Warns of too much fructose consumption
Philippine Center for Diabetes Education Foundation Inc. (PCDEF) founder and president Augusto Litonjua is calling on public and private medical practitioners and institutions to intensify efforts to educate Filipinos on the health risks posed by too much consumption of products containing fructose.
At a lecture dubbed “Fats and Sugars: Friends or Foes?” gathering some 700 doctors on July 26, Litonjua said Filipinos are not that aware that fructose, a type of sugar found in fruits and sweetened food products and beverages, could cause conditions falling under the so-called metabolic syndrome – a cluster of conditions that make people prone to heart diseases, stroke and diabetes. These include obesity, high blood pressure, high blood triglycerides, low levels of HDL cholesterol, and insulin resistance.
“The USDA made a study wherein people thought table sugar was bad, so they removed table sugar and encouraged people to eat fruits. After which, the prevalence of diabetes and obesity went up along with the increased consumption of fruit sugar. Diabetes and obesity rate became higher when Americans were consuming table sugar or glucose,” Litonjua explained.
“The reason for that is that fructose is not metabolized by insulin, unlike glucose. Fructose goes to the liver where it is being deposited and the liver turns it into triglyceride, a form of fat storage making the liver fatty with intake of too much fructose,” he added.
“There’s this notion that fruits are good. But fruit sugar is fructose and these are abundant in fruits,” he said.
Making matters worse is that Filipino consumers are not aware that a chemically produced form of fructose is now widely used in goods sold in the market today. This is known as high-fructose corn syrup (HCFS), an alternative sweetener to raw sugar being used in the manufacturing of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), such as softdrinks and fruit juices.
“If you would ask me if Filipinos as aware of the effects of high-fructose corn syrup, I would say no. The effects of high-fructose corn syrup are not widely known in the country,” he said.
This awareness gap between Filipinos and the bad effects of fructose, especially HFCS, should be addressed on various fronts and different sectors of society, he added.
Called the “Father of Philippine Endocrinology,” Litonjua founded the Philippine Society of Endocrinology and Metabolism (PSEM) in 1961; the Philippine Association for the Study of Overweight & Obesity (PASOO) in 1994; the AACE Philippines in 2004 and together with his ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) colleagues, has helped put up the ASEAN Federation of Endocrine Societies.
He is past president of the Philippine Diabetes Association (PDA) for 11 years; of the Philippine College of Physicians in 1979-1980 and also spearheaded the establishment of the Philippine Center for Diabetes Education Foundation, Inc., more popularly known as the Diabetes Center Philippines, where he is currently president.
His contributions in the field of Endocrinology have earned him the prestigious award—the Outstanding Service Award for the Promotion of Endocrine Health of an Underserved Population – given by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists in April 2007 in Seattle, Washington and recently the International Clinician Award from the American College of Endocrinology in April 2011.
Furthermore, he is Emeritus Professor of the College of Medicine, University of the Philippines (UP). He retired as Professor and Chairman of Physiology and Clinical Professor of Medicine and Chief of Endocrinology, Department of Medicine in 1986.
Also present was esteemed resource speaker Dr. Robert Lustig, a professor at the Division of Endocrinology in University of California, San Francisco.