Misconceptions about fructose-containing sugars and their role in the obesity epidemic

V.J. van Buul, L. Tappy, F.J. Brouns

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

A causal role of fructose intake in the aetiology of the global obesity epidemic has been proposed in recent years. This proposition, however, rests on controversial interpretations of two distinct lines of research. On one hand, in mechanistic intervention studies, detrimental metabolic effects have been observed after excessive isolated fructose intakes in animals and human subjects. On the other hand, food disappearance data indicate that fructose consumption from added sugars has increased over the past decades and paralleled the increase in obesity. Both lines of research are presently insufficient to demonstrate a causal role of fructose in metabolic diseases, however. Most mechanistic intervention studies were performed on subjects fed large amounts of pure fructose, while fructose is ordinarily ingested together with glucose. The use of food disappearance data does not accurately reflect food consumption, and hence cannot be used as evidence of a causal link between fructose intake and obesity. Based on a thorough review of the literature, we demonstrate that fructose, as commonly consumed in mixed carbohydrate sources, does not exert specific metabolic effects that can account for an increase in body weight. Consequently, public health recommendations and policies aiming at reducing fructose consumption only, without additional diet and lifestyle targets, would be disputable and impractical. Although the available evidence indicates that the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with body-weight gain, and it may be that fructose is among the main constituents of these beverages, energy overconsumption is much more important to consider in terms of the obesity epidemic.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-130
Number of pages12
JournalNutrition Research Reviews
Volume27
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2014

Keywords

  • Fructose
  • Sugar
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages
  • Obesity
  • SWEETENED BEVERAGE CONSUMPTION
  • DE-NOVO LIPOGENESIS
  • CARDIOMETABOLIC RISK-FACTORS
  • BODY-MASS INDEX
  • CORN SYRUP
  • URIC-ACID
  • INSULIN-RESISTANCE
  • DIETARY FRUCTOSE
  • SOFT DRINKS
  • US CHILDREN

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