Natural Sugar effects

The effects of natural sugarnatural sugar fructose such as fructose on human health have been the source of much controversy. This is due to the fact that there are different kinds of foods, some of which are bad for health.

Fructose is a natural sugar that is present in fruits, fruit juices, certain vegetables, and honey. In these forms, this natural sugar can be part of a healthy diet.

However, it is also a component of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which manufacturers make from cornstarch and add to unhealthy foods such as sodas and candies.

Researchers are studying the links between high-fructose foods and obesity, diabetes, and even some cancers. However, there is also some evidence that indicates that it is not necessarily a public health concern when a person consumes it in moderation.

In this article, we will cover whether fructose is bad for health, the different types of sugar, and the research into their effects on the human body.

What is the natural sugar fructose?

apples and honey natural sugar
Fructose is a natural sugar present in fruit and honey.

Fructose is the sweetest of the naturally occurring caloric sweeteners. It occurs naturally in fruits, fruit juices, honey, and even some vegetables.

In its pure form, it is much sweeter than other types of sugar. As a result, people can use less of it than other sugars in cooking to achieve the same sweetness.

The most significant sources of fructose in the diet include:

  • table sugar
  • honey
  • agave nectar
  • fruit juices
  • HFCS, which is present in candy, baked goods, and sodas, and other processed foods

Manufacturers create HFCS by adding certain enzymes to cornstarch, which is essentially pure glucose. Glucose is another type of sugar. They then use this glucose to create a syrup that contains varying amounts of fructose.

Most varieties of HFCS contain either 42 or 55 percent fructose and 45 percent glucose. This means that HFCS contains the same amount of fructose as sucrose, or table sugar.

Manufacturers make table sugar from a combination of fructose and glucose.

Honey is another common food additive. Honey contains a 1-to-1 ratio of fructose to glucose.

Is fructose bad for you?

A natural sugar like fructose from fresh fruit and vegetables is good for a person’s health. Processed forms of fructose, such as HFCS, may have negative health effects. Scientists are currently studying how this type of sweetener compares with other forms of sugar.

Below, we discuss the research around the possible risks and benefits of fructose on a person’s health.

The evidence against fructose

woman pinching stomach
Consuming large amounts of fructose may put a person at greater risk of obesity.

Some researchers believe that the body processes fructose differently than other types of sugar.

In particular, there are concerns that when a person consumes fructose in excess, it may stimulate the body to deposit extra fat, especially in the liver. This may contribute to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

According to a 2017 literature review, eating excessive amounts of fructose is associated with:

  • inflammation that could lead to insulin resistance
  • increased development of fat, as it may alter the ways that the body breaks down fats and carbohydrates
  • a greater risk of obesity and related conditions, such as metabolic syndrome
  • greater food intake, as it does not make people feel full

A 2016 study looked at the effects of fructose-rich drink consumption in those aged 12–16 years in Taiwan. People who drank more fructose-rich drinks had higher levels of insulin resistance, which is a marker for hardened arteries, diabetes, and heart disease in adults.

The evidence for fructose

Although there is evidence that excess fructose consumption is bad for health, it is difficult for researchers to separate the effects of fructose in the diet from those of other sugars.

This is because foods that contain high levels of added fructose usually also contain high levels of other sugars, such as glucose. Scientists conduct many research studies on the effects of fructose in rats fed combinations of sugars.

A 2014 literature review states that fructose does not have specific effects on the body that can cause weight gain when compared with eating sugar from other sources.

The authors also argue that, while sugar-sweetened drinks contain fructose, they are also high in calories. This may explain some links between fructose and obesity.

To date, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that they are not currently aware of any evidence that foods containing HFCS are less safe than other foods containing similar sweeteners, such as sucrose and honey.

The FDA list HFCS, the most controversial of the fructose-containing foods, as safe to eat.

However, people should limit their intake of all added sugars, including HFCS and sucrose.

Fructose vs. glucose

Fructose can bind to glucose. Fructose plus glucose is called sucrose, or table sugar.

Unlike fructose, the body largely breaks glucose down in the cells. The small intestine usually absorbs this sugar type and sends it out to the body’s cells for energy. Researchers usually regard glucose as the body’s preferred carbohydrate source for energy.

When a person eats glucose, the chemical structure of the compound triggers the pancreas to release insulin, a hormone that allows cells to use glucose for energy.

A natural sugar such as Fructose does not trigger insulin release, nor does it trigger the release of hormones such as leptin, which tells the brain that a person is full, or inhibit hormones that tell a person’s body that they are hungry.

