Fructose is Natural, but …

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

I’ve been thinking a lot about fructose lately. And it seems like so are a lot of other people. Every week I get between 10 and 20 letters asking for clarifications about this not-so-sweet subject. Fructose, known colloquially as fruit sugar seems like such an innocuous substance. After al, it come from fruit. And we all know how wonderful fruit is, right? And besides, it’s natural!

Fructose is NaturalWell, at the risk of bursting nutritional and mythological bubbles, it seems that, much like everything else, even natural fruit sugar has a dark side. The problem is that humanity’s exponentially evolving skills at manipulating technology has gotten so sophisticated that we can now extract sugars from plants with such proficiency that we are all getting far more fructose than the body, and specifically the liver can handle. The average American is ingesting around 60 pounds of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and 140 pounds of sucrose every year. When you do the math (HFCS is usually around 55% fructose and sucrose, ordinary table sugar, is around 50% fructose) we’re looking over two pounds of fructose a week, per person, per year. And that doesn’t include the amount people are getting from fruit and honey and other sources. That’s a lot of fructose for a body has evolved and is equipped to handle the sweet stuff in only the smallest of quantities.

So, what’s the problem with fructose? Well, because of the human body is not supposed to be dealing with alot of fructose (for millennia it was a rare find), the metabolic systems that metabolize (process and store) it are easily overloaded. This is especially problematic for the digestive system in general and specifically for the liver. The alarming incidences of fatty liver disease (which is so prevalent that it is now considered a normal part of aging) and pervasive intestinal illnesses are at least partially related to the skyrocketing fructose ingestion statistics.

There is some interesting chemical choreography that is associated with fructose metabolism. One of the most relevant biochemical ballets when it comes to human health or the lack thereof, involves the way fructose can combine with the amino acid tryptophan. The resulting interaction can keep tryptophan from getting to the brain and when this happens BIG trouble can follow!

Tryptophan is incredibly important. It’s a must-have for the repair, recovery and the building of tissue. And, it’s mega, mega important for mood and well being and for getting a good night’s sleep. It gets turned into melatonin and serotonin which are arguably the two most important chemicals in the brain and fundamental to mental health. You can think of tryptophan as natural Prozac and from many people fructose will be blocking it’s access to the brain.

And there’s a fascinating fructose/tryptophan connection to eating behavior. Appetite and satisfaction (the feeling of fullness) a regulated by the brain. We eat or don’t eat in response to signals from the brain and one of the most important determining factors in what type type of signals will be sent is the presence or absence of certain chemicals. One of these is tryptophan. The brain in constantly scanning the blood looking for tryptophan and if it can’t find any, it sends it’s owner out on a highly focused, one-pointed hunt for food. If fructose is complexing with this vital amino acid, dietary tryptophan can become unavailable to the brain and there won’t be enough to activate the satisfaction centers vs. the “let’s go get a Coke or an apple or some kind of sugar” centers. An insatiable appetite for sugar or other foods is the ultimate result.

Another indication of fructose/tryptophan complexing issues is digestive symptoms like gas and bloating and loose stools, although it can show up in other ways. Especially when they occur after eating and drinking fruits, fruit juices and HFCS containing foods. This is especially a problem with big hits of liquid or powdered fructose which are quickly absorbed. Little kids are major victims because of of the vast variety of fructose-containing processed foods that target children. And mothers, please do not do the “apple-juice-in-the-pacifier-tipped- bottle” thing where your baby sucks the sweet toxin out at his leisure. When your baby cries for his apple juice he’s going through withdrawal symptoms that’s are just as severe as those associated with opium. The same with adults. There is a well-researched link between the sweet taste and so-called “opioid” receptors in the brain. These receptors are called “opioid” because they respond to opium. In other words, sugar and opium (think heroin) both “turn on” the same chemical systems in the brain. Which means, sugar is essentially brain heroin and when a baby (or adult) goes without it he screams because he’s withdrawing! That’s one of the main reasons it’s so hard to get off of sugar. It’s a withdrawal stress on, what is for most people, an already stressed out body system. In a way, ingestion of fructose and the associated problems are better than adding another stress in the form of withdrawal.

Taking 500-1000mg of tryptophan or 100-200mg of 5HTP once a day is a great way to stabilize mood and suppress the appetite. It may also be helpful for sugar cravings. 1/2 to 1 teaspoonful of glutamine powder taken once or twice a day may also be helpful. Glutamine powder is tasteless and dissolves easily in a glass of water. Like tryptophan, high brain blood concentrations of glutamine signal satiety. Both of these supplements can be supportive if you’re trying to lose weight. There’s alot more you can do if you’re trying to extricate yourself from the fructose morass. We’ll be addressing those strategies in a later post.

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Nutrition

Beware Ezekial Bread!

