Excess in the adolescent environment: The elephant in the room

Dr. John C. Merritt Prevention for the People, Inc.

January 3, 2014

Adolescents consume more fructose than any other age group. From 1977 -2004, the US consumption of fructose increased by 32% across all gender and age groups. Regular consumption sugar sweetened beverages (SSB’s) is accompanied by weight gain in both children and adults. The average daily intake of fructose foods increased by 135% during these years; which closely parallels our present obesity epidemic in both children and adults. It is estimated that children and adolescents consume 175 kcal/day SSB’s. The usual sources of SSB’s include sodas, fruit drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, vitamin water and chocolate milk. Total fructose equates to free fructose alone plus that released from sucrose (sucrose is approximately 50% glucose and 50% fructose).

A recent report from local high schools within Augusta GA recruited 559 students (ages 14-18 years). Balance was achieved in gender (49% female, 51% male) and ethnicity (45% black and 55% white). The majority of these adolescents (86%) reached puberty stages IV and V; the majority of females (97.8%) had started menstrual periods. Diet was assessed with 4-7 24hr recalls and physical activity (PA) determined by accelerometers. Fat free soft tissue (FFST) and fat mass were measured by DXA. (instrument that typically measures bone density and %body fat).

The results indicated that total fructose is associated obese adolescent cardiovascular risks factors. There was a significant upward trend (increase) for total fructose ingestion and: 1-Increased systolic blood pressure 2-increased fasting glucose 3-HOMA-IR (marker for insulin resistance) and 4- C Reactive Protein (marker for inflammation). Conversely there was a downward trend with increased total fructose ingestion and high-density cholesterol (HDL, the ‘good’ cholesterol). Increased total fructose consumption was accompanied by decreased fiber intake. Fructose induced changes in liver function resulting in increased visceral fat (fat around organs) rather subcutaneous fat.

During this Xmas season, try to become aware of your “taste bud environment”. Just because a food/beverage ‘tastes good’ does not make it good for you. Any society that uses food as “taste bud entertainment” is destined for a disaster!


Pollock NK, Bundy V, Kanto W et al. Greater fructose consumption is associated with cardiometabolic risk markers and visceral adiposity in adolescents. J. Nutr.2012; 142:251-257.