Chronic Fructose Substitution for Glucose or Sucrose in Food or Beverages and Metabolic Outcomes: An Updated Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Mohammad Ishraq Zafar, Michael Frese, Kerry E. Mills

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Abstract

Despite the publication of several of meta-analyses in recent years, the effects of fructose on human health remains a topic of debate. We previously undertook two meta-analyses on post-prandial and chronic responses to isoenergetic replacement of fructose for sucrose or glucose in food or beverages (Evans et al. 2017, AJCN 106:506–518 & 519–529). Here we report on the results of an updated search with a complete re-extraction of previously identified studies and a new and more detailed subgroup-analysis and meta-regression. We identified two studies that were published after our previous analyses, which slightly altered effect sizes and conclusions. Overall, the isoenergetic substitution of fructose for glucose resulted in a statistically significant but clinically irrelevant reduction in fasting blood glucose, insulin, and triglyceride concentrations. A subgroup analysis by diabetes status revealed much larger reductions in fasting blood glucose in people with impaired glucose tolerance and type 2 diabetes. However, each of these subgroups contained only a single study. In people with a healthy body mass index, fructose consumption was associated with statistically significant, but clinically irrelevant reductions in fasting blood glucose and fasting blood insulin. Meta-regression of the outcomes by a number of pre-identified and post-hoc covariates revealed some sources of heterogeneity, such as year of publication, age of the participants at baseline, and participants' sex. However, the small number of studies and the large number of potential covariates precluded detailed investigations of effect sizes in different subpopulations. For example, well-controlled, high quality studies in people with impaired glucose tolerance and type 2 diabetes are still lacking. Taken together, the available data suggest that chronic consumption of fructose is neither more beneficial, nor more harmful than equivalent doses of sucrose or glucose for glycemic and other metabolic outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number647600
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalFrontiers in Nutrition
Volume8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 28 Apr 2021

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