Not All Sugar is Created Equally - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on June 30, 2015

Not All Sugar is Created Equally

Your brain has a different reaction to the sugar found in fruits (glucose) than to the sugar found in chocolate (fructose).

Your brain has a different reaction to the sugar
found in fruits (glucose) than to the
sugar found in chocolate (fructose).

What do a piece of fruit and a candy bar have in common? Despite one being considered healthy and the other junk food, they happen to both be sweet. But that’s about where their similarities end.

Although they’re both sweet, a report from the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology says that your brain reacts differently to each of these foods based on the sugar in them.

That’s right, according to your brain, not all sugars are created the same, which may offer an explanation to the obesity epidemic in the U.S.

There are two types of sugar: glucose and fructose.

Glucose can be found in fresh and dried fruits as well as some grains, beans, vegetables and nuts. This type of sugar is your body’s primary source of energy and is typically produced through the breakdown of complex carbohydrates. While the same foods, especially fruit, also contain fructose, this simple sugar is typically added to processed foods in the form of high-fructose corn syrup.

So what happens to your brain when you eat foods containing these sugars?

Fructose amplifies the reward circuits in your brain, which can cause you to want to eat whenever you see a food cue. Your brain responds to glucose in a less dramatic way and actually causes the opposite effect: you feel full, not hungry, when you see an image of food.

Studies have shown that glucose reduces activity in the region of your brain known as the hypothalamus, while fructose does not. The hypothalamus controls your hunger and thirst and other metabolic processes. Contrastingly, fructose has been found to produce a smaller increase in satiety hormones.

An estimated two out of three adults in the U.S. are overweight, and one out of three is obese. Changes in the way our food is prepared and how we eat over the past quarter century are thought to be the main offenders for the obesity epidemic, with particular concern about the increase in the amount of fructose we consume.

Think about it: a lot of our foods are processed and contain high-fructose corn syrup. We’re constantly being exposed to tantalizing images of food in commercials, ads, and more. The more high-fructose corn syrup-containing foods you eat, the more likely you’ll be triggered to want to eat when you see an image of food.

Adjusting your diet and lifestyle is the best way to stop this pattern and put a halt to overeating. In particular, avoiding foods that contain fructose whenever possible may make these changes easier and longer lasting.

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