Sugar & Fructose

SugarSugar has been receiving a lot of debate lately in the health world and due to the amount of conflicting evidence it can become very confusing – so we thought we would help to shed some light on the subject.
Firstly, we are strong advocates of the message to reduce your added sugar intake from junk and processed foods. Consuming too much added sugar is bad for our health, our waist lines and reeks havoc with our metabolism.

Secondly all our recipes, books and everything we create is based on a clean and healthy eating philosophy (which is easy for mums to follow) and we do all we can to promote a balanced and healthy eating routine and we are not extremists in any way, shape or form – our focus is on a BALANCED approach to healthy eating that is easy to incorporate into your life

Thirdly, our books, plans and products are all created by top nutritionists and experts in the diet and nutrition field and the focus is on healthy and safe weight loss which our plans 100% achieve (and you can see hundreds of results here from mums who have lost weight on our plans).

The Sugar Debate

Sugar comes in many forms. The most simplest form of sugar are monosaccharides, two of which you might be familiar with are glucose and fructose. These two combined make up a dissacharide called sucrose, which we find on our table and what we think of as ‘sugar’.
We can describe ‘sugar’ in two ways. Intrinsic sugar and extrinsic sugar.
Intrinsic sugar is the sugar which is found innately in food. In fruits, milk and sweet vegetables. Extrinsic sugars and the sugars which are added to our food, most commonly sucrose, during preparation or processing of the food.
It is the extrinsic sugars which are the ones we need to avoid as they supply kilojoules without any other valuable nutrients. They are energy rich and nutrient poor. Extrinsic sugars are in many foods like cakes, soft drinks, pastries, chocolates, confectionery and desserts.
Sugar is blamed for quite a few things, hyperactivity, acne, blood pressure and a whole lot more. The two things WHICH ARE related to sugar is tooth decay and in over consumption, it can lead to obesity through excess kilojoule consumption. Although note, sugar itself does not lead to obesity.
So should I eat brown sugar instead? Is that better for me?
Sorry, but no. All sugar has the same amount of kilojoules per cup. Raw sugar use to be less processed, but these days it is white sugar coated in molasses to give it its brown colour.

What about fructose?

Fructose is what is found naturally in fruit. Especially in America they process corn in a way to obtain high fructose corn syrup. This has been blamed for many health issues within America. It is used as it is cheap and very sweet without the need to use as much standard sugar.
Of course like any sugar, anything abused or not used in moderation is not good for your health. Therefore substituting fructose for all sugar is not the ideal solution. It is better to reduce your total sugar intake in general. Read more on this below.

Do we use fructose in the Healthy Mummy Smoothie mix?

Previously to December 1 2014, we used to use fruit fructose as a sweetener in our smoothies. Fructose does taste naturally sweeter then sucrose or glucose so it is a way to add less sugar, retain the sweetness and reduce the kilojoules or calories to your intake. We did not use high fructose corn syrup to do this.
Our new formula
After 18 months of trials and testings, we further reduced the sugar content in our smoothies from 88% sugar free to 96% sugar free. Our formula is now fructose free and we use a natural plant sweetener called Thaumatin to sweeten the smoothie instead. You can see all information on this here

What about artificial sweeteners?

There are quite a lot of artificial sweeteners on the market which many people doubt their safety.
Aspartame  (Sucralose is also very common) is a common artificial sweetener and it breaks down to 40% aspartate, 50% phenylalanine (an amino acid that can harm you if you’re allergic to it) and 10% methanol which is wood alcohol (a deadly poison).
Now apparently this is all fine in small amounts, but what happens when a person drinks a litre of diet soft drink, snacks on a diet yoghurt, chews a few pieces of gum and makes a stir-fry with some diet sweet chilli sauce, could we be exceeding these so called limits. Who is even aware of what the limits are?
Some of the side affects you are most likely to encounter from an artificial sweetener are;

  • An upset stomach or diarrhoea
  • Increased hunger and cravings
  • Lowered serotonin – causing mood swings or depression
  • An increase in insulin production – this can cause our fat cells to absorb more fat than normal especially around our mid section.
  • It can also impair sleep in some people

These toxic chemicals can have an even greater impact on our children. Their nervous system and blood brain barrier is still weak and susceptible to allowing these substances through, which may change the chemical makeup of the brain.
This can lead to illnesses such as ADD, ADHD, Autism and other neurological problems. For these reasons its best you stay away from any artificial sweeteners in pregnancy and nursing

What are some natural sweeteners?

There are some great natural sweeteners on the market.
One which is popular and abundant in Australian supermarkets is a brand called Natvia. This is a combination of Stevia (a plant) and Erythritol which are two naturally occurring substances which combined make a great, ‘sugar’ replacement option without the calories. Thaumatin is also growing in popularity and is also from the leaves of a plant – you can read about Thaumatin here.
You can try it in your baked goods, coffee or tea and it will reduce your calorie intake by 95%. Getting your sweetness when cooking requires a few attempts as it is a different flavour.

