Fructose sugar is a type of simple sugar essential in the human diet. It occurs naturally in fruits, honey, and other foods, but can be made in a laboratory as well. Sometimes it is wrongly confused with high fructose corn syrup. This sugar has several qualities that make it ideal for use in processed foods but can cause some health concerns if overused.
Monosaccharides are crystalline simple sugars. There are three monosaccharides that are important in the human diet: glucose, galactose, and fructose sugar. These sugars are usually colorless and dissolve easily in water.
Fructose sugar appears naturally in foods such as honey, fruit, and root vegetables. The naturally occurring form of fructose sugar is known as molecular fructose. Molecular fructose was discovered by French chemist Augustine-Pierre Dubrunfaut in 1847.
When fructose is created in a laboratory, it is called crystalline fructose. This form of fructose is produced from fructose-enriched corn syrup. As both are associated with corn syrup, it is often confused with high fructose corn syrup. The difference is that fructose is a simple sugar, while high fructose corn syrup is a complex sugar made with both fructose and glucose.
Several characteristics make fructose sugar ideal for use in processed foods. First, because fructose is fairly simple to produce, it costs less than more complex sugars. Fructose sugar becomes more or less sweet depending on how it is processed. Overall, fructose has a high relative sweetness when compared with other types of sugar.
Second, fructose is the most water soluble of all the sugars, so it works well to sweeten liquids. Fructose is also good at absorbing moisture. Once the moisture is absorbed, it can be retained for a long time. This characteristic makes fructose useful for improving the quality, texture, and shelf life of food products.
Fructose sugar does have some drawbacks. Although this sugar is important to the human diet, it can be harmful if consumed in excess. Studies have shown that high consumption of fructose sugar increases body fat. This can lead to complications like obesity, high blood pressure, and high triglyceride counts. These effects are about the same as found in common table sugar, sucrose.
Some people suffer from fructose malabsorption. Fructose is absorbed mostly by the small intestine. When it is not absorbed completely, fructose travels to the large intestine, where it causes the production of carbon dioxide. This can lead to bloating and flatulence, pain, and diarrhea.