Ezekiel Bread
By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

I’ve gotten a few questions lately about this stuff called Ezekiel Bread, which a type of bread that’s made largely from grains and beans that have been sprouted. The entire ingredient deck from this particular form of bread includes various organic sprouted grains (wheat, barley, spelt and millet), something called organic malted barley (which acts as a source of sugar and is used to feed by beer brewers to feed yeast), sprouted beans (soy and lentils), water, yeast and salt, Ezekiel bread is named for the prophet Ezekiel, who in the bible was given a recipe for making bread. Ezekiel 4:9 says: “Take also unto yourself wheat, and barley, and beans, and lentils, and millet, and spelt, and put them in one vessel, and make yourself bread of it…”

The manufacturers of this stuff follow the recipe and make their product which they call Ezekiel bread. It’s a good thing they didn’t read any further when they came up with the recipe because three verses later in Ezekiel 4:12 we learn that God wants to add other stuff to the recipe. Specifically human feces! The exact line from the bible reads: “And thou shall eat it as barley cakes, and thou shall bake it with dung that cometh out of man…”!!

Ezekial BreadIt cannot be argued that sprouted breads are healthy choices when compared to regular bread. The minerals in the grains are more available to the human digestive system and they contain more protein. But that does not mean that these types of bread are overall healthy foods, especially if you have sugar problems.

The difference between sprouted breads and regular bread is mostly in the fact that while the latter is made from wheat flour, which is ground up wheat kernels, sprouted bread, is made from wheat kernels that have already sprouted. Because sprouts use up the sugar in the wheat kernels to make protein, Ezekiel bread has less sugar and more protein. But, because the kernels are typically not sprouted all the way, there is still sugar in Ezekiel Bread, not as much as there is in regular bread perhaps, but unless the kernel is completely sprouted and there is nothing left but the shell, you are still getting sugar. Just check out the nutritional facts that are printed right on the label. Every slice of Ezekiel Bread has 15grams or three teaspoonful of sugar in it. And most people are eating 2 or 3 slices. That means you’re looking at 6 teaspoonfuls of sugar if you’re eating a couple of slices. If you eat 3 or 4, that’s 9 to 12 teaspoonfuls of sugar. It’s not ordinary “table sugar”, its starch but it’s still going to get turned into sugar in your body, and it will raise blood sugar and create an insulin response.

One of the most obvious red flags when it comes to sprouted breads like Ezekiel Bread is that fact people really like it! And what is it that makes Ezekiel Bread such a popular alternative among the blood-sugar -conscious folks who try it? It’s probably not the fat because there’s only about ½ a gram of fat per slice of the stuff. And it’s probably not the protein, because there’s isn’t a lot of protein either. There’s a little fiber, but people don’t exactly go crazy about fiber. And you don’t see a lot of folks going out looking for sprouted barely or millet either. The reason people like Ezekiel Bread is the same reason people like most of the foods they eat. It’s the carbs! And the carbs in this sprouted bread are the same as the carbs in any kind of bread, (although the fiber, can slow down the release of the sugar).

Any way you describe it, the facts it is carbohydrates mean sugar! An average slice of white bread has around 20-25 calories, but an average slice of Ezekiel bread has 80 calories. There are over 3 times more calories in a slice of Ezekiel bread then there is a slice of white bread. And these are sugar dense calories. In fact NOT including the fiber (which is non-caloric), almost half the calories from Ezekiel Bread come from carbohydrates/sugar. It may not be pure sucrose or table sugar. It may be in the form of starch, but it will still have an effect on your blood glucose. 3 teaspoonfuls of sugar per slice! Ezekiel bread does have some protein value, so it’s not as bad as white bread or cake or pasta, which are awful and empty foods, but it’s still a load of sugar; sugar that you don’t need.
This is why we have to be savvy, why we have to be nutrition label readers. No one can deny that sprouted breads are better that regular bread, but if you are diabetic or concerned about blood sugar I’d avoid them. And, if you have leaky gut problems or Celiac Disease, or any digestive issues, it important to recognize that sprouted bread still contain gluten and allergenic proteins.

Sprouts are great, but Ezekiel Bread isn’t sprouts and it doesn’t taste anything like sprouts In fact it looks and smells and tastes like bread. A heavy, thick somewhat unusual bread but a “bread” nonetheless.

If we’re having blood sugar problems, and we know we should be getting off the bread, we’re kidding ourselves if we think the solution is to start eating a different type of bread, Ezekiel or otherwise. What we should be attempting to do is wean ourselves off of the bread habit and the bread taste. I’m not beating up on Ezekiel or any other sprouted bread. I’m just saying let’s not be fooling ourselves. Look on the nutrition facts. If it’s says carbohydrates, that means sugar and that means elevation in blood glucose and insulin and that means beware if you’re a diabetic or pre-diabetic. There’s just no other way you can slice it.

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Nutrition