When you sprinkle sugar in your morning cup of coffee or over your latest batch of cookies, your probably aren't thinking about its many forms. One of these forms happens to be fructose. Fructose is a naturally occurring sugar in fruits and honey, and it can be added to foods in the form of high-fructose corn syrup to increase their sweet taste. While fructose tastes good, too much isn’t good for you. By limiting your intake, you can make your diet healthier.
Fructose is a natural, simple sugar that is 1.2 times sweeter than table sugar or sucrose, according to the American Dietetic Association. When the fructose molecule is joined together with glucose, sucrose is made. Fructose is naturally present in several foods, such as fruits, vegetables and honey, in varying amounts. For example, sugar cane, sugar beets and corn all contain sucrose, which the body breaks down into glucose and fructose.
High Fructose Corn Syrup
A more familiar preparation of fructose is high-fructose corn syrup, which is also known as HFCS for short. This sweetener is a nearly equal combination of glucose and fructose, which is used to sweeten foods. While chemically similar to table sugar, HFCS is man-made while table sugar is a natural, according to “Eating Well” magazine. High-fructose corn syrup is incorporated into a number of processed foods, including ketchup, cereal, crackers and salad dressings.
An additional fructose source is crystalline fructose. This fructose variety comes from processing corn or sugar. This form is super sweet because it is 100-percent fructose while HFCS is almost equal parts fructose and glucose, according to the American Dietetic Association. Crystalline fructose is most commonly used in baking, such as cake making, because it helps to boost cake height and creates an eye-appealing brown surface.
Concerns Over Fructose
Whether in its natural or high-fructose corn syrup form, fructose has been the subject of some controversy because it has been linked with contributing to obesity and obesity-related health problems, according to Jennifer K. Nelson, a registered dietitian writing on MayoClinic.com. While most cells in the body can use and break down the glucose portion of HFCS, only the liver can break down fructose, according to Harvard Health Publications. The liver frequently turns this fructose into triglycerides, a form of fat that can damage the liver and is associated with greater risk for heart disease. However, further research is needed on fructose metabolization and its affects on the liver. According to the American Dietetic Association, more and more experts are agreeing fructose does not cause obesity any more than overeating any other carbohydrate or sugar.
Regardless of the sugar source, women should get no more than 100 calories per day from added sugar, including added fructose, according to MayoClinic.com. This translates into about 6 teaspoons of added sugar each day. While it can be tasty, you don’t need fructose to survive and it only adds calories to your diet that you could be getting from vitamin-packed fruits and vegetables.
Rachel Nall began writing in 2003. She is a former managing editor for custom health publications, including physician journals. She has written for The Associated Press and "Jezebel," "Charleston," "Chatter" and "Reach" magazines. Nall is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at the University of Tennessee.