There is growing scientific consensus that one of the most common types of sugar, fructose, can be toxic to the liver, just like alcohol. Fructose is the sugar that makes fruit taste sweet. For most people, there’s nothing wrong with eating fructose in its natural state, in fruit.
But today, manufacturers extract and concentrate the fructose from corn, beets and sugarcane, removing the fiber and nutrients (minerals, vitamins, enzymes, antioxidants) in the process. Getting frequent, high doses of fructose throughout the day, without fiber to slow it down, is more than our bodies were designed to handle.
Nearly all added sugars contain significant amounts of fructose. Typical formulations of high-fructose corn syrup contain upwards of 50% fructose, depending on processing methods. Table sugar and even sweeteners that sound healthy, like organic cane sugar, are 50% fructose.
What’s unique about fructose is that, unlike any other sugar, it’s processed in the liver. Small amounts of fructose, meted out slowly, are not a problem for your liver. Think of eating an apple – its sweetness comes with a lot of chewing that takes time. The apple’s fiber slows down its processing in the gut.
But when we consume large amounts of fructose, particularly in liquid form on an empty stomach, it slams the liver with more than it can handle.
As with alcohol, a little added fructose, consumed with fiber-rich foods, is OK. It’s only when we frequently consume large quantities, in concentrated form, that fructose becomes a health hazard.
Liver damage is a looming health issue
For a long time, doctors mainly worried about life-threatening liver disease in alcoholics. But since 1980, there has been growing concern about two new conditions linked to fructose consumption, as well as to obesity and other unhealthy dietary additives, such as trans-fats:
- Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD): This is characterized by excess fat build-up in the liver.
- Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH): This is characterized by fatty liver, inflammation and “steatosis,” which is essentially scarring as the liver tries to heal its injuries. That scarring gradually cuts off vital blood flow to the liver.
About one-quarter of NASH patients will progress on to non-alcoholic liver cirrhosis, which requires a liver transplant or else it can lead to death.
Since 1980, the incidence of NAFLD and NASH has doubled, along with the rise of fructose consumption.
Approximately 6 million individuals in the United States are estimated to have progressed to NASH and some 600,000 to NASH-related cirrhosis. Eating a lot of trans-fats, being overweight and not exercising also can contribute to NASH. Most people with NASH also have Type II diabetes.
What is alarming is that NASH is now the third-leading reason for liver transplantation in America. And it will become the most common if recent trends continue. Rates of NASH have doubled in America during the past 20 years alongside a dramatic increase in sugar consumption.
Estimates vary, but conservatively, 31% of American adults and 13% of kids suffer from NAFLD.
How do you know if you have a liver problem?
You should be concerned if you or your kids have a “sugar belly” or belly fat. If your waist is larger than your hips, you should ask your doctor for a blood test that checks for triglyceride levels.
A sugar belly occurs when the liver detects more fructose than can be used by the body for energy. That excess fructose is broken down by the liver and transformed into fat globules (triglycerides), some of which are exported into the bloodstream and selectively deposited around your midsection and internal organs. Just as people who drink too much get a “beer belly,” those who eat or drink too much fructose can get a “sugar belly.”
Fat cells that accumulate around your midsection send out disruptive hormonal messages that upset your body’s normal chemical balance. Scientists are actively studying how these hormonal imbalances become implicated in a wide variety of diseases, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
- An Avocado a Day Keeps Body Fat Away
People are terrified to eat fat. Calorie counting, non-fat diets are a craze in the dieting world, but they make …
- Feel the Beet with These 5 Recipes
Beets pack a powerful antioxidant touch, and offer an earthy sweetness to dishes that feature them. They are an excellent …
- The Effects of Chemicals in Processed Food Can Be Made Worse by The Presence of Other Chemicals
We know that chemicals in processed foods are bad for us, but they may be even worse for us than …
- Warning: Diet Drinks Not as Healthy as You Think
Every year, more and more people turn away from their favorite sugary sodas and pick up the diet version instead. …
- Burn Stubborn Belly Fat With THIS Metabolism-Boosting Detox Water
It’s important to stay hydrated throughout the day. Water is the best beverage choice and there are ways we can …
- You Can Help Your Thyroid by Temporarily Reducing or Avoiding Goitrogenic Foods
The thyroid is part of the endocrine system, a small gland shaped like a butterfly and located in the lower …
- Can’t Afford Organic All The Time? No Worries, These 15 Foods Have Virtually No Pesticides!
Foods that are pesticides free – Accessibility? While many health-conscious shoppers choose to buy organic produce, the reality is that …
- This Is How Processed Foods Affect Your Gut Microbiome In The Long-Run
It’s no secret that modern Western diets aren’t ideal, but exactly how diets high in processed foods can impact our …
- This Ancient Spice Fights Diabetes, Boosts Your Metabolism And Sharpens Your Memory
You know the saying, “Cinnamon and spice, and all things nice.” Well, maybe there is actually some truth to this …
- Eating Cacao Nibs Is Linked To Better Heart Health And Improved Digestion
Raw cacao is considered a super food and has been growing in popularity as an alternative to processed chocolates, which …
- 5 Superfoods That Can Help Your Sore Throat
We all know what that little tickle in the back means when it starts, or when you feel like you …
- 4 Hidden Ways Drinking Ice-Cold Water Is Bad For You
Ice-cold drinks are refreshing in the summer heat, and drinking ice water can help you burn calories(1). But there’s lots …
- Selenium-Rich Foods Help Support Your Immune System Against Certain Types of Cancer
New evidence shows that selenium – naturally found in foods like garlic and broccoli and various nuts – can help …
- What Happens to Your Body When You Drink Carrot Juice Daily?
Carrots are one of the most popular vegetables in North America. This orange root vegetable also comes in purple, black, …
- 2 Little-Known Facts About Cheap Tea That Could Put You In Danger (And What To Do About It)
Did you ever think that something as healthy as tea can have hidden toxins? Big brand tea companies you often …