Glucose, Fructose and Sucrose: What’s the Difference Between These Sugars … and Which is the Worst for Your Health?
The sugar in your soda and other favorite sugary treats may all go down sweetly, but a groundbreaking new study found they act very differently once in your body.
It may all taste equally sweet, but the type of sugar you eat matters big-time for your health.
The three main types of sugar in question are:
- Glucose: made when your body breaks down starches
- Fructose: the sugar found naturally in fruits and widely used in the form of high-fructose corn syrup
- Sucrose: table sugar
Researchers from the University of California, Davis compared glucose and fructose consumption among 32 overweight or obese people and found they resulted in very different health changes.
After drinking either a fructose- or glucose-sweetened beverage that made up 25 percent of their daily calories for 12 weeks, both groups gained a similar amount of weight. However, those drinking the fructose-sweetened beverage experienced an array of other unhealthy effects, including:
- An increase in visceral fat, the kind that embeds itself between tissues in organs
- Less sensitivity to insulin, one of the first signs of diabetes
- Increased fat production in the liver
- Elevated LDL (bad) cholesterol
- Increased levels of triglycerides
People who drank the glucose-sweetened beverage, meanwhile, experienced no such changes.
“This suggests that in the same way that not all fats are the same, not all dietary carbohydrates are the same either,” Peter Havel, professor of nutrition at the University of California Davis and lead author of the study told TIME magazine.
When glucose is consumed, a set of reactions occur in the body allowing it to be used as energy, and production of leptin, a hormone that helps control appetite and fat storage, is increased. Meanwhile, ghrelin, a stomach hormone, is reduced, which is thought to help hunger go away.
When fructose is consumed, however, it “appears to behave more like fat with respect to the hormones involved in body weight regulation,” explains Peter Havel, associate professor of nutrition at the University of California, Davis. “Fructose doesn’t stimulate insulin secretion. It doesn’t increase leptin production or suppress production of ghrelin. That suggests that consuming a lot of fructose, like consuming too much fat, could contribute to weight gain.”
And as this most recent study pointed out, it may cause other dangerous side effects as well.
Most Sweets Contain Fructose or Sucrose
This news may compel you to begin searching for glucose-sweetened versions of your favorite desserts and sodas, but most sugary products are made with either sucrose or fructose, often in the form of high-fructose corn syrup.
Sucrose is made of 50% fructose and 50% glucose, whereas high-fructose corn syrup can be either 55% fructose, 45% glucose, or 42% fructose, 58% glucose.
What this means is that you’ll be hard pressed to find products sweetened with glucose, and may risk the side effects discovered in this study no matter which type you choose.
“This study provides the best argument yet that we should either decide to consume less sugar-sweetened beverages in general, or that we should conduct more research into the possibility of using other sweeteners that may be more glucose-based,” Matthias Tschoep, an obesity researcher at the Obesity Research Center in the University of Cincinnati, said in TIME.
The Fructose-Diabetes Connection
According to Dr. Walter Willett, chair of the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, long-term consumption of sugared drinks, which are typically sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup, may double your risk of obesity. Part of the risk is simply from the extra calories, but part is also due to the high fructose content in the drinks.
And a review of multiple studies by Havel and colleagues, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that, in animals, consuming large amounts of HFCS led to several early warning signs of diabetes, including:
Glucose Balance Busts Your Sugar Cravings
Gymnema sylvestre, dubbed the “sugar destroyer,” is known to help weight loss by significantly decreasing sugar cravings, through improving the cells’ natural intake and utilization of blood sugar.
Gymnema sylvestre (GS) leaves also contain antibacterial, anti-allergic and antiviral properties that have been reported to support:
Other reports also indicate Gymnema sylvestre has a role in supporting healthy cholesterol levels, including LDL (bad cholesterol) and triglycerides.
- Induced insulin resistance
- Impaired glucose tolerance
- Produced high levels of insulin
Ideally to help protect your health you should minimize your intake of sugars, especially HFCS, fructose and sucrose, by limiting your consumption of soda and other sugary foods and drinks.
Need Help Kicking Your Sugar Cravings?
Gymnema sylvestre, a plant native to the lush tropical regions of India, has bitter leaves, dubbed “sugar destroyers,” that can actually eliminate the ability to taste sugar in your mouth, thereby reducing your cravings for sugar.
Meanwhile, Gymnema Sylvestre has shown promising results in safely controlling blood sugar levels in diabetics, while helping with weight loss, hypoglycemia, high cholesterol, anemia and digestion problems.
This herbal remedy is thought to work via gymnemic acid, its active ingredient. Gymnemic acid molecules have a unique shape that are similar to glucose, meaning they are able to fill cell receptors in the lining of your intestines, preventing uptake of sugar molecules and resulting in lower blood sugar levels
Ask your health car practitioner if natural supplements containing Gymnena sylvestre would be appropriate for you as there are herbal remedies specifically designed to help maintain steady blood sugar levels.
Journal of Clinical Investigation