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What is Fructose Sugar?

By Emma G.
Updated May 17, 2024
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Fructose sugar is a type of simple sugar essential in the human diet. It occurs naturally in fruits, honey, and other foods, but can be made in a laboratory as well. Sometimes it is wrongly confused with high fructose corn syrup. This sugar has several qualities that make it ideal for use in processed foods but can cause some health concerns if overused.

Monosaccharides are crystalline simple sugars. There are three monosaccharides that are important in the human diet: glucose, galactose, and fructose sugar. These sugars are usually colorless and dissolve easily in water.

Fructose sugar appears naturally in foods such as honey, fruit, and root vegetables. The naturally occurring form of fructose sugar is known as molecular fructose. Molecular fructose was discovered by French chemist Augustine-Pierre Dubrunfaut in 1847.

When fructose is created in a laboratory, it is called crystalline fructose. This form of fructose is produced from fructose-enriched corn syrup. As both are associated with corn syrup, it is often confused with high fructose corn syrup. The difference is that fructose is a simple sugar, while high fructose corn syrup is a complex sugar made with both fructose and glucose.

Several characteristics make fructose sugar ideal for use in processed foods. First, because fructose is fairly simple to produce, it costs less than more complex sugars. Fructose sugar becomes more or less sweet depending on how it is processed. Overall, fructose has a high relative sweetness when compared with other types of sugar.

Second, fructose is the most water soluble of all the sugars, so it works well to sweeten liquids. Fructose is also good at absorbing moisture. Once the moisture is absorbed, it can be retained for a long time. This characteristic makes fructose useful for improving the quality, texture, and shelf life of food products.

Fructose sugar does have some drawbacks. Although this sugar is important to the human diet, it can be harmful if consumed in excess. Studies have shown that high consumption of fructose sugar increases body fat. This can lead to complications like obesity, high blood pressure, and high triglyceride counts. These effects are about the same as found in common table sugar, sucrose.

Some people suffer from fructose malabsorption. Fructose is absorbed mostly by the small intestine. When it is not absorbed completely, fructose travels to the large intestine, where it causes the production of carbon dioxide. This can lead to bloating and flatulence, pain, and diarrhea.

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Discussion Comments

By miriam98 — On Feb 22, 2012

@Mammmood - I tend to have the belief that anything in its natural form is bound to be less harmful to you than anything in its processed form. With that in mind, I do use some honey now and then with my tea. I think it’s better than regular sugar.

Am I wrong in my belief? I don’t know. But I can’t imagine anything coming from nature to be that bad. I do agree, however, that moderation in all things is the key.

By Mammmood — On Feb 22, 2012

@everetra - I went on one of those high protein diets once, and they recommended that I strictly limit my consumption of fruits. Certain fruits were okay; these were fruits that had a low glycemic index. I think grapefruit was considered okay and some berries too.

But overall the suggestion was to keep fruit consumption to a minimum and load up instead on protein and vegetables. Of course, they told me to stay away from all carbohydrates too.

I eventually gave up on that diet, and do incorporate more fruit into my diet. But I avoid fruit juice like the plague.

By everetra — On Feb 21, 2012

I saw this program on television about weird diet addictions. This one guy had become very obese, and apparently he loved oranges. He loved them so much that he ate about twenty of them a day!

You’d think that would be healthy, but it’s not. The excess vitamin C won’t harm you. Your body will just flush that out of your system. However the fructose sugar calories will get you.

In that sense, it’s almost as bad as eating a whole bunch of candy bars. Of course on balance natural foods are always better than processed foods, but anything eaten in excess is bad.

That’s why I try to limit my consumption of fruits; vegetables on the other hand, are much better for you, from a dietary perspective.

By Monika — On Feb 21, 2012

I really feel like the general public is not aware that fructose can be just as harmful as regular sugar. A lot of "healthy" food brands advertise that their products are sweetened with fructose, and say that it's so much healthier than regular sugar. When really it's not!

I feel like advertisers shouldn't be able to make these false claims about their products. If fructose is really just as bad for you as table sugar, people should know about it!

By Azuza — On Feb 20, 2012

@strawCake - That's interesting that fructose is actually sweeter than table sugar. I'm surprised. And I'm also surprised that fructose can be bad for you in large amounts, just like regular sugar. I always thought that when it came to fructose vs. sugar, fructose would be the clear winner. Very interesting.

Anyway, I actually like to eat fruit as a desert sometimes, since it's so sweet. Sometimes I'll have some strawberries and blueberries with honey drizzled on top for desert after dinner. It makes me feel good because berries are supposed to be a really good source of antioxidants, so I feel like it's better than eating cookies or something.

By strawCake — On Feb 20, 2012

Fun fact: fructose is actually many times sweeter than table sugar! Fructose shouldn't be consumed excessively though, but I think some people take it too far. Fruit is good for you and part of a well balanced diet.

You shouldn't be eating fruit all day long, but a few servings of fruit in a day is good for you. A lot of fruits contain fiber, antioxidants, and other vitamins that are good for you!

Someone was trying to tell me the other day the fruit is "bad for you" and I'm just not buying it. As long as you eat everything in moderation, I think you'll be fine.

By burcinc — On Feb 20, 2012

@ddljohn-- So should I not be giving my kids fruit juice then?

I always pack fruit juice in their lunch bags and we always have it at home and I give it to them when they want something to drink with their food. I drink soda and they want soda too. I tell them that it's bad and that they should have fruit juice instead.

Isn't fructose sugar in fruit juice way better than corn syrup in soda? And what about high fructose corn syrup vs table sugar? I would like to know how all of these compare to one another. Does anyone know?

By ddljohn — On Feb 19, 2012

@ysmina-- I completely agree with you!

I did one of those all fruit fad diets once for detoxification. I basically only ate fruit for a week -- it was crazy!

I would feel good for a while after eating but then I would suddenly feel very hungry like my blood sugar just plummeted. Then I would eat fruit again and a few hours later the same thing happened. I just couldn't handle it after a week, I must have really messed up my system by spiking my blood sugar so rapidly.

Now I still buy fructose sugar and fruit but I eat in moderation. Moderation is key and I also try to avoid having it in the morning. It doesn't seem like the smartest thing to do after a whole night of starvation. I think fructose sugar is least harmful after workouts. I'm really low on energy then and fructose seems to balance it.

By ysmina — On Feb 19, 2012

Fructose sugar is commonly known as the sugar in fruit. And because of this, people think that it is less harmful than other types of sugar or just not harmful at all. But it's not true!

I'm only 25 years old and I've just been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I have always had a sweet tooth but used to prefer fruits and food products with fructose in it rather than corn syrup fructose or regular sugar. But after becoming a diabetic, I had to cut all of this from my diet. I am now only allowed 1-2 portions of fruit per day and that's it.

The best way to have fructose is in whole fruit apparently. Because fruit also has fiber in it which causes the sugar to enter our blood stream more slowly. I also have some milk or plain yogurt with fruit to slow the absorption of it even further.

So don't think that fructose is safe and try to only have it in fruit form if possible! I want to warn people about sugar so that they don't become a diabetic like me so early.

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