Newsroom

Our Stories

Fructose no worse than other carbohydrates: study

Toronto, September 10, 2015

By Melissa Di Costanzo

Dr. John Sievenpiper
Dr. John Sievenpiper

Fructose does not have a negative impact on blood cholesterol or other lipids, new research suggests.

Blood lipids are fat molecules found in the bloodstream. Clinicians use the blood lipid profile to determine a patient’s risk of developing cardiovascular conditions or suffering a heart attack or stroke.

Fructose, which is naturally found in fruit, vegetables and honey, is a simple sugar that together with glucose forms sucrose, the basis of table sugar. It is also found in high-fructose corn syrup, one of the most common sweeteners in commercially prepared foods.

Fructose is increasingly being associated with obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

“People are often urged to replace fructose in their diet with other sugars or sweeteners, but our research found that fructose was no worse than any other carbohydrates that would replace it on a calorie-for-calorie basis,” said Dr. John Sievenpiper, a clinician scientist with the Clinical Nutrition and Risk Modification Centre of St. Michael’s Hospital. “Simply replacing fructose in the diet with another refined sugar of similar calories is not healthier.”

Researchers reviewed results from more than 50 research trials with more than 1,000 participants that assessed the impact of fructose on heart health indicators such as lipid levels in the blood. They found that over-consuming fructose calories is what can lead to adverse effects on lipids and other health outcomes.

“Staying healthy is all a matter of balance and avoiding eating excess calories from fructose or any other source,” said Sievenpiper, who is also a staff physician in St. Michael’s Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, and associate professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto. “Fructose doesn’t act differently than other refined carbohydrates, which should be considered when nutrition guidelines are developed.”

Laura Chiavaroli, a doctoral student affiliated with the Clinical Nutrition and Risk Modification Centre of St. Michael’s Hospital, as well as lead author of the study, said this is only further evidence that shows fructose has adverse effects only insofar as it contributes to excess calories. “The calories are the issue rather than the fructose per se,” she said.

“It doesn’t act differently than other refined carbohydrates, which is an important point for guideline makers to recognize.”

The study was published today in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

This research was supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Calorie Control Council.

About St. Michael's Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael's Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.