Fructose and simple sugars are a substantial part of the western diet, and their influence on human health remains controversial. Clinical studies in fructose nutrition have proven very difficult to conduct and interpret. NIH and USDA sponsored a workshop on 13-14 November 2012, "Research Strategies for Fructose Metabolism," to identify important scientific questions and parameters to be considered while designing clinical studies. Research is needed to ascertain whether there is an obesogenic role for fructose-containing sugars via effects on eating behavior and energy balance and whether there is a dose threshold beyond which these sugars promote progression toward diabetes and liver and cardiovascular disease, especially in susceptible populations. Studies tend to fall into 2 categories, and design criteria for each are described. Mechanistic studies are meant to validate observations made in animals or to elucidate the pathways of fructose metabolism in humans. These highly controlled studies often compare the pure monosaccharides glucose and fructose. Other studies are focused on clinically significant disease outcomes or health behaviors attributable to amounts of fructose-containing sugars typically found in the American diet. These are designed to test hypotheses generated from short-term mechanistic or epidemiologic studies and provide data for health policy. Discussion brought out the opinion that, although many mechanistic questions concerning the metabolism of monosaccharide sugars in humans remain to be addressed experimentally in small highly controlled studies, health outcomes research meant to inform health policy should use large, longterm studies using combinations of sugars found in the typical American diet rather than pure fructose or glucose.
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© 2014 American Society for Nutrition.