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Fructose vs. Sucrose – Root of all Evil?



I always get nervous when anyone proclaims that the cause or solution to the obesity epidemic is any one factor.

As regular readers will appreciate, obesity is complex, heterogeneous and diverse. There are 100s of factors that can promote weight gain or make weight loss difficult and different factors are more or less important in different individuals – no diet, no exercise program, no psychological counseling, no medication, no surgery will ever be found that works for everyone.

That said, there may well be some factors that are more important than others, when it comes to issues like population exposure – even factors that have small individual effects, can have large population effects, simply because they affect so many people.

This does not mean that such factors are the most important or even the most powerful drivers of obesity in a given individual – in fact, in a given individual, this same factor may play absolutely no role – either because this individual is not exposed to this risk factor or because this person is genetically or biologically ‘resistant’ to this factor.

One of the factors that often comes up in obesity discussions is the role of fructose. While, I doubt that fructose (or any one factor) can explain all of the obesity problem (or provide a simple solution), there is some fascinating science about how fructose could possibly play a role.

This complex science (epidemiology, history, biochemistry, policies, politics, etc.) of fructose is comprehensively discussed in this fascinating and captivating 90 minute(!) presentation by Robert Lustig, Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology at the University of California, San Francisco.

Amazingly, this very scientific and rather lengthy video went ‘viral’ on YouTube and has been viewed almost 1.5 million times since it was originally posted back in 2009.

So grab a non-fructose-sweetened beverage, head to my blog page, and sit back as Lustig takes you through a lot of very interesting science (some of this may be too complex for some readers, but you’ll still get the picture).

By no means, am I as convinced as Lustig about fructose being the root of all ‘evil’, but this video certainly is highly educational and, if nothing else, reminds us of how complex human biology actually is.

AMS
Edmonton, Alberta

2 Comments

  1. Just thought I’d add an evidence based critique of Lustig’s talk by a bright guy named Alan Aragon:

    http://www.alanaragonblog.com/2010/01/29/the-bitter-truth-about-fructose-alarmism/

    What is most interesting about this post is that Lustig himself shows up to participate in the comments and there is a debate by some really smart folks.

    If you’re not interested in sorting through the 300+ comments to see the whole discussion, you can check out the post here to see a summary of the points made there:

    http://www.alanaragonblog.com/2010/02/19/a-retrospective-of-the-fructose-alarmism-debate/

    Unfortunately, there is some name calling and finger pointing in the later comments, but the overall discussion is worth reading.

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  2. The one thing that I have noticed is that there is a parallel between obesity and the proliferation of the use of fructose the is not likely a cuase and effect but because fructose is 1.75 times sweeter than sugar the eprson who likes fructose sweetened products then tryes a sugar sweetened product the later would taste sour. the result there would likely be added of increased sugar to increase the pleasure taste. Not realizing the extra calories. Then others think that fructose is better because it is not sugar–self dilusioning the truth regarding calories because the calories in fructose or the same as the calories in sugar. The one thing that I feel does contribute to obesity is the use of high fructose corn suryp– because the body does not seem to use this type of sugar product. I did not watch the video having the ball game on and the computer is just a bit distrating. Thank you for your insight.

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