So, if you think consuming more fruits and skipping full meals can make you thinner or eventually healthier, think again.
The Philippine Center for Diabetes Education Foundation Inc. (PCDEF) says fructose can also put everyone’s health at risk. In fact, it is calling on public and private medical practitioners and institutions to intensify efforts to educate Filipinos on the health risks posed by too much consumption of products containing fructose.
At a press conference dubbed Fats and Sugars: Friends or Foes? held at Shangri-La Makati recently, PCDEF Founder and President Dr. Augusto D. Litonjua said Filipinos are not that aware that fructose, a type of sugar found in fruits and sweetened food products and beverages, could cause conditions falling under the so-called metabolic syndrome.
Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions that make people prone to heart diseases, stroke, and diabetes. These include obesity, high blood pressure, high blood triglycerides, low levels of HDL cholesterol, and insulin resistance.
Litonjua explained that fructose is not easily broken down by the body, resulting in formation of harmful chemical compounds such as “bad fat.”
“The USDA made a study wherein people thought table sugar was bad, so they removed table sugar and encouraged people to eat fruits. After which, the prevalence of diabetes and obesity went up along with the increased consumption of fruit sugar – the (diabetes and obesity) rate was higher than when Americans were consuming table sugar or glucose,” Dr. Litonjua explained.
“The reason for that is that fructose is not metabolized by insulin, unlike glucose. Fructose goes to the liver where it is being deposited and the liver turns it into triglyceride, a form of fat storage making the liver fatty with intake of too much fructose,” Dr. Litonjua added.
Litonjua attributed the lack of proper knowledge on the bad effects of fructose to the societal notion that fruits are naturally “good.”
“There’s this notion that fruits are good. But fruit sugar is fructose and these are abundant in fruits,” he said.
Making matters worse is that Filipino consumers are not aware that a chemically produced form of fructose is now widely used in goods sold in the market today. This is known as high-fructose corn syrup (HCFS), an alternative sweetener to raw sugar being used in the manufacturing of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), such as soft drinks and fruit juices.
“If you would ask me if Filipinos aware of the effects of high-fructose corn syrup, I would say no,” Dr. Litonjua said. “The effects of high-fructose corn syrup are not widely known in the country.”
This awareness gap between the Filipinos and the bad effects of fructose, especially HFCS, should be addressed on various fronts and different sectors of society.
Dr. Robert H. Lustig, a professor at the Division of Endocrinology in University of California, San Francisco. Prof. Lustig was also at the press conference. He was in the country to meet with medical practitioners and share findings on several studies on fats, sugars, and Metabolic Syndrome.
The PCDEF is a staunch advocate of education and awareness on diabetes. Dr. Litonjua and a group of doctors and allied professionals dedicated to address the escalating prevalence of diabetes in the Philippines established it in October 1990.
United Laboratories, Inc., a leading pharmaceutical and healthcare company in the Philippines, organized the press conference.
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