Fruits are considered to be one of the healthiest foods you can add in your diet if you have a sweet tooth. They contain fructose, instead of glucose, which does not increase your blood sugar levels suddenly but can help calm some of your sugar cravings. Being rich in nutrients and antioxidants, fruits also boost your health and immunity.
However, researchers have always been unsure about the effects of fruits, especially fructose on your health. Excessive fructose consumption has been linked to conditions like obesity and diabetes and other metabolic disorders.
Now, a group of researchers at the University of California San Diego say that excessive fructose intake can lead to leaky gut and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
The study published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Metabolism suggests that the effects of fructose only become apparent once it reaches the intestines.
Fructose is broken down in our gastrointestinal tract by enzymes produced by the intestines and liver. Using mouse models, the researchers noted that fructose, when it is taken in excess, disrupts the gut barrier inside the intestines. The gut barrier is a layer of cells covered with mucus that prevents the passage of bacteria and toxins into the bloodstream.
When the gut barrier is disrupted, it leads to a chronic inflammatory condition called endotoxemia, meaning the presence of endotoxins (toxins released by some bacteria) inside the blood.
When these endotoxins reach the liver, they cause the liver to convert fructose and glucose into deposits of fatty acids. This leads to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
The researchers observed that high fat and high fructose diet has more severe effects while low amounts of fructose did not have severe effects, suggesting that excessive fructose intake over a long time affects health.
The study also pointed out that restoring the gut barrier may be a good way to manage non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
To eat or not to eat
Looking at the side effects of fructose, the obvious question is: should we consume fruits? The answer is not that simple. Fruits do not just have fructose, but they also have health-building substances like minerals and vitamins.
Besides, fruits are not our only source of fructose; a lot of fast foods contain high fructose corn syrup, which is used as a sweetener.
Most studies mention the side effects of having a high fructose diet. So, it is important to consume fruits or fructose in moderation. Experts suggest that you can have 80g servings of fruits and vegetables five times a day.
Understand the concept of calories, glycemic load (the quantity of sugars present in the food) and glycemic index (the speed with which a food spikes your blood sugar levels). Also, while buying any processed foods, make sure to check the label for the presence of high fructose corn syrup. It is all about being conscious and aware of what your diet consists of and not consuming anything in excess.