Autumn 2008

Small candy-coated chocolates

Olivier Blondeau/

Sweet Nothings

Sneaky calories don’t stay hidden

Tame that sweet tooth. A new study finds that Americans are getting more than 10 percent of their daily calories from fructose.

Fructose occurs naturally in fruits and vegetables; however, it is added to many processed foods as table sugar (sucrose) and high-fructose corn syrup, showing up everywhere from fruit drinks to pasta sauce to bread.

Fructose consumption is up almost 50 percent from the late 1970s, according to a study by Assistant Professor of Pediatrics Miriam Vos and coauthor Jean Welsh 09PhD, a graduate student in the Rollins School of Public Health nutrition program.

Adolescents from twelve to eighteen consumed the most fructose, at 12 percent of their total calories, with a fourth of adolescents receiving at least 15 percent of their calories from fructose. The largest source of fructose was sugar-sweetened beverages (30 percent), followed by grains (22 percent) and fruit or fruit juice (19 percent).

A growing body of evidence suggests that eating too much fructose can harm people’s health. “Fructose is a lipogenic sugar and can elevate blood levels of triglycerides,” Vos says. “Before the modern era of food manufacturing, fructose was likely consumed in a more intermittent, seasonal fashion.”