‘Fruit sugar’ fructose is nicknamed ‘the devil’s candy’ after worrying reports link it to cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s.
A number of recent US studies have revealed that fructose, the sugar found naturally in fruit, may be seriously damaging the health of those who consume it excessively.
Worryingly, fructose is an extremely common (and often craftily hidden) ingredient in processed foods and is most commonly known as high-fructose corn syrup, a thick sweetening syrup derived from corn.
High-fructose corn syrup can be found in many household brand products such as Muller Light Vanilla Yoghurt, Mr Kipling Almond Slices and McVitie’s Hob Nobs among others. The natural sweetener is used to keep foods moist, thicken products such as ice cream and yoghurt drinks, reduce crystallisation in frozen produce, and turn baked goods like crackers, cakes, pastries and bread rolls an appetising brown colour.
Scientists are becoming increasingly concerned about the long-term health effects related to high-fructose corn sugar. Although corn sugar contains the same amount of calories as cane sugar, the body cannot metabolise it in the same way. This places far greater strain on the liver, which can then increase the levels of fat in the bloodstream and result in cardiovascular disease.
A new study published in the Journal of American Dietetic Association has also linked excessive intake of high-fructose corn sugar with rectal cancer. The journal states that the cancer-fighting antioxidants found in fruit (fibre, vitamin C etc), are lost during the processing of fructose. This means that consuming processed fructose in fruit juice or food products could increase the risk of bowel cancer.
Experts at Bangor University have warned that even freshly squeezed fruit juice can contain up to 5 tablespoons of fructose per glass and as such, recommend a consumption of no more than 150ml a day.
Other studies have highlighted worrying links to obesity and Alzheimer’s.
Professor Richard Johnson, the leader of a University of Colorado study examining fructose and high blood pressure, said: “excessive fructose intake should be considered an environmental toxin with major health implications”.
Even America’s First Lady and health advocate Michelle Obama has forbidden her children from consuming products containing the processed fructose.
British authorities, however, remain unperturbed. The Food and Drink Federation has stated that the production of high-fructose corn sugar does adhere to current EU legislation and will not be a cause for concern until there is more scientific evidence pointing to adverse health effects.
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