Does an apple a day really keep the doctor away?

Lifestyle

Does an apple a day really keep the doctor away?

The worrying truth about fructose and fruit

Andrea Burgener

Apart from Adam and Eve and Snow White’s troubles with apples, and the cherry scene from The Witches of Eastwick, everything about fruit feels life-giving, real and “pure”. Fruit has had such great PR over the last few decades, that disembodied fructose started appearing in health shops as an apparently great alternative to refined sugar of the sucrose sort. But in fact, both fructose and fruit need a slightly more jaundiced examination.      

The first problem is that the way we eat fruit currently is not the way we used to. Many fruits have been bred to contain more sugar, plus a vast array of fruit is over-abundantly and unnaturally available all year round. It’s sweet, it’s delicious, we’re being told it’s good for us, so we’re bound to eat too much of the stuff. And, we also consume a lot of it in a processed and concentrated form: whether it’s through juicing, dried fruit, “high-fibre” fruit-based products or even just the “processing” involved when the supermarket peels and cuts all the fruit up for us, it has been made easier to gorge ourselves rapidly on the stuff.   

Sadly, the sugar in fruit is almost identical to refined table sugar. Sucrose is 50% glucose and 50% fructose. Fruit sugar also contains both glucose and fructose. The ratios are different from fruit to fruit, but the existence of more fructose than glucose is in no way something to celebrate. While fructose doesn’t affect blood sugar in the way other dietary sugars do, that doesn’t mean the damage isn’t being done at the sort of levels we’re now at. Fructose is metabolised in the liver, and has a longer-term (often hidden) rollout. Increasingly, research shows fructose to be implicated in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, insulin resistance and metabolic disease. Some researchers believe fructose may be even more damaging than other forms of sugar...

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