Does Fructose Cause Hunger?

When it comes to fruit, there seems to be two camps.

There are those who classify fruit and veggies under one heading and proudly say that they eat loads of fruit each day (but don’t mention the fact that their veggie consumption pales in comparison). Their kids start the day with freshly squeezed orange juice and snack on grapes, melon and raisins. And rather than heading to the local frozen yogurt shop for dessert…you guessed it, it’s more fruit, perhaps in the form of sorbet or a freshly picked grilled peach.

Then there are those who have sworn off all fruit, regardless of glycemic index simply because they sit far on the other end of the spectrum, having read up on a low FODMAP approach, and anti-candida diet or how eating a zero carb diet is the ticket to weight loss, once and for all.

Who’s right? And who’s being perhaps a little too black and white?

It’s tough to say because in this instance, it’s far from a one-size fits all answer.

Fructose is a type of sugar found in fruits and honey. It is, indeed, a naturally occurring substance.

That doesn’t mean that we should eat as much of it as we may feel like, however.

Let’s use a mango as en example.

Mangoes are at the top of the list for fructose content in fresh fruit, according to USDA figures. The average mango contains about 30 grams of fructose[1].

A liter of Coca Cola has 62.5 grams, so the average 12-ounce can has just over 20.

While I’m certainly not going to pretend that a can of Coke is a better bet than eating a mango, I’m using this example to drive the point home that even that natural food, a piece of fruit, can warrant a huge sugar whollop.

And juice is even worse; Minute Maid 100 percent apple juice has 66 grams of fructose per liter[2]!

So what’s wrong with a little fructose?

Nothing, in and of itself, but if we’re not mindful of the fructose content, as well as overall sugar content in general, as well as when we eat it and combined with what other foods to reduce the glycemic load, we could unknowingly be setting ourselves up for some serious consequences.

Dr. Robert H. Lustig, a professor of pediatrics and an obesity specialist at the University of California, San Francisco contributed to a New York Times article called Is Sugar Toxic[3] a few years back; and this article, written by Gary Taubes, was the premise for a piece written more recently for Harvard Medical School’s Health Publications Blog[4].

Rather than solely being concerned with the villain we already know white sugar to be, we also need to watch out for fructose and it may not matter whether it’s in high-fructose corn syrup, refined sugar, or any other sweetener… or fruit!

Unlike glucose, which serves as fuel for the body, fructose is processed almost entirely in the liver where it is converted to fat, which increases risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease and liver disease.

While getting fructose from whole fruit is different from drinking its juice, since the fructose in whole fruit comes with fiber, which slows down and reduces the absorption of the sugar in the body, at the end of the day, it’s still quite easy to get too much fructose.

And too much fructose, and all sugar for that matter, can absolutely make you feel unnaturally hungry at least, due to triggering the pancreas to release insulin too often, and lead to insulin resistance and diabetes at worst.


Varman Samuel, who studies insulin resistance at Yale School of Medicine explains that the correlation between liver fat and insulin resistance in patients, lean or obese, is “remarkably strong” and that it appears that when you deposit fat in the liver, that’s when you become insulin-resistant.

Only liver cells break down fructose, while virtually every cell in the body can use glucose for energy. As a result, one of the end products of fructose metabolism is triglyceride, a form of fat, which can build up in liver cells and damage liver function.

Fat, on the other hand, when it comprises a higher percentage of the diet, and when balanced with wild, natural proteins and abundant leafy greens can help ward off Type 2 Diabetes.

Incorporating good fats into a the diet helped people with prediabetes reduce their risk of developing full-blown type 2 by almost 60%, according to a landmark government study. And now, emerging research points to the MUFA (mono unsaturated fat) in particular as a potential superhero for controlling blood sugar, reducing insulin resistance, and fighting belly fat specifically visceral belly fat, the dangerous kind found deep in your abdomen and strongly associated with prediabetes and diabetes[5].

Bottom line, if you’re healthy and active, including some low glycemic fruit in your daily regime can work. A handful of blueberries on a salad or some sliced strawberries on the side of your veggie omelet at breakfast make perfect examples.

Other demographics may need to tune in a bit more, if they’re dealing with fructose intolerance or fighting yeast overgrowth, but rather than having a pity party about the fact that for the moment, you’ve got to avoid eating apples, look at the big picture: you’re treating your body with the best possible medicine: food!

[1] “What Fruits Are High in Fructose?” LIVESTRONG.COM. LIVESTRONG.COM, 28 Jan. 2015. Web. 04 Aug. 2015

[2] “Fruit Juice Vs. Soda? Both Beverages Pack In Sugar, Health Risks.” NPR. NPR, n.d. Web. 04 Aug. 2015

[3] Taubes, Gary. “Is Sugar Toxic?” The New York Times. The New York Times, 16 Apr. 2011. Web. 04 Aug. 2015

[4] “Is Fructose Bad for You? – Harvard Health Blog.” Harvard Health Blog RSS. N.p., 26 Apr. 2011. Web. 04 Aug. 2015

[5] “Fight Your Diabetes With Fat.” Prevention. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Aug. 2015