Fructose and Glucose: What’s the Difference?

energy (1)
Sugar - types

Fructose has become a buzzword in the last decade or so, as obesity rates have soared and solutions continue to be drafted by nutritionists and government officials alike. It’s unfortunately associated almost exclusively with high fructose corn syrup, which is a primary ingredient in popular beverages like energy drinks, fruit juices, and sodas—as well as things like peanut butter, cereal, ketchup, and sliced bread. Fructose itself, though, is simply a type of sugar. It need not be viewed as a second-class citizen when compared to glucose. They’re both bad for you in excess, and overconsumption of both is a big contributor in obesity and weight struggles across the population.

So, what is the difference?

With that said, they aren’t exactly the same. While the corn producers would have you believe there’s no difference between fructose and glucose, as conveyed in their commercials, that’s not exactly true. A recent study revealed a greater increase in triglycerides and decreased insulin sensitivity in patients that consumed fructose in comparison to those that consumed glucose.

The results weren’t as substantial as many anticipated, providing some validation to the apologetic commercials of Corn Refiners Association. However, they were conclusive enough to determine more negative affects from fructose than glucose. The answer to the question of which is worse, as is often the case, is somewhere in between the two extremes. No, high fructose corn syrup is not a monster on par with battery acid as many people have been convinced it is, but that doesn’t mean it’s exactly the same as other sweeteners, either. While there isn’t scientific evidence to prove HFCS is worse than other sugars, this study shows fructose has more negative effects than glucose.

person testing blood

Having the occasional soda isn’t much different than putting a little bit of sugar in your coffee or having a slice of chocolate cake every once in a while. Sweets and treats are part of what make life wonderful, but it’s important to show restraint when it comes to unhealthy foods and drinks. Avoiding foods with high fructose corn syrup in them like they’re a plague isn’t necessary; yet cutting back on glucose and fructose alike is probably a good idea.

What kind of sugar is in fruit?

Fresh fruits. Fruit background

By now you may be asking, what kind of sugar is in fruit? The answer is: both. Most fruits contain fructose and glucose.

As nutrition physiologist Helen Kollias points out, the amount of glucose and fructose in fruit is small enough that you don’t need to worry about having too much in your diet. Unhealthy levels arise when excessively sugary foods and drinks are consumed regularly. In her article for Precision Nutrition, Kollias calculates that 1 liter of soda has roughly the same amount of fructose as 10 apples (apples and pears contain more fructose than any other fruit). Of course that soda doesn’t have the fiber and healthy vitamins that fruits do.

sugar in the bowl and on a table

How will my body react to less sugar?

One of the positives to consuming less sugar is that your body will adjust to the lower intake. While cutting back may initially result in feeling less energetic, as is the case with caffeine, once your body gets used to no longer relying on excessive amounts of fructose or glucose as energy kicks, you will have longer lasting, more stable energy levels in no time.

About Zac Howard

Zac Howard is a writer on The Path Editorial Team. He is a graduate of Florida State University and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in magazine journalism at NYU. With his passion for lifting and dieting, Zac enjoys writing about all different kinds of exercise as well as keeping up with the latest news in the world of fitness. For more of his work, visit his website.

About Zac Howard

Zac Howard is a writer on The Path Editorial Team. He is a graduate of Florida State University and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in magazine journalism at NYU. With his passion for lifting and dieting, Zac enjoys writing about all different kinds of exercise as well as keeping up with the latest news in the world of fitness. In addition to his contributions on The Path, he is a fitness beat writer for NYU Magazine. For more of his work, visit NYUMag.com.