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Apr 15, 2011 07:34 AM

Fructose is toxic - your thoughts?

I came across this video on Epicurious. It was of a presentation given by a Dr. Robert Lustig who is a pediatric endocrinologist and professor of pediatrics at the Univ. of Calif.'s endocrinology dept. The video is 90 mins long, but I watched and found it riveting.

To summarize, he basically explains how fructose was developed and introduced to the American public/diet in the 1970's and how it has completely taken over our processed foods. It's use soared in the 80's once the low fat & fat-free craze took off and has continued to until very recently. It touches on some of the politics surrounding HFCS and the American Heart Assoc., American Medical Association and the USDA. But the science is what I really found interesting. He demonstrated how chronic fructose exposure promotes something called metabolic syndrome (type 2 diabetes, obesity, lipid issues, hypertension & coronary disease). He explained, in layman's terms, that fructose essentially is alcohol without the buzz. Fructose is a carb but it metabolizes like a fat and raises our small, dense LDL (the bad LDL).

Here is the link. I'm interested in what others think about this. I know the evils of HFCS have been aired and re-aired. But the concern seems to be waning a bit. And the corn and sweetened beverage industries are fighting hard with marketing and name changes.

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  1. I think it's hilarious (At the same time, stuff/garbage like this gets me upset).

    Fructose wasn't developed, but exists in nature in commercial sugar and fruits. Many fruits have more fructose than HFCS (The common 55% blend).

    HFCS does this and that... My (overused) response is, "Have you looked at the rate of this and that in other countries (where HFCS isn't used)?" It's up everywhere, because people in developed parts of the world are over-consuming. A good, but sad, example of this is the Mediterranean diet. It's one of the most study and praised diets in the world. The problem is, it's not the modern/current diet in the region, which is unhealthy like the rest of the developed world.

    Everything in high amounts is toxic. Fructose isn't the problem; over-consumption, coupled with a lack of activity is the problem. Fructose is metabolized like a fat? EVERYTHING is metabolized like a fat if it's over-consumed.

    Many NBA analysts think that Lamar Odom of the LA Lakers will win the 6th man of the year award. I bring this up because he has a diet that's LOADED with fructose, in the form of HFCS, in the form of candy. The catch here? He burns it off. You can see the amusing video here:

    1 Reply
    1. re: ediblover

      Having just watched the entire video featuring Dr. Lustig's lecture I think I can safely say that fructose is NOT metabolized like a fat (according to Dr. Lustig and some of his colleagues at USCF - who he thanked for their contribution to his lecture at the end). There are unique (problematic) properties to the manner in which fructose is metabolized that cause Dr. Lustig to term it "toxic" in the same way he called ethanol "toxic." Those metabolization problems lead to our current epidemic in heart disease and insulin resistance and obesity and type 2 diabetes (according to Dr. Lustig and the research he walks you through in his lecture).

    2. This thread on 'is sugar toxic' essentially covers the same topic, starting with a NYT article that draws heavily on Lustig

      So anything sweet is being squeezed out of our diet, from the 'fructose is toxic' on one side, and glucose has a high glycemic index on the other. All the traditional sweeteners are about 50% fructose (sugar, maple syrup, and honey). Starches have to go as well, since they are broken down into these basic sugars before being absorbed.

      6 Replies
      1. re: paulj

        Well, yeah. You're describing my diet. :-) No starch, no sugar. Except for an occasional splurge, usually involving dark chocolate.

        1. re: paulj

          Just for kicks and curiosity, a few weeks ago I reviewed the (mostly) constant aspects of my diet. The carb count came to 200g with half of that coming from sugar. The best part is that most of the sugar came from milk, fruits and vegetables; the worst offenders were the milk and banana. The added sugar part (granola bar, ketchup and jerky) came to under 20g.

          Give up milk, fruits and vegetables? Well, as much as I like my meats, nuts/seeds and legumes, I don't think so.

          1. re: ediblover

            Not the vegetables, anyway. I eat boatloads of the right ones.

