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Fruit-based sugar helps hit the sweet spot: UC research

Marcus Butler and Amanda Jones

8 June 2017: Swapping table sugar for fruit-derived sugar may be a healthier option when watching your waistline, according to new research by the University of Canberra.

Researchers from the University’s Health Research Institute examined the short-term and long-term effects of swapping sucrose or glucose, for fructose, the sugar found in many fruits, vegetables and honey.

The research, which has been published in the prestigious American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found blood glucose and insulin levels were lower after consuming food or drink that contained fructose, compared to those with sucrose or glucose.

University of Canberra Adjunct Professional Associate and senior author of the report Dr Kerry Mills said that in the short-term study, the reduction in blood glucose was far greater in people who were overweight or had diabetes than in those with normal blood glucose levels.

“The sharp rise in blood glucose after eating glucose and sucrose is a risk factor for diabetes.  Fructose, on the other hand, has to be converted by the liver before it can affect glucose concentrations in the blood,” Dr Mills said.

“Because this conversion takes time, it’s impossible for the body to receive the near-instant sugar hit we get from sucrose or glucose. This reduces blood glucose levels, which is particularly important for people with diabetes, who must monitor and control these levels.”

“Our study of long-term effects of swapping types of sugar also found a reduction in blood glucose levels, although the difference wasn’t as dramatic over time.”

Dr Mills said the results show that healthier choices when it comes to sugar intake can make a difference for people with diabetes, but fructose should not be seen as “some kind of health food”.

“High sugar intakes can lead to health problems and everyone should be trying to cut out sweet treats. But if sugar consumption can’t be avoided, it is probably better to choose products with fructose over other types of sugar,” she said. “But before changing their diets, people should first consult a health professional such as a registered dietician or medical doctor.”

Collaborators in this research include lead author Rebecca Evans, who undertook the research as part of a Bachelor of Applied Science (Honours), University of Canberra Drs Michael Frese and Julio Romero, and Dr Judy Cunningham, formerly from Food Standards Australia New Zealand.

Abstracts of the articles are available here and here. Links to full versions can be found via the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition website.