University of Iowa Health Science Relations and
Satish Rao, MBBS, PhD
Professor of Internal Medicine
First Published: 2004
Last Revised: August 2004
Peer Review Status: Internally Peer Reviewed
Fructose intolerance, the inability of the body to properly digest fructose, a sugar common to the Western diet, is being increasingly diagnosed and treated.
Due to increased knowledge, efficient testing and changes in Western diets, the condition will continue to garner additional attention in coming decades, said Satish Rao, MD, PhD, University of Iowa professor of internal medicine and a gastroenterologist who sees patients with the condition.
Fructose can be found in sweeteners such as high fructose corn syrup, soda, fruit juices, candy and certain canned foods. It also occurs naturally in apples, peaches, pears and oranges.
Fructose intolerance involves several non-specific symptoms such as bloating, abdominal pain and tension, gas, excess belching, and diarrhea, Rao said.
"Due to the general nature of these symptoms, it is very important for people experiencing such symptoms to speak with their physician so the condition can be accurately tested and treated," Rao said.
Fructose intolerance can be diagnosed by a breath test, making the condition very easy to diagnose, he said. The condition can then be treated with a modified diet.
"Treatment does involve a lifestyle change," Rao said. "Because Western diets contain so much fructose, it can be difficult for people to adjust, but modification of the diet is a very effective treatment of the condition."
Rao said that fructose in the Western diet has greatly increased in the past decade and will continue to increase as people are eating much more processed and canned foods.
As diets continue to change and knowledge about fructose intolerance becomes available, Rao expects the condition will be diagnosed and studied much more frequently both in the United States and around the world.
Rao and colleagues published an article in the June 2003 issue of the American Journal of Gastroenterology that calls attention to the issue.
"The high prevalence of fructose intolerance found among patients in our study reaffirms previous studies. The findings provide more evidence that some patients with unexplained symptoms may have fructose intolerance," Rao said, noting that additional studies must be done in order to discover more about this condition and how many people it affects.