As a result, researchers suggest that fructose is more harmful to a person because they are more likely to eat more than if they had eaten food containing glucose.

However, a person should remember that foods with glucose-containing sugars still have calories. Excess calorie intake can lead to weight gain.

Sources and types of fructose

young woman eating a pear
Pears are naturally high in fructose.

Two fructose types exist: naturally occurring and HFCS. The body digests both the same way.

Examples of natural foods that are naturally high in fructose include:

  • agave syrup
  • apple juice
  • apples
  • caramel
  • dry figs
  • honey
  • licorice
  • molasses
  • pears
  • prunes
  • sorghum

Some vegetables contain fructose, but this is usually in smaller amounts than fruits. These include:

  • asparagus
  • chicory roots
  • Jerusalem artichokes
  • leeks
  • onions

Summary

Fructose is naturally present in many fruits and vegetables, which people can include as part of a healthful, balanced diet.

Researchers are still debating whether various forms of fructose are bad for people’s health. The FDA state that fructose is a safe ingredient to add to foods.

They believe that there is not enough evidence to say that fructose is less safe than other similar sugars, such as sucrose and honey, but they recommend limiting all added sugars.

When people eat or drink lots of high-fructose foods, such as sugar-sweetened beverages, they are also taking in extra calories that can contribute to weight gain.

There is no recommended minimum or maximum intake of fructose daily because a person does not need this sugar to survive. Manufacturers add fructose to foods as a sweetener, but it has little nutritional value.

Where possible, doctors recommend that people eat fresh, whole foods and avoid frequently eating foods with added sugars.

Natural colon cleansing

This post explores the concept of natural colon cleansing. A colon cleanse is a popular alternative remedy that some people claim removes waste and toxins from the colon. However, there is little scientific evidence to support the use of natural colon cleansing routines, except for those that doctors prescribe.

Most of what researchers know about safe colon cleansing comes from studies that aim to find ways to improve the colonoscopy procedure rather than to boost energy levels or treat intestinal problems.

People may refer to colon cleansing methods by different names, including:

  • bowel cleanses
  • detoxes
  • flushes
  • juice diets

Most colon cleansing products supposedly help detox the colon or remove harmful substances, such as mucus and dry stool. Some people also use colon cleanses to help relieve constipation.

In this article, we discuss some popular colon cleansing methods and the science behind them. We also consider their potential benefits and risks.

Water

Woman drinking water as part of natural colon cleanseDrinking water regularly can naturally cleanse the colon.

Using water is one of the easiest and safest natural colon cleansing available, and the easiest way to cleanse the colon naturally. Water moistens stool and gives it bulk, facilitating its passage through the colon.

A person who is dehydrated will have fewer bowel movements because their body is trying to retain water. It will reabsorb water from the bowel, which results in the stool becoming dry, hard, and difficult to pass.

Everyone’s daily hydration needs are different, but it is vital to drink plenty of water throughout the day.

Other beverages, including caffeinated ones, contribute toward a person’s daily water intake, but plain water is the best option as it does not contain any calories.

In a 2013 study, researchers in Jordan found that drinking more than four cups of water daily decreased the risk of colorectal cancer, but the results were not statistically significant.

The same study identified constipation as a significant risk factor for colorectal cancer. Drinking at least eight glasses of water a day can help prevent constipation, and it offers many other health benefits too.

Fruit and vegetable juice

Raw fruit and vegetable juices contain many elements that may help cleanse the colon, including fiber, phytochemicals (beneficial plant chemicals), and natural sugars that act as laxatives, such as sorbitol and fructose.

Proponents of juice cleanses recommend the following types of juice:

  • apple, including the peel
  • prune
  • pear
  • banana
  • kiwi
  • grape
  • plum
  • persimmon
  • lemon

Some colon cleanse plans recommend consuming only fluids for a few days at a time to help cleanse the colon and digestive tract.

Most health authorities recommend against juice cleanses. Raw fruit juices can contain compounds that are hard on the kidneys and liver. Without any treatment to kill harmful bacteria and viruses, these juices can also make people ill. They may pose significant dangers for those with medical conditions, such as diabetes.

It is best to consume fruit and vegetable juices in the form of smoothies to keep all the fiber, water, and nutrients intact.

Fiber

Natural colon cleansing found in fiber adds bulk to stool, which reduces the time it spends sitting in the colon and increases the number of bowel movements that a person has. Many natural, whole foods are rich in fiber, including:

  • nuts
  • beans
  • seeds
  • berries
  • whole grains and cereals

People who find it difficult to get enough fiber through their diet can try taking fiber supplements. Popular fiber supplements include:

  • psyllium (Metamucil)
  • polycarbophil tablets (FiberCon)
  • methylcellulose

Fermented foods aid natural colon cleansing

Baked tempeh on tray
Tempeh is a fermented food that may benefit gut health.

