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Fructose metabolism in humans – what isotopic tracer studies tell us

Sam Z Sun* and Mark W Empie

Author Affiliations

Compliance, Archer Daniels Midland Company, 1001 North Brush College Road, Decatur, IL, 62521, USA

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Nutrition & Metabolism 2012, 9:89  doi:10.1186/1743-7075-9-89

Published: 2 October 2012


Fructose consumption and its implications on public health are currently under study. This work reviewed the metabolic fate of dietary fructose based on isotope tracer studies in humans. The mean oxidation rate of dietary fructose was 45.0% ± 10.7 (mean ± SD) in non-exercising subjects within 3–6 hours and 45.8% ± 7.3 in exercising subjects within 2–3 hours. When fructose was ingested together with glucose, the mean oxidation rate of the mixed sugars increased to 66.0% ± 8.2 in exercising subjects. The mean conversion rate from fructose to glucose was 41% ± 10.5 (mean ± SD) in 3–6 hours after ingestion. The conversion amount from fructose to glycogen remains to be further clarified. A small percentage of ingested fructose (<1%) appears to be directly converted to plasma TG. However, hyperlipidemic effects of larger amounts of fructose consumption are observed in studies using infused labeled acetate to quantify longer term de novo lipogenesis. While the mechanisms for the hyperlipidemic effect remain controversial, energy source shifting and lipid sparing may play a role in the effect, in addition to de novo lipogenesis. Finally, approximately a quarter of ingested fructose can be converted into lactate within a few of hours. The reviewed data provides a profile of how dietary fructose is utilized in humans.

Fructose; Glucose; Isotope tracer; Metabolism