            1. re: ediblover

              haha i wish i could get to the satisfyingly full feeling with 200g of carbs a day. i'm at almost 500g a day, so the "everything in moderation" aspect of a diet becomes extra important for me. if half of my carbs per day came from sugar id be at 250g of sugar a day! yikes!

              i agree with everyone that has mentioned that moderation is key though. like i mentioned above, that moderation may be different depending on who you are, but it is still the key

              1. re: mattstolz

                Oh, it's a lot more than 200. Parts of my (weekday) diet is mostly fixed (Things like breakfast, snacks and whatnot) and I only looked into that part; it comes to maybe around half my caloric intake. So, about 350-400g a day is a guess. The sugar number would also go up since I love sweet/loaded vegetables like peas.

            2. re: paulj

              "Starches have to go as well, since they are broken down into these basic sugars before being absorbed."

              According to what I heard that isn't the case since carbs breakdown into glucose (along with the sugars) and dietary fiber, and the problems (that arise from ingesting forms of fructose via HFCS or sugar) are greatly minimized.

            3. Aaaand I'll write what I wrote on the other thread:

              everything in moderation. don't live on sugar alone, don't overdo it, and you'll be fine.

              toxic my ass.

              15 Replies
              1. re: linguafood

                Not true for everyone. And everyone defines "moderation" as how they eat, not how *you* eat. Sugar is toxic, (though not necessarily moreso than starches) and fructose does raise triglycerides, the lipid marker that is most predictive of insulin resistance and cardiovascular disease. Just sayinzall. You pays your money, you takes your chances.

                At the very least, HFCS shows up in a lot of products that don't contain it when sold in other countries not propping up the industry, and it adds no value, only potential detriment.

                1. re: mcf

                  I avoid products with HFCS or excessive amounts of sugar in it. But I seriously doubt, unless someone is already ill with diabetes or something, that they cannot have an occasional pasta dinner, or some chocolate every once in a while.

                  It's when you (not you personally, obvy) start relying on processed food with lots of sugar added, and eat TOO MUCH of it, it will have a detrimental effect.

                  It's like saying caffeine is toxic. Everything is toxic if you overdo it, even water.

                  But maybe not everyone understands what moderation actually means, or their definition of it is wrong. Who knows.

                  1. re: linguafood

                    I didn't say they can't have an occasional pasta dinner (though I can't). Dark chocolate works very well into a carb/sugar restricted diet, and I have it regularly, often even. Processed vs. unprocessed wrt grains isn't significant metabolically in terms of impact, though processed foods will often be accompanied by other stuff that makes it worse.

                    No, it's not like coffee, which has health benefits. Sugar has none, and fructose does metabolic damage to some extent, it appears.

                    The problem with the word "Moderation" is that it doesn't mean *anything.* It's personal.

                    1. re: mcf

                      Very true. The problem is when people are poor or strapped for cash, don't cook much and eat at cheap fast food restaurants often..."moderation" is not possible. It is really easy to get "overdosed" on many substances contained in foods that they think are "healthy". If food corporations didn't put it in every item- it wouldn't be such a problem.

                      1. re: sedimental

                        Exactly. It's been added to foods, and is SO ubiquitous, that it's hard to avoid the cumulative impact on an already less than ideal diet.

                        1. re: sedimental

                          it actually IS possible to get "moderation" still... but it takes some research on nutrition facts from the companies and time figuring out what the best options on a menu are... which almost defeats the purpose of fast food dining.

                          and its not just poor people frequenting these restos. its also very successful people who dont have time, and anyone else constantly rushing. its the beauty (and the downfall) of America all wrapped up into one

                    2. re: mcf

                      Not true for everyone. And everyone defines "moderation" as how they eat, not how *you* eat. Sugar is toxic, (though not necessarily moreso than starches) and fructose does raise triglycerides, the lipid marker that is most predictive of insulin resistance and cardiovascular disease. Just sayinzall. You pays your money, you takes your chances.


                      In these cases, it is not the food item that is toxic -- or the problem; rather, the consumer.

                      To lay claim that sugar is toxic because those who cannot properly metabolize it without wreaking havoc on their insulin levels would be like villifying gluten because Celiacs cannot consume it due to autoimmune issues.

                      I agree with lingaufood ... moderation.

                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        My perspective is that the sugar/starch laden diet has caused the epidemic of IR and DM.

                        This will be my last comment on the topic. The mods hate clinical talk; wrong venue.

                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          "To lay claim that sugar is toxic because those who cannot properly metabolize it without wreaking havoc on their insulin levels would be like villifying gluten because Celiacs cannot consume it due to autoimmune issues."