Fermented foods often contain high levels of probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria that contribute to gut health.

These bacteria help the bowels move stool out of the colon regularly and reduce the risk of gas, bloating, constipation, and infection.

Common fermented foods that contain probiotics include:

  • yogurt and Greek yogurt
  • apple cider vinegar
  • kefir
  • skyr
  • kimchi
  • sauerkraut
  • pickles
  • miso
  • tempeh
  • kombucha
  • beer and cider
  • some types of cheese

Research suggests that probiotics may help prevent and possibly treat colon cancer, but researchers agree that more studies are necessary to understand these effects. A healthy gut biome offers numerous other benefits for overall health and immune function.

Resistant starches

Some foods contain resistant starches, which are types of sugar that are difficult for the body to break down. These starches remain mostly undigested and become bulk in the stool.

The more bulk there is in the stool, the sooner the bowel is stimulated into action, possibly helping cleanse the colon.

Foods high in resistant starches include:

  • potatoes, sweet potatoes, and yams
  • sugar beets
  • sugar cane
  • sweet corn
  • green bananas
  • beer and cider
  • vegetable stems, tubers, and roots
  • rice
  • buckwheat and millet
  • al dente pasta
  • white bread
  • cornflakes and muesli

Unlike other starches, digesting resistant starches produces compounds that research shows may help:

  • prevent colon cancer
  • improve macronutrient regulation
  • alter hormone levels, potentially improving mental and physical health
  • prevent or control diabetes
  • prevent or control obesity

Lemon juice

Regularly drinking lemon juice can have a positive effect on digestive health and help natural colon cleansing. It seems that people experience the most benefit when they drink it on an empty stomach, which allows the compounds in the lemon to interact more easily with the gut mucosa.

Having a clean colon is crucial for certain screening tests, such as colonoscopies. Most people receiving colonoscopies have to consume a colon cleansing preparation the night before the procedure.

In a 2015 study on colonoscopies, one group of participants received a preparation of ascorbic acid, or vitamin C, in addition to the standard fluid mixture of polyethylene glycol (PEG). The participants who took vitamin C had better bowel preparation than those in the other groups.

Lemon juice is very high in vitamin C so it may be an effective natural colon cleanser.

Herbal teas

Some herbal teas used in natural colon cleansing may be beneficial for digestive health.

Australian research from 2014 found an association between herbal tea consumption and a lower risk of colon cancer.

Other natural teas, such as ginger or lemon tea, may also help digestion.

Possible benefits of colon cleanses

Senior couple smiling outdoors jogging.
People who support colon cleanses claim they can improve energy levels, though there is no scientific evidence to prove this.

There are currently no proven benefits of colon cleanses, natural or otherwise. However, people who promote colon cleanses claim that they provide major health benefits, including:

  • increasing energy
  • removing toxins
  • improving liver function
  • boosting the immune system
  • aiding weight loss
  • relieving bloating, cramps, and gas
  • reducing the risk of colon cancer
  • improving mood

Safety and risks

Some of the potential risks of colon cleansing include:

  • weakness
  • irritability
  • electrolyte imbalance and dehydration
  • vomiting and nausea
  • abdominal cramps
  • dizziness and fainting
  • loss of healthful gut microflora and increased risk of infection
  • diarrhea
  • bowel ulcerations, which are open cuts and sores
  • bowel infection
  • kidney damage and failure

People with preexisting bowel conditions should avoid bowel cleansing methods unless a doctor performs or prescribes them.

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) do not regulate natural colon cleanse products. The FDA have also taken legal action against companies who were using unproven medical claims to promote cleanse products, stating that they could reduce the risk of cancer or treat serious medical conditions.

The U.S. National Institutes of Health also point out several possible risks of cleanses, including:

  • diarrhea, which could lead to dehydration
  • bacterial infection from unpasteurized juice
  • lack of nutrients
  • headaches
  • weakness and fainting

People with kidney conditions should avoid drinking large quantities of juice because it can contain too much oxalate, which can cause kidney problems.

People with diabetes and other metabolic conditions should also avoid detoxes or extreme diets and instead follow a healthful, doctor-recommended diet.

Severely restricting calorie intake, which is often part of colon cleanses, can also be damaging to a person’s overall health. It rarely contributes to long-term weight loss or well-being.