Health outcomes of a high fructose intake: the importance of physical activity

J Physiol. 2019 Jul;597(14):3561-3571. doi: 10.1113/JP278246. Epub 2019 Jun 9.


Fructose metabolism is generally held to occur essentially in cells of the small bowel, the liver, and the kidneys expressing fructolytic enzymes (fructokinase, aldolase B and a triokinase). In these cells, fructose uptake and fructolysis are unregulated processes, resulting in the generation of intracellular triose phosphates proportionate to fructose intake. Triose phosphates are then processed into lactate, glucose and fatty acids to serve as metabolic substrates in other cells of the body. With small oral loads, fructose is mainly metabolized in the small bowel, while with larger loads fructose reaches the portal circulation and is largely extracted by the liver. A small portion, however, escapes liver extraction and is metabolized either in the kidneys or in other tissues through yet unspecified pathways. In sedentary subjects, consumption of a fructose-rich diet for several days stimulates hepatic de novo lipogenesis, increases intrahepatic fat and blood triglyceride concentrations, and impairs insulin effects on hepatic glucose production. All these effects can be prevented when high fructose intake is associated with increased levels of physical activity. There is also evidence that, during exercise, fructose carbons are efficiently transferred to skeletal muscle as glucose and lactate to be used for energy production. Glucose and lactate formed from fructose can also contribute to the re-synthesis of muscle glycogen after exercise. We therefore propose that the deleterious health effects of fructose are tightly related to an imbalance between fructose energy intake on one hand, and whole-body energy output related to a low physical activity on the other hand.

Keywords: de novo lipogenesis; exercise metabolism; exercise recovery; gluconeogenesis; lactate production.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Energy Intake / physiology*
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Fructose / metabolism*
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Glycogen / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Lactic Acid / metabolism
  • Lipogenesis / physiology
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism


  • Fructose
  • Lactic Acid
  • Glycogen
  • Glucose