"Sweet death": Fructose as a metabolic toxin that targets the gut-liver axis

Cell Metab. 2021 Dec 7;33(12):2316-2328. doi: 10.1016/j.cmet.2021.09.004. Epub 2021 Oct 6.


Glucose and fructose are closely related simple sugars, but fructose has been associated more closely with metabolic disease. Until the 1960s, the major dietary source of fructose was fruit, but subsequently, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) became a dominant component of the Western diet. The exponential increase in HFCS consumption correlates with the increased incidence of obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus, but the mechanistic link between these metabolic diseases and fructose remains tenuous. Although dietary fructose was thought to be metabolized exclusively in the liver, evidence has emerged that it is also metabolized in the small intestine and leads to intestinal epithelial barrier deterioration. Along with the clinical manifestations of hereditary fructose intolerance, these findings suggest that, along with the direct effect of fructose on liver metabolism, the gut-liver axis plays a key role in fructose metabolism and pathology. Here, we summarize recent studies on fructose biology and pathology and discuss new opportunities for prevention and treatment of diseases associated with high-fructose consumption.

Keywords: NASH; cancer; fructos; gut inflammation; metabolic disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2* / metabolism
  • Fructose / adverse effects
  • Fructose / metabolism
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup* / adverse effects
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup* / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Liver / metabolism


  • High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Fructose
  • Glucose