New research suggests fructose may not be so bad after all for diabetics — rather, it’s having too much of it that may wreak havoc.
St. Michael’s Hospital researchers in Canada found that people with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes actually experienced blood sugar control benefits when they consumed fructose, as well as a decrease in blood pressure, cholesterol, body weight and uric acid. These health benefits were similar to those that would be seen on medications, researchers noted.
The Diabetes Care review included an analysis of 18 different studies that, in total, surveyed 209 people with diabetes with age groups ranging from teens to the elderly. While amounts and method of fructose intake ranged per study (whether it was just sprinkled onto their food, or incorporated in another way), all of the trials involved consuming fructose for anywhere from seven days to 12 weeks.
“We’re seeing that there may be benefit if fructose wasn’t being consumed in such large amounts,” study researcher Adrian Cozma, a research assistant at St. Michael’s Hospital, said in a statement. “All negative attention on fructose-related harm draws further away from the issue of eating too many calories.”
Fructose naturally occurs in honey, fruit and vegetables. Together with glucose, it makes table sugar (sucrose), researchers said. It’s also in high-fructose corn syrup.
However, the results of this study refer only to pure fructose. It does not imply that our bodies react the same to fructose-containing table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. In fact, a 2010 Princeton University study published in Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior study showed that high-fructose corn syrup is associated with increased weight gain in mice compared with table sugar. And the Mayo Clinic reported that humans may actually process high-fructose corn syrup differently from other sugars, though research is still not totally clear on how.
In addition, researchers from the University of Maryland Medical Center found that even though drinking sugary drinks is linked with an increased risk of hypertension, it doesn’t appear to be the fructose in those drinks that is responsible for the blood pressure hike, Reuters reported. The researchers said that they found this by also looking at the fruit intake of the study participants (since fruit has fructose) and found that high fruit-eaters didn’t have this increased hypertension risk — thereby suggesting it’s another element of sugary beverages that plays a role.
“You would think if fructose were the causative factor, then eating a lot of apples (for example) would also increase your risk of hypertension,” study researcher Dr. Lisa Cohen told Reuters.
But not all research lets fructose off the hook. Reuters reported on a 2010 study from UCLA researchers, showing that pancreatic cancer cells actually feed on fructose in order to proliferate, while they feed on glucose to thrive. Researchers noted that the study suggests it may be beneficial to decrease refined fructose intake in cancer patients.
According to the Mayo Clinic, most women in the U.S. should aim to get fewer than 100 calories from added sugar in their diets per day; that number is 150 calories per day for men. In measurement form, that’s about six teaspoons of sugar for women and nine teaspoons for men.