                          Except we all metabolize it the same way. Obviously if you eat less HFCS or sugar the insidious physical problems of obesity and type 2 diabetes and heart disease will be mitigated. But just like with the physiological effects of smoking, there is no "safe" way to metabolize fructose.

                      2. re: linguafood

                        I agree with you linguafood. To demonize one macronutrient seems silly. Especially when dosage and exercise aren't taken into consideration when analyzing it. We have become much more sedintary over the past 30 years and we certainly consume a lot more processed foods. But, like you, I try to avoid HFCS and I don't drink sweetened beverages. But I do think a lot of damage was done when several organizations and govt agencies got behind the fat-free/low-fat diet movement. It changed how people think and swung the pendulum too far in the high carb direction (at least until those wacky atkins folks came along j/k). And the fact that it is in just about every processed food is disturbing.

                        Here is an interesting blog post I found that counters many of Lustig's assertions. It generated 500+ comments including a couple from Dr. Lustig himself. But the blogger basically makes the points that Lustig villified fructose without little mention about dosage and context which, in the bloggers opinion, is negligent.


                        1. re: lynnlato

                          You should read the Taubes article. He's always on point wrt to what the science demonstrates, rather than how results are distorted by those with a bias either way. It's a very good article.

                          1. re: mcf

                            Whoa, I read the NYT's piece today while at the gym. I think I am on "Sugar is Toxic" overload. That was a loooong piece and after watching the 90 min. video yesterday and reading the counter-argument in that blog (also yesterday) I am completely overwhelmed with information, opinions, etc. Ha! Sucrose, fructose, HFCS, glucose, metabolic syndrome, facts, figures, studies - aaaaah my head is spinning!

                            Taubes article was a very comprehensive look at the subject matter - but it's also clearly slanted in the "sugar is evil" direction. I'll have to read it again in a few days when I have a clear, non-sugar-laden head. ;-)

                            For those that are interested, here is the link to the New York Times/Taubes piece:


                            1. re: lynnlato

                              It's not "slanted." It's accurate reporting, though that's clearly his POV, as he states it up front. He came to it, though, purely as an objective researcher while studying crap science for another topic. As usual, Taubes has scoured every bit of available data, accurately reported what the data actually support and not just the author's often unsupported conclusions. I love that about him; he goes where the objective info takes him.

                              1. re: mcf

                                Didn't Taubes write a very biased and much-contested pice for the Times several years ago where he clearly cherry picked his research and often took his interview subjects out of context (they even complained about this). I take just about anything Taubes says with a grain of salt. He has a low-carb agenda no doubt.

                          2. re: lynnlato

                            That has a link to USDA data on the per capita consumption of various foods over 40 years. It appears that they have taken production numbers for many food stuffs (fruits, grains, sweeteners, etc), adjusted them for losses (such as waste), and converted to the numbers to per capita. For our purposes the most interesting presentation calories from various sources.

                            This spreadsheet has numbers by major categories, and food types within those categories.

                            Looking that the last 2 decades, total calories peaked around 2000, and have dropped off a bit since then. Sweeteners also peaked at that time, and have dropped off about 10%. It's fats that have shown the biggest increase in the last 2 decades.

                            In the detailed view of fats, I see evidence of known food trends like the drop in margarine, and shift from shortening to oils - basically the move away from transfats. In the detailed view of sweeteners, sugar has remained constant. HFCS peaked in 2000, and is back to 1990 levels now.

                            You can look at more USDA data at

                        2. Here is a little newsy article on sugar:


                          Clearly, most Americans have no idea what moderation is! I know someone that has a soft drink "addiction" - she drinks a 6 pack per day of coke. Can you even imagine?????

                          13 Replies
                            1. re: mcf

                              Yes. I often volunteer to help lower functioning folks with profound disabilities- compromised cognitive abilities and developmental disabilities (and elderly) grocery shop. It is not hard to help them understand that pop has sugar in it- but it is impossible to teach them to read labels for all the different "words that mean sugar". They think I am "fibbing" when I tell them that their yogurt has sugar in it, their bran cereal has it, etc. Soda pop is a big "treat" and I am not going to wrestle it away from them :)

                              Most of the time they are obese, have blood pressure problems, blood sugar problems, etc. They need it more than anyone- they can't cook- AND they only have food stamps! Uggghhh.
                              Do you realize how many people fall into this category? Alot.