Focus on fructose

There are a number of articles and various opinions on the internet as well as books which create a real fear factor around fructose so much so that some people are now scared to even eat fruit as it contains fructose.
All of these articles and books talk of the devastating effect fructose has on the metabolic system and all of the facts and research discussed in the articles (although rarely cited) are from a study done by Robert Lustig where rats were fed 60% (a huge amount!) of their diet from fructose and then the effects this had were documented. The effect on the rats’ metabolism was devastating but a rat’s metabolic system is very different to a human – and this is why so many nutritionists do not support the mass attack on fructose – when consumed as part of a healthy and balanced diet.
Some of these articles do make it clear that it is only large amounts of fructose which is thought to cause health issues, and when consumed on a moderate basis they do not believe it to be an issue – but many omit this fact hence why so many people have become fearful of fructose found in natural foods – i.e fruits and vegetables.
Dr Chris Kresser, an independent researcher and Doctor, who has independently researched the fructose debate says:
“Dr. Lustig argues that, when compared to glucose, fructose is uniquely fattening. He claims that fructose is the most efficient substrate for de novo lipogenesis (DNL), which is the process by which the liver converts carbohydrates to fat.
However, Dr. Lustig relies on animal evidence that doesn’t apply to humans. There’s a big difference between mouse carbohydrate metabolism and human carbohydrate metabolism. When mice are on a high-carbohydrate diet that doesn’t provide excess calories, it’s common to see DNL rates of 50 percent and up. In other words, they are efficient at converting carbohydrates into fat, even when they’re not overeating.
But in humans on an isocaloric diet (without excess calories), de novo lipogenesis falls into the range of 10 to 20 percent. The conversion of carbohydrate is less efficient in humans than it is in mice.
The research in this area is robust and uncontroversial. Nearly 50 controlled feeding studies have been performed on various aspects of cardiometabolic control. Most investigators working in this field believe that DNL in humans is negligible in response to fructose, and doesn’t comprise a significant source of dietary calories.
There’s another problem with extrapolating the animal evidence to humans in this case. The mice in the studies Lustig cites are eating huge amounts of fructose: up to 60 percent of total calories. You’d have to drink more than four 44 ounce Super Big Gulps a day to get that much fructose. Ain’t gonna happen.
According to researcher Dr. Sievenpiper in an interview with science writer David Despain at Evolving Health, the 50th percentile intake for people in the U.S. is 49 grams per day, which works out to 10 percent of total calories. Even the 95th percentile intake of 87 grams per day doesn’t exceed 20 percent of calories. That’s a lot of fructose, but it’s nowhere near the 60 percent of calories fed to mice.
Dr Chris also discussed all the clains on fructose causing weight gain and other issues here and it is a great read.
You can also read an article here on weight gain and fructose by WebMD

Fructose in moderation

As mentioned above, one of the overriding messages when researching the Fructose debate (that in some author’s work is clear and others isn’t mentioned) is that fructose is only considered to be an issue when it is consumed in large amounts – i.e over 10% of the diet (approx 49g per day). And in the US for example where it is an issue people are consuming upwards of 72g a day. Many nutritionists and health advocates recommend consuming less than 50g a day – the anti sugar group typically tend to recommend consuming under 15g per day.
Please also be aware that many people have medical conditions where no sugar can be consumed at all – or the ceasing of consuming sugar has had extremely positive results on certain diseases – If you are ever concerned you should always consult a nutritionist who can give you a one on one consultation.
The issue is also how it is being consumed. For example a small bowl of tomatoes gives you approximately 2.5g of fructose whereas a regular can of soda can give you approximately 23g of fructose and a super sized soda from a take out venue can give you more than 60g. This is where the fructose consumption becomes an issue if the person is regularly consuming vast amounts of soft drinks and sweets/processed foods high in sugar.
There is no evidence that fructose in normal amounts consumed via a healthy diet is bad for humans, but if you have excess amounts (over 70g a day) it is likely to cause a sugar overload which may have negative side effects.
However, we cannot stress enough how that there are huge benefits to reduce your and your family’s sugar intake and eating a diet low in added sugars is crucial to having a healthy body – so try and reduce added sugar in your diet and be aware of hidden sugars in processed foods.

Don’t food obsess

We love the fact that the anti sugar message is out there and it is brilliant that people are becoming more aware of hidden added sugars, the need to reduce sugar and the need to eat a healthy diet (which we do our best to promote too through all of our messaging), but please do not let this make you obsessive about natural food and start counting ever gram of sugar you consume.
Reducing sugar intake (if you currently are a sugar addict and over consume added sugar) is a fantastic way to overhaul your health, lose weight and feel fantastic and we are big advocates of it, but don’t let it rule your life – life is there to be lived and food enjoyed – not obsessed about.
As always, aim for a balanced approach to your diet and eat lots of fruit, veggies, lean proteins, healthy fats and wholegrains and common sense should tell you to avoid processed foods laden with artificial sweeteners, fats, added salt and high added sugar levels.
And please give your children fruit (plus LOTS of veggies) – it is a great natural food product and should never be compared to a can of coke for sugar content which is what some anti sugar campaigners do – you can read a piece by Joanna Macmillan Price here on this