The potential impact on health of diets rich in free sugars, and particularly fructose, is of major concern. The focus of this review is the impact of these sugars on insulin resistance and obesity, and the associated risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Much of the concern is focussed on specific metabolic effects of fructose, which are argued to lead to increased fat deposition in the liver and skeletal muscle with subsequent insulin resistance and increased risk of diabetes. However, much of the evidence underpinning these arguments is based on animal studies involving very large intakes of the free sugars. Recent human studies, in the past 5 years, provide a rather different picture, with a clear dose response link between fructose intake and metabolic changes. In particular, the most marked effects are observed when a high sugars intake is accompanied by an excess energy intake. This does not mean that a high intake of free sugars does not have any detrimental impact on health, but rather that such an effect seems more likely to be a result of the high sugars intake increasing the chances of an excessive energy intake rather than it leading to a direct detrimental effect on metabolism.
Keywords: Diabetes mellitus; Fructose; Glucose; HFCS; Insulin resistance; Sucrose; Sugars.