A study out of Princeton University reveals new thinking on exactly how your body handles concentrated fructose, and it also tries to pinpoint the ‘optimal’ time for you to enjoy a sweet treat.
Diets high in concentrated fructose, a highly concentrated form of sugar, have been linked to the occurrence of certain diseases, such as diabetes, cirrhosis, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease or liver cancer. Concentrated fructose is a common ingredient in a lot of processed foods and beverages, such as soda, breakfast cereal or fruit drinks.
How the Body Processes Concentrated Fructose
In a study led by Joshua D. Rabinowitz, of the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics at Princeton University, researchers observed how the body processes concentrated fructose. They tracked the path of isotope-labeled fructose through the digestive systems of laboratory mice. They found that when moderate amounts of fructose were consumed, such as that in fruits and vegetables, ninety percent of it was processed in the small intestine, with the remaining, smaller amounts continuing on through the colon.
Highly concentrated solutions of fructose, such as soda, sweets and processed snack foods, much more excess concentrated fructose is present to spill over into the colon and the liver. There, it comes into contact with the natural microbiotic flora of the large intestine and colon, which was not intended to process concentrated fructose.
“The small intestine probably starts to get overwhelmed with sugar halfway through a can of soda or large glass of orange juice,” the researchers suggest.
Once concentrated fructose reaches the liver, it is used to create fat, called lipogenesis. This fat builds up around the liver, creating conditions which support disease. With diets high in excess sugar consumption, this becomes a chronic situation.
Is There a ‘Best’ (and Worst) Time to Indulge?
Researchers also observed how the body reacts to concentrated fructose at different times of the day. “We saw that feeding of the mice prior to the sugar exposure enhanced the small intestine’s ability to process fructose,” said Rabinowitz in the study. “That protected the liver and the microbiome from sugar exposure.”
While more research is suggested, Rabinowitz encourages people to follow the “old-fashioned advice” of limiting sweets to moderate quantities. Opting for natural sugars, such as those in fruits and vegetables, is preferable over ultra-processed foods and packaged snacks. He also suggests that the ‘best’ time for your body to process sugary treats might be following a meal, while the worst time might be coming off times of fasting, such as morning or mid-afternoon.
Worried you may have over-indulged in your favorite sweet? Check out our article Sugar Binge Recovery: 6 Ways to Reset Your System.
Debbie Swanson is a freelance writer, published in numerous national and local outlets. An avid vegetarian, animal lover and reader, she loves learning about healthy eating and finding natural cures for everyday ailments.