Saturday

US Fructose Consumption Trends


As you may have noticed, I suspect fructose is involved in overweight and other health problems. It seems to have adverse effects on fat deposition in the liver and insulin sensitivity that could be related to its association with weight gain. I looked through USDA estimated per capita consumption of different sweeteners to get an idea of how fructose consumption has changed in the US in the time since adult obesity rates have doubled.

In 1970, we ate an estimated 72.5 lb/year of cane and beet sugar (sucrose) per person, which is 50% fructose and 50% glucose. We also ate 0.4 lb/year of corn syrup, which is most commonly 55% fructose, 45% glucose. Consumption of other unspecified sweeteners was 12.0 lb/year, for a total intake of 84.9 lb/year of added sweeteners.

In 2007, we ate an estimated 44.2 lb/year of sucrose, 40.1 lb/year of corn syrup, and 12.9 lb/year of other unspecified sweeteners, for a
total added sweetener intake of 97.2 lb/year. Doing the math, and generously assuming that the "other" sweeteners are 100% honey (~50% fructose), here are the results:
  • 1970: 42.5 lb/year of added fructose.
  • 2007: 50.6 lb/year of added fructose.
At 19%, it's not a staggering increase, but it's definitely significant. I also think it's an underestimate, because it doesn't include fruit juice or total fruit consumption, both of which have increased. Other notable findings: grain intake has increased 41% between 1970 and 2005, due chiefly to rising consumption of processed wheat products. Added fats and oils have increased 63% in the same time period, with the increase coming exclusively from vegetable fats. The use of hydrogenated shortening has more than doubled.

What has caused the dramatic expansion of American waistlines in the last 30 years? No one knows for sure, but I think it's probably related to diet since the percentage of people who exercise has actually
increased in the same time period. My money is on the wheat and sugar, with possible contributions from hydrogenated oil, polyunsaturated vegetable oils and chemical pollutants. The reason is that wheat and sugar seem to have devastating metabolic effects on populations throughout the world, such as the Pima.