Towards a Healthy Liver

Part 1- Not All Sugars are Sweet for the Liver!

Glucose is a precious fuel and the primary energy source of our body. So have you ever wondered why sweetened beverages and soft drinks are considered unhealthy? Most of these drinks are sweetened with sugars such as sucrose or high fructose corn syrup, containing ∼50–55% fructose. Like glucose, fructose is a simple monosaccharide sugar or carbohydrate with the same molecular formula (C6H12O6) and is mainly found in fruits and vegetables like beets, corn, and potatoes. Glucose is derived from rice, bread, pasta & starchy vegetables like potatoes, peas, corn, zucchini, etc. The table sugar or sucrose contains both glucose and fructose in an exact 50/50 ratio. Both glucose and fructose provide a similar amount of 4 kcal/g calories. Then why is fructose harmful? Let’s first understand what the differences between these two simple sugars are. In terms of glycemic index, a scale from zero to 100 indicates how quickly a carbohydrate increases a person’s blood sugar levels, and glucose has a higher index of 100 while fructose has 23. This means that although glucose is rapidly absorbed in the blood, fructose is digested and absorbed relatively slowly. Now since glucose is rapidly absorbed, it also quickly raises the blood sugar levels and stimulates insulin production, whereas fructose has a negligible impact on circulating insulin levels. High blood insulin quickly elevates levels of a satiety hormone, leptin. At the same time, after a glucose-rich meal, we feel glutted, while consumption of fructose-rich foods leaves us still hungry and craving, thus contributing to overeating. Another significant difference between glucose and fructose is that excess fructose is converted to fatty acids in the liver faster than glucose. Increased fructose consumption (up to 60% of daily calories derived from fructose) results in a high lipid accumulation in the liver (fatty liver) and elevated plasma triglyceride levels.

References

1-Bray GA. Energy and fructose from beverages sweetened with sugar or high-fructose corn syrup pose a health risk for some people. Adv Nutr. 2013;4(2):220–5.

About author

Dr. Savneet Kaur pursued Ph.D. from IGIB, Delhi, and DBT-postdoctoral fellowship from SCTIMST, Kerala. Currently, she is an Assistant Professor in the ‘Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences (ILBS),’ New Delhi. Her research in ILBS revolves around vascular biology of the liver, deciphering cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying liver inflammation and fibrosis. She has significantly contributed to understanding how bone marrow-derived endothelial cells interact with resident liver cells and participate in liver fibrosis. For her work, she has received the prestigious young investigator award from the ‘American Association for the Study of Liver Disease.’ Current efforts of her team are directed towards developing endothelial cell-based targeted therapies for liver diseases. Dr. Savneet is a nominated member of the CPCSEA, Govt of India, and serves as ‘Scientist-in-charge’ of the Animal House Facility in ILBS. Besides the lab, she likes experimenting and innovating in her kitchen.

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