NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Men and women appear to differ in how they metabolize high levels of fructose, a simple sugar commonly used to sweeten drinks and foods.
Short-term high fructose intake among young men resulted in increased blood triglycerides (fats) and decreased insulin resistance, factors associated with an elevated risk for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, report Dr. Luc Tappy and colleagues.
Whereas, “women get rid of the excess sugar load in a (likely) less deleterious way,” said Tappy, of Lausanne University School of Biology and Medicine in Switzerland.
“Hence, gender has to be taken into consideration in studies evaluating the relationship between nutrition and metabolic disorders,” Tappy told Reuters Health.
Tappy and colleagues enlisted 16 healthy, nonsmoking men and women of normal weight and about 23 years of age, to follow two different 6-day diets separated by a 4-week wash-out period.
The 8 men and 8 women did not participate in sports or exercise while following either the “control” diet or the diet that included a lemon-flavored drink containing 3.5 grams of fructose.
“The fructose load used in this study was quite large (corresponding to several liters of sodas per day),” noted Tappy. He and colleagues tested 12 fasting metabolic parameters the day after participants completed each diet, they report in Diabetes Care.
In the men, fructose supplementation caused significant increases in 11 of the 12 factors, including a 5 percent increase in fasting glucose and 71 percent increase in triglyceride levels.
By contrast, women showed a 4 percent increase in glucose and a “markedly blunted,” 16 percent increase in triglycerides after the high fructose diet, the investigators said. Overall, the women showed significant increases in only 4 of the 12 factors tested.
Further studies should more accurately identify gender differences in metabolic pathways and confirm these observations in a larger population, the investigators note.
“One burning question is whether fructose may have more deleterious effects in individuals at high risk for metabolic disorders,” Tappy surmises.