The use of fructose as a sweetener. Is it a safe alternative for our immune system?

J Food Biochem. 2020 Nov;44(11):e13496. doi: 10.1111/jfbc.13496. Epub 2020 Sep 29.


Fructose is a constituent of sucrose and other polymers referred to as inulin or fructans. We can find in cereals, vegetables, and honey. It has the property of being 1.5 times sweeter than sucrose. Our objective was to test this sweetener under and at average concentrations of consumption, evaluating parameters of cytotoxicity, genotoxicity, and immunotoxicity. For this purpose, we made use of lymphocyte cultures and the analysis of their CD4+ and CD8+ subpopulations. Computational methods propose the mechanism of action. Our data showed a reduction in all lymphocyte subfractions evaluated, resulting in a reduction in total lymphocytes, as well as an increase in the DNA damage of cells exposed to fructose. It was possible to propose that fructose modulates gene expression, mainly interfering with the MAPK8, APTX, TUBGCP3, and LST1 genes. Although fructose is used globally as a sweetener, its use should be cautious, as our study points out that it has cytotoxic and genotoxic effects. PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS: Fructose is one of the most sold and used sweeteners in the world. We show here that its use must be restricted and used carefully because it can alter the gene expression and also interfere with cellular and genetic metabolism and may even interfere with the immune response.

Keywords: CD4; CD8; fructose; in silico; in vitro; lymphocytes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Fructose* / adverse effects
  • Immune System
  • Sucrose
  • Sweetening Agents* / toxicity
  • Taste


  • Sweetening Agents
  • Fructose
  • Sucrose