Dieting: There is no Free Lunch

In previous articles we discussed how hormones regulate weight by controlling hunger and how our bodies make use of the calories we then eat. The last article focused on choosing low glycemic index foods to reduce insulin release which causes rapid return of hunger and promotes storage of calories as fat.
Those who understand the health risks of insulin release know they need to avoid sugars. Unfortunately, sugars are yummy, and most of us will go to great lengths to avoid giving them up.
When confronted with uncomfortable facts, humans seek loopholes to continue doing what they want. Savvier food executives know this and want us to buy their products. They know we will if their product offers a solution to our quandary. They also know more people understand glycemic index. They have learned to make tasty packaged foods with a low glycemic index, which they can promote as healthy so consumers will pay a premium to purchase them. Unfortunately, these foods are usually less healthy than the foods they replace.
One way to lower a food’s glycemic index is to add fat. Manufacturers dump cheap oil, usually from genetically modified (GMO) crops like soybeans or corn, into their product. Technically, it lowers glycemic index, but really - does it make sense that adding one unhealthy foodstuff to another makes it better?
Another frequently used additive is fructose. Fructose is a sugar with a low glycemic index - only 19. And, it has a wonderful, natural sounding name.
Unfortunately, fructose is probably worse for us than plain table sugar. Unlike other sugars, which are used in every part of our body, fructose is only metabolized in our livers. This is why our insulin levels don’t spike when we consume fructose - everything happens in the liver, not the bloodstream.
Unfortunately for us, eating fructose causes the same effects as that of eating any other sugar - increased hunger, energy spikes and crashes, and the creation of triglycerides, cholesterol and fat, only now not only in the rest of the body, but in the liver as well. This is felt to be a a major cause of fatty liver disease - one of the major causes of cirrhosis.
Not only does fructose consumption cause all the problems we seek to avoid from eating high glycemic foods, but it is commonly found in packaged foods with little nutritional value. This makes sense; fructose is a cheap product synthesized from GMO corn, heat, bacteria, and a slew of industrial chemicals.
If you see fructose listed as a stand-alone ingredient, you are almost certainly holding something that looks like food, but in reality is a collection of chemicals assembled to mimic the appearance of food - just cheaper and with a longer, more profitable shelf-life. Especially as people are becoming savvy about high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), more manufacturers are using pure fructose to avoid the stigma of HFCS.
Synthetically produced fructose was first introduced in the 70’s as a health food alternative to other sweeteners. It was intended to be safer for diabetics and less likely to promote weight gain. Its introduction may have started the greatest shift in what people eat to occur in this century, and for those of us who have seen national health changes before and after fructose became a dietary mainstay, few think it has improved health.
Please don’t be afraid of fruit because it contains fructose - fruit is delicious and nutritious, with a healthy combination of naturally occurring fructose, fiber, and healthy phytochemicals.
Choosing foods to eat comes down to the basics. Eat real foods, not packaged foods. Eat a wide variety of foods to get the nutrients you need and enjoy a variety of flavors. Try to buy ingredients and prepare them yourself. Only then will you ever know what you are eating.
— Dr. Rebecca Gelber is an Incline Village resident and graduate of The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. She is an adjunct professor with the UNR School of Medicine and practices locally at Tahoe Medical Spa. Call 775-298-1750, or go to for additional articles and information.