic effects of fructose and the worldwide increase in obesity. Physiological Reviews, 90(1), 23-46.
van Buul, V. J., Tappy, L., & Brouns, F. J. (2014). Misconceptions about fructose-containing sugars and their role in the obesity epidemic. Nutrition Research Reviews, 27(1), 119-130.
White, J. S. (2013). Challenging the fructose hypothesis: New perspectives on fructose consumption and metabolism. Advances in Nutrition: An International Review Journal, 4(2), 246-256.