IsaLean is a meal replacement put out by Isagenix. It tastes great. What makes it taste great? In part, 23 grams of fructose. Hmmm . . . the new “f” word. Fructose. Fructose is bad, isn’t it? After all, we hear terrible things about high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). We hear it’s in pastries and snack foods and while those foods were never healthy, today they’ll kill ya . . . they’re loaded with fructose.
Oh, wait, but then there are those folks who recognize fructose as the sugar in fruit and honey and that must make it a natural choice. So what’s the real story on this much publicized but misunderstood sweetener?
Let’s start with the basics. Fructose is the sugar found in fruit . . . but . . . the sugar that you get in the little packet that you pour into your coffee is found in sugar cane . . . and that too is natural.
The larger question here is, what happens to the biological / biochemical / hormonal environment when these compounds are consumed
The average American consumes near 170 pounds of sugar a year, and I’ve addressed the negative ramifications of high sugar intake in seminars, appearances, and articles for years. Type II diabetes and escalations in obesity are direct “side effects” of chronic long term high or erratic sugar intake.
Fructose (a part of the sucrose molecule in partnership with glucose) makes foods sweet, and people are more likely to enjoy pastries, snack foods, juices, and the like if those foodstuffs are “sweetened.”
Food manufacturers have always recognized the product value of sweeteners. If you are a food manufacturer, your employees show up for work every day so that the company can show a profit, and if you reduce costs without reducing selling price . . . profits increase. It’s simple math. You also understand that if a given ingredient has a significant impact on taste and mouth feel, volume of sales will increase.
HFCS came along in the 1960’s when science learned to take the dextrose (glucose) extracted from corn (starch) and through enzymatic conversions, intensify the sweetness converting much of the dextrose into fructose. In other words, much if not most of the fructose in HFCS is manufactured, not taken from our friend the apple.
This offered those food manufacturers a bonanza. HFCS was cheap! Very cheap!
Before I share where, in the grocery, you’re going to find the greatest concentrations of fructose, let’s go back to how fructose behaves in the human body. In its natural form, fructose is absorbed through the wall of the intestine (although HFCS may ferment in the colon), and unlike glucose which can be metabolized anywhere in the body, fructose heads to the liver. If we consider “nature” and the natural availability of foods, we get protein from animal foods (and select plant foods), we get complex carbs from starches, and we get fructose from berries, grapes, and fruits that grow on trees. Fruits are water dense and when considered as a part of a “natural” overall nutrition program, fructose constitutes a very small percentage of the caloric compounds we ingest. In other words, while our livers are naturally prepared for small amounts of fructose, nature never provided us the intense fructose concentrations we find in manufactured foods. High fructose corn syrup is not in and of itself the problem (although it certainty presents its unique challenges) but the overall volume of fructose children (and adults) consume today is unnatural. In that, the liver is metabolically challenged with voluminous amounts of fructose. Through a complex metabolic conversion, the liver converts fructose into fatty acids and the consequential outcome is an increase in triglycerides, and fat accumulation in the liver itself (the sudden escalation in “fatty liver” in adolescents and children has taken the causality away from predominantly indicting alcohol and now including HFCS as a primary contributor).
If you were to eat supportively, natural foods, and in the course of the day consume an apple, a handful of berries, and a few citrus treats, you’d enjoy small amounts of fructose without any metabolic disruption. In fact, the ingestion of the natural fruits would serve as a welcome source of energy. When we begin to look at how HFCS has infiltrated the shelves of the grocery store, you begin to understand how “excess” happened.
Supermarket-sold whole wheat breads, English muffins, sandwich rolls, and baked breakfast treats not only get their taste in great part from HFCS, but they also attribute their beautiful slightly brown color and comforting mouth feel to this manufactured sweetening compound.
Soft drinks rely on sweeteners for taste. Not only is HFCS the most intensely sweet sugar, but it preserves taste and increases shelf life of these best selling beverages.
Start to peruse the shelves that house pasta sauces and pizza sauces. They’re all made from tomatoes and flavored with sweeteners that reduce the tart taste tomatoes bring. HFCS does a wonderful job of balancing tartness. Ditto for barbecue sauces and other taste enhancing sauce products made with a tomato base.
It’s in flavored yogurts, the yogurt products aimed at children, and many salad dressings. It’s in cereals, lunch meats, sausage products, macaroni and cheese products, packaged processed foods, juices, juice concentrates, and the boxed and packaged kid’s meals. It’s even in flavored children’s cold medicines and cough syrups.
High Fructose Corn Syrup has proven a great boon to the manufacturers of product, both because of its taste and because of its ability to extend shelf life.
With this abbreviated list demonstrating the prevalence of HFCS in the average American food system, it should become blatantly clear how “the natural sugar in fruit” differs from “the fructose consumed by Americans.”
I started by mentioning IsaLean by Isagenix. What prompted me to post this was a Facebook comment critical of the fructose in what may be a very good product. Fructose is not bad. Too much fructose and chemically created fructose are bad. If a product made to provide superior nutrition to people caught up in the eating habits that plague our nation contains the fructose of ¾ of an apple, let’s not throw it out as bad.
I have become not only a fan of, but a distributor of the Isagenix product line, and at first, I had the knee-jerk reaction when I saw “23 grams of fructose.” Isalean is a product aimed at helping the mainstream replace high-fat high-sugar low-nutrient meals that are the standard fare with a nutrient-strong formula. In order for the consumer to use it with any regularity, it must taste good, and 23 grams of fructose (3/4 of an apple) is reasonable, especially when included in a product with a superior protein, complementary enzymes, and a supportive and valuable micronutrient mix.
I will add, Isagenix makes lower sugar and sugar-free powders for athletes and the more fitness-conscious marketplace. I don’t use Isalean. I steer my clients toward two other products. Isapro is an exceptional protein powder and IsaLeanPro is a lower-fructose higher-protein meal replacement than Isalean.
My intention in this article was to help shed some light on the difference between “eating fructose” and “making high fructose corn syrup a mainstay.” I hope I did that well. I also hoped I could minimize the knee-jerk reaction that is commonplace when people hear that I’ve connected with a multi-level-marketing product line and they find a single line item questionable and in an instant dismiss the entire line. Using and selling Isagenix was not a random move on my part. If you want to know why I stepped away from my own nutritional supplement company to begin representing Isagenix, you’ll want to read this revealing report:
Know this. Fructose is not bad. Too much fructose is unhealthy, and getting excesses of fructose from manufactured compounds is . . . well . . . very different than enjoying a high quality meal or meal replacement sweetened with a reasonable amount of natural sugar.