the facts on fructose

After many years craving and crashing through the waves of hypoglycaemia, my metamorphic bodyweight victim to crazed binging and inevitable guilt-riddled starvation, pain and bloating, headaches and tiredness, fatigue and depression, I finally fell upon the little devil running through my veins. Poisoning my relationship with my one true love…it’s not you, Food, and it’s not me – it’s sugar.

I was diagnosed with fructose malabsorption around the time I was in my mid-twenties. It felt like a miracle to finally understand what was happening to my body. There’s not a lot of information out there about this condition which makes it tricky to navigate and not particularly easy to explain to others. The high-fructose food lists are constantly being updated as the medical profession come to understand more about the condition. So I have been sitting in a place of constant adjustment for a long while now, frequently finding new rules and new exceptions. Fumbling and back-peddling over lame technicalities such as “no now cauliflower is out, but broccoli is fine”, “definitely no onion, but did you say spring onion? Sure! – oh, no not the white bit – the green bit. No not that green bit, the really, really green bit” Oh, man…seriously? Just order a weak, decafe soy cap – no chocolate – and be done with it!

But slowly the whispers of a ‘sweet poison’s and a ‘high-fructose corn syrup’s whistled through the air. Involuntarily, my ears pricked up and my head snapped to attention. Low and behold, the ‘I Quit Sugar’ brigade started beating its drums, loud and clear “down with sugar! Bring back the fats!” Almost overnight ‘no sugar’ became the new ‘low fat’. ‘Low fat’ (I quickly learnt) is, in fact, ‘high sugar’ in disguise and like an ex-lover scorned by a bad breakup I can honestly say the sweet stuff can get stuffed. In fact, fat has played victim to that bully for way too long. Well, in this body anyway.

And so it is that with this blog I will be looking for alternatives and substitutes, alterations and ideas to rid us of this manipulative little fiend. If you are after more information or ideas about quitting sugar, these have been particularly helpful to me:

Sarah Wilson’s ‘I Quit Sugar’ program (you can grab a copy below!)

Lee Holmes’ recipe book ‘Supercharged Food – Eat Your Way to Good Health’

‘Hungry for Change’ – a documentary film by Food Matters

the long and the short of it

breaking it down…

The foods we eat are made up of many components, including sugars. Fructose is a sugar found naturally in many foods, including honey, wheat, fruits and vegetables. Fructose is present in a single sugar form and also as a chain of fructose sugar units (fructans). Normally, fructose is absorbed in the small bowel. In fructose malabsorption, the normal absorption of fructose is impaired. Fructose malabsorption can be diagnosed using a hydrogen breath test, which indicates when fructose has not been completely absorbed in the small intestine. When fructose is not absorbed in the small intestine, it is transported into the large intestine, where it is fermented by the colonic flora. The colonic flora also produces carbon dioxide, short-chain fatty acids, organic acids, and trace gases in the presence of unabsorbed fructose.

the guts of it all…

The presence of gases and organic acids in the large intestine causes gastrointestinal symptoms often likened to irritable bowel syndrome. These symptoms can cause stomach bloating, diarrhea and/or constipation, flatulence, and gastrointestial/stomach pain. Exercise immediately after consumption can exacerbate these symptoms by decreasing transit time in the small intestine, resulting in a greater amount of fructose emptied into the large intestine. Poor gut flora combined with high amounts of fructose is also known to bring on other uncomfortable issues such as thrush or a disruption to the menstrual cycle, while irregular or difficult bowel movements can cause painful problems like hemorrhoids and bleeding. Oooh yeah…now we’re getting intimate.

the harsh unhealthy truths about sugar, sugar

Not every food that contains fructose is a problem for people with fructose malabsorption but it’s important to understand how fructose occurs in foods to know which foods are a problem. When the glucose load is equal to or greater than the fructose load in a food, the glucose assists in the breakdown of the fructose and in most cases will therefore not induce a reaction. Similarly, sucrose is made up of one part fructose and one part glucose and therefore is the perfect balance for frucmalians, however, this combined with high levels of pure fructose – as opposed to glucose – will tip the scales into irritability. Confused yet?

Excess fructose consumption has been hypothesized to be a cause of insulin resistance, obesity, elevated LDL cholesterol and triglycerideas, leading to metabolic syndrome. Fructose consumption has been found to stimulate triglyceride production but impairs triglyceride removal, whereas glucose stimulates both of them. If plasma triacylglycerols are a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, then diets high in fructose are undesirable. For more on managing cholesterol and cardiovascular health, go to our healthy hearts page.

While a few other tissues (e.g., sperm cells and some intestinal cells) do use fructose directly, fructose is metabolized primarily in the liver. However, fructose doesn’t influence metabolic activity or blood flow in the brain regions that regulate satiety, and so promotes overeating. Excessive fructose consumption may also contribute to the development of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

fast facts for frucmalians (and those catering for them!)

  1. Read the high and low-fructose food lists on this blog
  2. Avoid foods that contain excess fructose
  3. Avoid dietary sources of fructans
  4. Reduce the fructose load
  5. Take a quality probiotic every day to promote good gut flora

cut the crap

Here’s my top three hard and fast rules to quickly reduce sugar consumption:

  1. Check food labels: ensure the sugar content is less than 6g per 100g
  2. Limit fruit intake to 1-2 pieces a day
  3. Avoid high-fructose foods (see the high and low-fructose food lists on this blog)

emergency advice

Always carry a good source of glucose for those times when you find yourself caught out unawares!
1. Glucodin sugar tablets from the health food aisle of a supermarket or ‘Glucojel’ jelly beans often found at the counter in chemists are both easy to find and convenient enough to carry with you.
2. ‘Lucozade’ is also a good glucose hit and one of very few sports drinks on the market which contains no fructose (unlike the majority of the others out there).

You may also like to check out the following pages and food lists for more info:

IQS Program



One thought on “the facts on fructose

  1. How about sucrose? I believe I have both problems. What fruits can I eat safely and other foods that are high in fructose and suctrose. I am a vegetarian.


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