foods high in fructose and fructans 0

27.08.2015

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Foods Rich in Fructose and Fructans; Health Benefits and Risks

What are fructose and fructans?

The words fructose and fruit share a common origin, and the suffix -ose indicates the name of a sugar. Fructose, also called fruit sugar, is a monosaccharide, or simple sugar, that is found in many foods; which ones specifically will be discussed in the next section. Together with glucose and galactose, it is an important blood sugar.

A fructan is a polymer (a large molecule comprised of groups of smaller ones) made up of fructose molecules. In some fructans, the chain is rather short; these molecules are known as fructooligosaccharides or oligofructans (we will use the shorter term in this article).

The biological role of fructose

The capacity of the human body to metabolize fructose — for which the metabolic process is different than that for other sugars — is limited. Too much fructose in the diet can result in the cells accumulating too much fructose-1-phosphate, which in turn can lead, in individuals who are particularly susceptible, to a depletion of intracellular ATP (adenosine triphosphate). ATP is the coenzyme by that transports within cells the energy that they need for metabolism. Its depletion can have the following consequences, among others:

  • interference with the ability to synthesize the DNA and RNA that we need to pass on our genetic material, as well as valuable proteins

  • reduction in ammonia detoxification

  • less efficient cyclic formation of AMP (adenosine monophospate), a nucleotide in RNA that serves as a monomer (a molecule that combines with others to form polymers)

  • a rise in the levels of triglycerides, lactate and uric acid, which can lead to gout and heart disease

While it is not necessary to remove fructose from the diet completely, an excessive intake of that sugar is to be avoided. By eating moderate amounts of some of the foods in the lists given in the following section, you can enjoy their benefits without suffering any of the excess-fructose symptoms described above.

Some foods high in fructose and fructans

Among the foods that contain significant amounts of fructose are:

  • tree fruits, such as apples, pears and peaches

  • melons

  • berries

  • honey

  • some root vegetables, including sweet potatoes, beets, onions and parsnips

  • corn syrup (High-fructose corn syrup is also made.)

  • table sugar

  • fruit juice concentrates

These last three items are especially high in fructose, as are many prepared foods in which corn syrup or sucrose or both are major ingredients.

Fructans make up a major portion of such foods as:

  • garlic

  • artichokes

  • onions

  • wheat

  • asparagus

  • agave

  • jícama (the root of a vine that grows in Mexico)

  • yacón (a root vegetable grown in the Andes)

They are also found in grass, which of course cannot be digested by human beings but which is eaten by cattle, sheep and other animals whose flesh we eat. The presence of fructans in grass thus has great dietary implications for such grazing animals.

Fructose intolerance

The systems of some individuals are particularly susceptible to the adverse effects of fructose. Symptoms produced by an overload of fructose in such people may possibly include (and this, mind you, is not certain; what follows has been derived from preliminary evidence):

  • weakness

  • fatigue

  • headaches

  • changes in behavior

  • dizziness

  • depression in the immune system

  • inability to metabolize copper efficiently

  • hypertriglyceridemia (an excess of triglycerides, which can result in atherosclerosis)

Dietary fructans

Health benefits

In May 2005, a study was published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology that suggested that oligofructans (defined in the introductory section) can serve as prebiotics (chemicals that promote the growth of beneficial microorganisms) and thus prevent certain kinds of diarrhea from recurring. Another study, published in 2006 in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, noted that people who consume high-fructan foods may feel more like their hunger has been satisfied. The polysaccharide inulin (not to be confused with insulin) can have such health benefits as:

  • lower levels of cholesterol and triglycerides

  • improved ability to absorb calcium and magnesium

  • improved immune function

  • less risk for colon cancer

Health hazards

There are, however, certain side effects — especially gastrointestinal ones — of whcih one should beware, such as stomachaches, bloating and gas. You should have a maximum of 15.4 grains (15 g) of fructans in your diet to avoid these kinds of things.

To find your risk for high fructose, take the health test at WizeLife. It will ask for your age, sex and such information as your lifestyle (exercise, smoking, sleep, stress) and diet, giving you additional tips along the way. 

For a blog about living with fructose malabsorption, go to No Sugarless Gum. This site is also filled with a variety of fructose malabsorption recipes, such as cinnamon crusted banana bread!

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