A fructose free diet is recommended for individuals who suffer from fructose malabsorption or fructose intolerance. However, medical studies that go back about 25 years hint that fructose is also a contributing factor in heart disease. Results also show that it raises blood cholesterol levels and triglycerides. Add fructose to the high-fat SAD (Standard American Diet) and the risk of heart disease goes up even more.
Is Fructose Bad For You?
For years we've heard that fructose is fruit sugar-a great natural sugar, but is that true? Well, yes and no. Years ago it would have been true, but today fructose is a commercial, refined sugar produced on a large scale. It's a common ingredient in processed foods, beverages and even in health food products. When you read the labels, fructose also goes by names such as sucrose and HFCS.
Fructose itself isn't so bad, but the quantities consumed are staggering. In the U.S., we consume 16 billion pounds of HFCS each year! Therein lies the problem. It's hidden in many foods and people don't realize they're eating it. Manufacturers love to use it because it is easy to handle during processing, has a longer shelf life than sucrose and costs less. The problem? It's not better for the consumer's health, and it makes following a fructose free diet a little more challenging that you'd first expect.
If you have been diagnosed with Hereditary Fructose Intolerance (HFI) your doctor has recommended a fructose free diet. People who suffer from this rare genetic disorder are deficient in producing the enzyme aldolase B which helps to metabolize and partially convert fructose into glucose. As a result fructose accumulates in the liver, kidneys and intestines, and thus hampers glycogen breakdown and glucose synthesis. This causes hypoglycaemia.
Symptoms of Fructose Intolerance
- severe abdominal pain
- hypoglycemia following ingestion of fructose
For the very young suffering from fructose intolerance, symptoms often show up after starting a baby on food or formula. Symptoms to watch for include:
- Poor feeding as a baby
- Increased or prolonged neonatal jaundice
- Excessive sleepiness
- Intolerance for fruits
The recommended treatment is to completely eliminate fructose and sucrose from the diet.
Fructose malabsorption is more common than fructose intolerance. It affects around 30 percent of people and is due to the absence of epithelial cells which normally are located on the surface of the intestine to help in the digestive process. Fructose malabsorption has been linked to:
- mood disturbances
- sugar cravings
The small intestine is unable to break down sugars, so they progress to the large intestine which has to work to break it down into short-chain fatty acids, carbon dioxide and hydrogen which are not absorbed by the intestine. This combination creates:
The problem goes beyond this because other nutrients are often lost including calcium and iron and can lead to diseases like anemia and osteoporosis.
Fructose Free Diet For Better Health
Along with fructose intolerance and malabsorption, remember that high intake of fructose also contributes to heart disease. If your doctor has told you to follow a no fructose diet the following foods will need to be avoided:
- Fruit and fruit juices
- Meat products cured in sugar or breaded
- Sweetened milk
- Maple syrup
- Corn syrup
- Table sugar (beet and cane)
- Confectioner's sugar
Also be sure to check labels for the following products:
Check With Your Doctor or Dietician
For a complete list of foods to eliminate from your diet, contact a registered dietician. In some cases fresh fruits, juices and even honey are allowed because the dangers associated with fructose seem to be dose dependent. If you limit yourself to natural foods and avoid large quantities of processed foods symptoms often disappear.