While our waistlines are growing, fructose-pushers are lining their pockets. The sugar industry is bigger than ever – here’s how businesses are profiting off our excess consumption of the sweet stuff, plus the consequences we’re facing as a result.
What is fructose?
To understand fructose, we need to unpack the basic makeup of sugar. It’s made up of sucrose, which contains two other types of sugar: glucose and, the one and only, fructose. So essentially, whenever you consume sugary foods, you’ll likely be getting a fructose hit too. It’s metabolised solely by our livers, which, in moderation, can be handled by our bodies. But in excess, fructose intake may cause insulin resistance, obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Take a look at a few of the many foods you’ll find fructose in:
- Soft drinks and flavoured milk
- Condiments like tomato sauce and mayo
- Sweeteners like high-fructose corn syrup
- Commercially-baked goods like cakes, cupcakes and muffins
- Fruits and some vegetables.
Before we get into the booming business that is sugar, let’s take a look at a few of the dangerous health conditions excess fructose can saddle us with.
Obesity and type 2 diabetes
Affecting 1.9 billion people, obesity is a massive public health crisis and one of the biggest consequences of excess fructose consumption. It’s been proven time and time again how this sugar can pile on the visceral fat, with studies finding a direct link between obesity and fructose intake, so it should come as no surprise that rates have tripled in the last 45 years when considering that Aussies consume around 15 teaspoons of added sugar each day. That’s more than double the recommended limit for women, and we know how this excess intake can lead to insulin resistance, which is the precursor to type 2 diabetes. We can put this down to the rising use of sugar in commercial products, according to research.
Anxiety and depression
Excess fructose intake can also lead to mental health issues. You probably recall those mood drops and energy slumps that come with high-sugar foods, but did you know more serious conditions can arise from long-term consumption of this addictive substance? Studies have shown higher rates of depression in those who eat a high-fructose diet, and anxiety is another condition which can arise. One study shows anxiety for those in the over-60s age bracket is more prevalent in those who consume sugar in excess.
How fructose is “big business”
Booming businesses: Food producers left, right and centre are profiting off the addictive nature of sugar – from so-called health food products to bread, cereals, flavoured yoghurts and, of course, the usual suspects like confectionery and junk food – few processed goods are safe from added sugars. This mega industry is set to reach a worth of nearly 57 billion USD this year and a growth of around 8 billion USD by 2029 – this is no humble industry, and producers know there is money to be made off of sugar, but we have to wonder, to what end? Is it worth the toll it takes on our health? Unfortunately in business, it usually comes down to one thing: money.
Mass production: It’s not just about selling sugar, it’s about making it too. Production has ramped up drastically to meet demand with sugar beating out palm oil for land-use by taking up nearly double the amount of space. In 2019, sugarcane made the top of the crop list when it comes to production volume, even ranking out the monstrous empire that is soy.
Over half of the sugar produced goes straight to the processed foods that line our supermarket shelves – and with global sugar intake jumping by 50% between 1961 and 2009, it’s apparent just how widespread the sweet stuff is. That’s a lot of land use and energy wastage for a food product that is nutritionally lacking. Not to mention, those stats on obesity, diabetes and mental health start to make a lot of sense when we see how excessively production and demand has grown – we are only just starting to see the fallout of our excessive sugar consumption in the form of multiple global health crises.
It’s no wonder big businesses are so successful at hooking us on their fructose-laden products. As it turns out, researchers have found that fructose disrupts our hunger signals and wreaks havoc on our appetite regulation system. A study from Yale shows that fructose is more likely to stimulate your appetite, as opposed to satiating it. While glucose actually managed to curb hunger, fructose had no such luck. This highlights just how easy it is to fall into a trap of increased hunger, sugar cravings and the inevitable binge on sugary foods.
What you can do
While groups like Action on Sugar have lobbied for change – for instance, they previously pushed for a 20 to 30% sugar content reduction in processed goods, which would see us consuming around 100 calories less sugar, significantly reducing our risks for disease – but, it can be a long process waiting for change in this powerful industry. But there are some other steps you can take to dodge the relentless fructose bombardment.
JERF (Just Eat Real Food): When you JERF, you prioritise whole foods and minimally-processed products. This cuts your chances of unintentionally getting a fructose hit and ensures you’re getting those gut-boosting, hunger-satiating nutrients. Healthy fats are worth prioritising as researchers have found they help with weight loss and craving management. It also helps keep our digestive health in order, according to research. Along with these fats, you’ll also want to load up on the following:
- Whole grains: Wholemeal bread, quinoa, buckwheat and amaranth
- Fruit and veggies
- Nuts and seeds
- Fermented foods: Yoghurt, kimchi and kefir
- Eggs and cheese
Give sugar a break: If you’re struggling with addiction, sometimes cutting sugar out is the best way to retrain your taste buds, and opt for loading up on nutritious foods instead. But, we know, it’s not always that simple. Many of us struggle with sugar addiction and cutting out sugar can cause a range of unsettling withdrawal symptoms:
- Fatigue and muscle pain
- Anxiety, irritability and mood swings
- Intense cravings
- Brain fog
That’s why it helps to have a support system of experts and fellow sugar-quitters rallying behind you. Our 8-Week Program is one of the easiest ways to make sure your health changes stick. With a toolkit of craving-management techniques, ongoing support and exclusive access to recipes, meal plans and exciting content, there’s no better way to ditch the sweet stuff.