Industrially processed fructose is just as addictive as alcohol and even morphine, concludes study

Sweets are well-loved by millions of people across the world, with at least 50 pounds of processed fructose being consumed per year. If you find yourself constantly eating and craving sweets, don’t immediately dismiss this as nothing serious. Studies have shown that industrially processed fructose is just as addictive and damaging as alcohol.

Fructose, which means “fruit sugar,” is ordinarily healthy when taken in moderate amounts in the form of fruit. However, industrially-processed fructose is not the same and actually is very unhealthy.  The majority of fructose in a person’s diet comes in the form of sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup, which also contain 50 and 45 percent glucose, respectively. Generally, fructose is more damaging than glucose since it can lead to glycation, a process wherein sugar binds to proteins or lipids. This might not sound that bad, but it results in cell and tissue damage.

If you’re wondering just how unhealthy fructose is, consider the fact it shares a lot of similarities with alcohol. One of these is their ability to trigger dopamine production, which is why consuming either of them produces a sense of happiness that can be addicting. Other similarities that they share include the metabolic pathways they are involved in. The close resemblance between these two makes sense since you can easily acquire alcohol from fructose just by adding yeast.

A study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association further evaluated the metabolic, hedonic, and societal commonalities between fructose addiction and alcoholism. They found that metabolism of fructose promotes insulin resistance, unhealthy cholesterol levels, and fatty liver disease just like alcohol. Sugar also induces chronic liver inflammation similarly to the intermediary metabolite of alcohol called acetaldehyde. Lastly, excessive fructose consumption also creates habituation and dependence that could parallel the addictive effects of alcohol. Similarly, an animal study conducted by researchers from Connecticut College found that fructose is just as addictive as morphine and cocaine. (Related: More drug than food? What you need to know about high-fructose corn syrup.)

Other health effects associated with fructose toxicity include the following:

  • Obesity
  • Hypertension
  • Elevated uric acid
  • Belly fat
  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Pancreatic cancer

Natural compounds that reduce fructose toxicity

As scientists investigated the damaging effects of fructose, they also searched for natural compounds that can remedy these consequences. They found that the following substances significantly improve fructose toxicity:

  • Fish oil
  • Bitter melon
  • Chlorella
  • Coconut water
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Holy basil
  • Quinoa
  • Spirulina

Natural alternatives for sugar

Ultimately, the goal is to avoid fructose as much as you can, unless it’s in the form of fruit. But if you can’t seem to get rid of your sweet tooth, then you can choose to go for healthy sugar alternatives that have very low or even no fructose content. Some examples of these include the following natural sweeteners:

  • Stevia — Stevia comes from the leaves of Stevia rebaudiana, a shrub native to South America. This all-natural sweetener has zero calories and no known adverse side effects. Moreover, it is associated with a lot of health benefits, which include lowering blood pressure and sugar levels.
  • Xylitol — This natural sweetener is extracted from corn or birch wood, but it can also be found in other fruits and vegetables. It contains zero fructose, so it doesn’t cause any of the side effects associated with sugar. Additionally, it is great for oral health and bone health.
  • Yacon syrup — The dark and thick yacon syrup is extracted from the yacon plant (Smallanthus sonchifolius) in South America. It recently gained popularity for its ability to promote weight loss in overweight women. This effect is attributed to the large amounts of fructooligosaccharides that it contains since this compound reduces the production of the hunger hormone ghrelin. Moreover, fructooligosaccharides also support the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut.

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