Fruc­tose can cause liver dam­age just like al­co­hol

Great Health Guide - - CONTENTS - Dr he­lena Popovic

Many peo­ple have heard that fruc­tose is worse for the body than glu­cose be­cause fruc­tose can cause liver dam­age sim­i­lar to that caused by al­co­hol. Yes, glu­cose and fruc­tose are metabolised dif­fer­ently by the body. How­ever, too much of ei­ther of these sugars causes vis­ceral fat de­po­si­tion via dif­fer­ent mech­a­nisms. This is not the place for a com­plex bio­chem­istry les­son so I apol­o­gise in ad­vance for over­sim­pli­fy­ing the case. In short, glu­cose (but not fruc­tose) stim­u­lates the re­lease of in­sulin, which is a pro­tein that al­lows glu­cose to be ab­sorbed from the blood into liver, mus­cle and fat cells. The glu­cose is then con­verted to glyco­gen (in mus­cle and liver) and triglyc­erides (in fat and liver).

When blood glu­cose lev­els (from a diet too rich in added sugar and re­fined car­bo­hy­drates) are con­sis­tently high, the pan­creas needs to pro­duce in­creas­ing amounts of in­sulin. This can lead to in­sulin re­sis­tance where the or­gans no longer re­spond to in­sulin and even­tu­ally re­sults in di­a­betes. Di­a­betes is a risk fac­tor for a mul­ti­tude of other ill­nesses in­clud­ing heart dis­ease, kid­ney fail­ure, limb am­pu­ta­tion and de­men­tia. Di­a­betes can shorten life­span by more than 10 years.

Fruc­tose on the other hand is only metabolised by the liver, not by mus­cle or any other or­gan. This means the liver gets over­whelmed when faced with a con­stant in­flux of fruc­tose. Once again I’d like to re­it­er­ate that fruc­tose in whole fruits and veg­eta­bles does not pose a prob­lem be­cause the fi­bre in nat­u­ral foods con­trols the rate at which fruc­tose ar­rives at the liver and makes it man­age­able.

How­ever, fruc­tose ar­riv­ing from soft drinks, fruit juices and pro­cessed foods is ab­sorbed far too quickly and in too large amounts for the liver to metabolise with­out neg­a­tive con­se­quences. These neg­a­tive con­se­quences in­clude gout, high blood pres­sure, wide­spread in­flam­ma­tion and vis­ceral fat de­po­si­tion.

The way the body han­dles fruc­tose is very sim­i­lar to the way the body han­dles al­co­hol. Al­co­hol sets off the same chem­i­cal re­ac­tions caus­ing fatty liver and wide­spread in­flam­ma­tion.


The body han­dles fruc­tose & al­co­hol in a sim­i­lar way. If al­co­hol con­sump­tion goes unchecked, the re­sult is al­co­holic liver dis­ease. If fruc­tose con­sump­tion goes unchecked, the re­sult is also al­co­holic liver dis­ease! Only it isn’t due to al­co­hol but due to fruc­tose.

The hid­den dan­ger with fruc­tose is that it doesn’t cause a per­son to fall down drunk or go to sleep - there are no im­me­di­ate vis­i­ble sig­nals of fruc­tose over­load – so a per­son can con­sume more soft drinks than bot­tles of whisky.

This is why chil­dren are start­ing to de­velop liver fail­ure. Liver fail­ure in chil­dren was un­heard un­til about a decade ago.

The first step in wean­ing our­selves off ex­ces­sive sugar is to change our per­spec­tive on what con­sti­tutes a ‘treat’ or ‘re­ward’.

As long as you con­tinue to la­bel sugar-laden foods as a ‘treat’ you will feel de­prived if you don’t have them. You will feel that you are ‘miss­ing out’ or ‘re­sist­ing’ rather than choos­ing not to rot your teeth, brain and liver. Sud­denly sugar doesn’t sound like such a treat.

So my con­clu­sion is the same as in my pre­vi­ous ar­ti­cle in GHGTM on The Sugar

Se­ries. Eat whole foods as of­ten as you can. Eat pro­cessed foods as lit­tle as pos­si­ble. If you do eat pro­cessed foods, cal­cu­late their sugar con­tent and aim for the WHO tar­get of less than four (for chil­dren), six (for women) and nine (for men) tea­spoons per day. If you stay un­der your sugar limit, you won’t be con­sum­ing too much of ei­ther glu­cose or fruc­tose be­cause their com­bined to­tal is cov­ered un­der ‘sugars’ in the nutri­tion panel of pack­aged foods.

Dr He­lena Popovic is a med­i­cal doc­tor, a lead­ing au­thor­ity on how to im­prove brain func­tion, in­ter­na­tional speaker and best-sell­ing au­thor. She runs weight man­age­ment re­treats based on liv­ing, not di­et­ing, and is the au­thor of the award-win­ning book ‘Neu­roSlim­ming – let your brain change your body’. For more in­for­ma­tion, re­fer to He­lena’s web­site­ningat­slim­

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