Fructose, the sugar in the natural product (fruit), can lead to weight gain if you eat too much. Find out what amount is too much, and what fructose can mean for your diet.

Fructose, the natural sugar found in corn and fruit, has raised many an eyebrow because of its impact on weight. But all fructose might not be equivalent. There’s the fructose that you get in whole fruit, and then there’s the fructose that’s formulated into a sweetener for food products like soda, which has been linked to health issues, including healthy cholesterol levels and reduced insulin sensitivity.

But specialists say that the fruit sugar in the entire fruit is not to blame for these health problems. In fact, the U.S. Branch of Agriculture recommends a few healthy diet plans to help adults with weight, all of which suggest eating 2 to 21/2 cups of fruit daily. However, only about 42 percent of U.S. adults eat that much. In contrast, Americans consume an average of 200 to 250 calories a day from sweet beverages, some of which contain fructose and might be real weight-gain causing culprits.

“If we got the sugar and high-fructose corn syrup out of our diet, you could eat all of the fruit you needed or could afford,” says George Bray, MD, head of the division of clinical obesity and metabolism at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La., and the author of a detailed review of the effect of fructose on heart disease risk factors published in recent Atherosclerosis Reports. “It takes a lot of fruit to get much fructose. You have to squeeze several oranges and mince up some apples to get a glass of juice.”

Fructose and Your Liver

Although you might hope that fruit sugar would be solely good for the body, fructose does have some unique adverse impacts when consumed in excessive amounts, says Brenda M. Davy, PhD, RD, a connect in the Laboratory for Eating Behaviors and Weight Management at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va.

Here’s the reason. Our diet has three basic sugar sources: fructose from fruits; glucose from fruits and starchy foods such as grains; and sucrose, commonly known as table sugar, a blend of fructose and glucose. When you eat sugary or starchy foods, your liver can take the glucose and fructose and turn it into energy, store it as glycogen, turn it into fat, or send it to other parts of the body. While the liver send glucose to other parts of the body once it has enough, it holds on to fructose — loading it into the liver, whether it needs it or not.

“Almost all the fructose we eat ends up in the liver,” clarifies Kimber Stanhope, PhD, RD, a Specialist at the University of California, Davis. Issues start if you are taking in a lot of fructose from, say, numerous fructose-sweetened drinks. Your liver gets overloaded and starts sending out excess triglycerides, which add to heart disease risk. In addition, Stanhope says, some of the triglycerides can stay in your liver, decreasing insulin sensitivity and contributing to diabetes risk.

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