                              1. re: sedimental

                                Yes, I used to work with a mentally ill/multiply diagnosed population, too. Government food, food stamps, and personal tastes... and medications that raise blood sugar, too.

                              2. re: mcf

                                Yes. Most of my coworkers are (mostly diet) soda addicts. I say mostly diet because they're mostly obese and insulin-dependent diabetics. The one guy who doesn't drink diet soda drinks a ton of it, too, probably far more than a six-pack a day. It freaks me out even after four years how much soda these guys drink. It freaks them out how much iced tea, mostly matcha, I drink. We are a mutually respectful group, fortunately, and any teasing about fat, food, and drink is extremely hardassed and done with love. :)

                              3. re: sedimental

                                unfortunately, i CAN imagine that people do that. as disgusting as it seems to me, i know people who go through several "Big Gulps" a day... as someone who drinks only water and milk it just amazes me!

                                1. re: mattstolz

                                  I used to love Fresca, but it tastes so sweet to me now that on the annual occasion that I buy some, I have to cut it by 2/3 with seltzer before I can stand it. I mostly drink seltzer and plain water.

                                  1. re: mcf

                                    Me too. I absolutely cannot drink a coke. I do drink diet coke once in a while.... but I cut the sweet taste with rum :)

                                    1. re: sedimental

                                      Fresca *is* diet soda! I can't believe how sweet they make things.

                                      1. re: mcf

                                        its really pretty amazing. even when i drink crystal light, i take the single-serving packets and will use about 1/3 of the serving for the taste im going for

                                        1. re: mattstolz

                                          I got a sample of it and tried it, and that's what i had to do, too. I usually avoid artificial sweeteners altogether, but once in a while it'd be nice to be able to buy a damned Fresca and enjoy it again.

                                          1. re: mattstolz

                                            LOL- I cut the water down by about half. I learned to do that with Tang when I was a kid- I like the strong flavors, I guess if i"m going to have a sweet drink it had better be SWEET. And STRONG.

                                      2. re: mcf

                                        That's interesting. The man and I gave up soda pretty much a few years ago - before that, we used to drink diet coke. Not crazy amounts, but regularly. I cannot STAND diet coke now b/c it's so incredibly sweet, and on the few occasions (usually with a burger) we have one of those throw-back real sugar Mexian cokes, I sometimes can't even finish that, tho I admit on occasion to like it.

                                        Fresca, on the other hand, I had yesterday for the first time in a while, and I was surprised at how not so sweet I found it. I do like my grapefruit, tho. Generally, I prefer water.

                                        1. re: linguafood

                                          Receptors become resensitized once the substance they respond to is in shorter supply. I get a very strong sweet taste from romaine lettuce that I never used to get when I ate starch and sugar. My husband used to like uber sweet stuff that made me gag, now that he's low carbed for health the past few years, everything tastes too sweet to him, too. And no more nightly desserts, never looking for it at all.

                                          BTW, this subject header is wrong; fructose is not the subject of the article, sugar consumption is.

                                  2. A buddy of mine uses 3 (THREE) packets of splenda in his coffee. I use a 1/2 to 1/3.


                                    8 Replies
                                    1. re: linguafood

                                      my brother does the same.

                                      while studying at a local coffee shop the other day i watched a guy take the sugar shaker, turn it over all the way, and have a conversation while he poured it into his coffee. had to have been at least 1/3 of a cup of sugar in his coffee by time he was done.

                                        1. re: linguafood

                                          Very likely it will if he keeps it up, yes.

                                          1. re: mcf

                                            Or he could get hit by a car any day '-)

                                            Life - just a long disease that ends in death.

                                            1. re: linguafood

                                              Hmm, I'd heard that life is the only sexually transmitted disease that ends in death.;-)

                                              We all take our chances in life and I'm not going to run around being afraid. I know far more people who've died being hit by cars than people who have died from moderate consumption of sugar and yet I'm out there running on the roads; and I'm still behind the wheels of a car. LOL, though maybe I feel better with the idea that while I'm running, I'm not the lunatic behind the wheel.

                                              1. re: chowser

                                                Boy, talk about your non sequitirs! :-)

                                                1. re: chowser

                                                  remind me not to run where you live lol

                                                  1. re: chowser

                                                    Maybe you should equip your car with external air bags!