Can fructose in drinks and ready-meals lead to heart failure?

Fructose – often used as a ‘healthier’ alternative sweetener in fruit juices and drinks – can trigger uncontrolled growth of the heart, leading to heart failure, new research has found.

What has research found?

The discovery adds to earlier research that found the liver converts fructose very efficiently into fat, and people who drink large quantities of fructose-sweetened drinks are more likely to put on weight, develop high blood pressure and become insulin resistant, a range of conditions collectively known as metabolic syndrome.

Now Wilhelm Krek from ETH Zurich’s Institute for Molecular Health Sciences has discovered that fructose can also cause the heart to grow uncontrollably.

Fructose seems to be involved in a fatal chain reaction that is more commonly seen in people with high blood pressure (HBP). In HBP patients, the heart grows in order to pump the blood around; however, as it runs out of its usual energy supply of fatty acids, it seeks out sugars, including fructose.

How can I help myself?

The key, as with most things, is moderation. Consuming fruit, which naturally contains fructose, and a fruit juice a day isn’t going to do you any harm, say Krek. But drinking sweet soft juices, often with added sugar, together with ready meals and other foods that contain artificial fructose sweetener can produce a surplus in the body that triggers the mechanisms which can lead to heart failure.

Source – Nature, 2015; doi: 10.1038/nature14508