Researchers have found that the negative metabolic effects of fructose, a simple sugar, can be reversed when people limit their intake for as little as nine days. The review study “Conversion of Sugar to Fat: Is Hepatic de Novo Lipogenesis Leading to Metabolic Syndrome and Associated Chronic Diseases?” is published in the August edition of The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.
Fructose restriction in children with obesity resulted in improved glucose and lipid metabolism, as well as lower liver fat, nine days after the dietary change.
The JAOA review identified fructose as the most damaging type of sugar. Compared to glucose, which metabolizes 20 percent in the liver and 80 percent throughout the rest of the body, fructose is 90 percent metabolized in the liver and converts to fat up to 18.9 times faster than glucose.
Overfed and undernourished
High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is found in 75 percent of packaged foods and drinks, mainly because it is cheaper and 20 percent sweeter than raw sugar. The researchers noted that HFCS is particularly harmful because it contributes no nutrients but depletes energy in order to metabolize it.
Fructose is almost immediately converted to fat and stored in the body, adding weight. At the same time, the brain thinks the body is starving and becomes lethargic and less inclined to exercise.
The study notes that once people have put on a significant amount of weight and developed eating habits that rely on packaged foods with HFCS, change can be daunting. Historically, physicians have told patients to restructure their diet and start exercising heavily, with a plan to check back after a month or more. That approach typically resulted in poor patient adherence.
Researchers suggest that focusing the conversation on health instead of weight, with more frequent contact, may be more effective. Improved metabolic measures from fructose restriction can provide an early marker of improved health, even if no weight is lost.
“That single change in diet improves metabolic results in less than two weeks. Imagine the power of doing a ‘before and after’ comparison with a patient, so they can see for themselves that their health is improving. Getting those results, instead of just stepping on a scale, can motivate them to keep going,” said Tyree Winters, DO, a pediatrician focused on childhood obesity.