Added Fructose - Trick or Treat?

>> Friday, October 30, 2009

Trick or Treat? You get a little of both with fructose. Fructose from natural sources - treat! Fruits and vegetables rarely have much fructose and that fructose is bundled along with vitamins, antioxidants, fiber, and good stuff we're only beginning to learn about. Fructose is present in much higher quantities in honey and maple syrup (closer to a 50/50 mix of fructose and glucose), but it also comes bundled with good stuff.

In small amounts, fructose may actually be good for you. In large amounts, the opposite is true. Too much fructose is implicated in many health issues such as high triglyceride levels and type 2 diabetes. Our bodies just aren't equipped to handle large amounts of fructose.

Obviously, we've given up HFCS (for more reasons than just free fructose these days), but what about added fructose? I wrote a post way back in the beginning that talked about how we were also avoiding products with fructose as an ingredient. If I'm concerned about the free fructose in HFCS, why would I not also be concerned about free crystalline fructose used as an ingredient? Recently I found out a bit about this ingredient.

Crystalline fructose is often marketed toward diabetics because of the low blood sugar response of fructose compared with glucose. Your liver is doing other things with fructose, however, that might negate any benefits from the blood sugar response.

What is crystalline fructose? Crystalline fructose (often simply listed as fructose on an ingredient list) is simply fructose in a pure, crystalline form. Crystalline fructose is a relatively new ingredient that has only been available since the late 1980s. Lovely images of fruit juice being concentrated and the fructose (aka fruit sugar) crystallizing out of solution pop into one's head with this ingredient, but that coudn't be farther from the truth. In America, crystalline fructose is almost always produced from...corn! Yes, crystalline fructose is a derivative of our friend high fructose corn syrup.

According to the Sugar Association, crystalline fructose is produced "by allowing the fructose to crystallize from a fructose-enriched corn syrup." The separated crystals are 98% fructose and 2% water and other trace impurities. case you missed it the first time, I'll say it again. Crystalline fructose is produced from high fructose corn syrup (aka HFCS)!

To be fair, in other countries where corn is not king, crystalline fructose may be produced from sugar. In Brazil, for example, where cane sugar rules the roost, I would expect that crystalline fructose would be produced from sugar. Being produced from sugar, however, does not make it a better ingredient.

Where is crystalline fructose found? So many places! I find fructose listed as an ingredient in lots of "health" foods that know HFCS as an ingredient would turn people away. Foods that wouldn't dare use HFCS will use crystalline fructose and then proudly declare themselves "all natural!" Hmm. That "all natural" designation really is slick marketing with no real meaning behind it.

Trick or Treat? Well, from where I sit, fructose as an ingredient is definitely a trick to be avoided. Worse yet, it's a trick that is touted as being an "all natural" treat.

Just as with HFCS, I've found that it hasn't been a big deal to rid our lives of added fructose. We avoid a lot of junk "natural" processed foods as a result. All you have to do is flip that package over and peruse the ingredient list for the ingredient "fructose" or "crystalline fructose."


Greg November 1, 2009 at 8:39 AM  

I am a careful label reader, and I try to be well informed on food marketing.... heck I even blog about it from time to time, and I had no idea the "fructose" was marketing speak for HFCS!

It disappoints me that our government lets food companies get away with this nonsense.

Luckily, I only eat these garbage products once a month or less because I generally avoid processed foods out of mistrust.

Thanks for giving me more information about dishonest labeling practices.

Amy November 1, 2009 at 10:17 AM  

Thanks for doing the research. This is something I'll keep my eye out for. Can't say I've noticed it before, but I'll probably start seeing it everywhere now that i'm aware.

fatfighter November 3, 2009 at 8:00 AM  

Wow - it seems we have to be a lot more careful now than ever when we read labels.

Bill Medifast November 3, 2009 at 6:08 PM  

It's amazing how many places fructose is popping up. Nothing is safe anymore and it seems that fructose is really going to make its mark on the world, whether in candy or many other foods.

Thanks for sharing this, great information.

Pomegranate November 16, 2009 at 7:34 AM  

Agave nectar is a natural form of fructose. Sorry if you already knew that, I'm new to your blog.

cathy November 16, 2009 at 8:03 AM  

Pomegranate - True enough. And maple syrup and honey are both about 50% fructose. least you get trace minerals and other good stuff with these natural sources of fructose/glucose. And I can guarantee you that no one is making crystalline fructose from agave nectar! :-)

Doug November 27, 2009 at 9:43 AM  

Regular table sugar (sucrose) is made up of glucose and fructose.

I think at the end of the day, any added sugar is not beneficial to our health

susiep November 27, 2009 at 11:30 AM  

Interesting that you say too much fructose is associated with type 2 diabetes. My mother is type 2 and she was told to use fructose in place of glucose. Hmmmm. I guess it comes down to the ammount you use. A diabetic should just not use much sugar at all but that if you do, fructose is better than glucose.

susiep November 27, 2009 at 11:32 AM  

I also wanted to say, when I first read that you were doing HCFS free I didn't even know what it was. I had never seen it on a label in Canada. Then I realised it is labeled here as "glucose/fructose". I've learned to look for the placement of that on the label. I'm not going glucose/fructose free....I just don't buy much with it at the top of the ingredient list anymore.

Zibi January 25, 2010 at 4:05 PM  

Thanks for the information, I didn't know that crystalline fructose was made from HFCS. I guess that explains why fructose is cheap enough to have found it's way into so many foods.

Anonymous April 25, 2010 at 2:41 PM  

This is something I only found out a couple weeks ago and I was furious! I have been drinking Vitamin Water for a couple months now and I happened to be reading something about HFCS and those two words popped up "Crystalline Fructose" which is what they use in Vitamin Water. Might as well have been drinking cups of Aunt Jemima syrup... ugh!

xlpharmacy reviews November 21, 2011 at 1:46 PM  

Fruits and vegetables should be in all the food habits of everyone, my wife is a nutritionist and she told me the relevance of Fruits and vegetables!

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