Men and women appear to differ in how they metabolise high levels of fructose, a simple sugar commonly used to sweeten drinks and foods.

To compare the metabolic effects of fructose in healthy males and females, Swiss researchers enlisted 16 healthy, non-smoking men and women of normal weight, aged around 23 years. The participants followed two different 6-day diets separated by a 4-week washout period. During the follow-up, none of the participants participated in any sports or exercise and were overfed fructose (corresponding to several litres of sodas per day). Several biochemical parameters were tested in these subjects.

In men, fructose supplementation caused significant increases in 11 of the 12 factors, including a 5 percent increase in fasting glucose and 71 percent increase in triglyceride levels. On the contrary, women showed a 4 percent increase in glucose and a markedly blunted, 16 percent increase in triglycerides after the high fructose diet. Overall, the women showed significant increases in only 4 of the 12 factors tested.

Short-term high fructose intake among young men resulted in increased blood triglycerides (fats) and decreased insulin resistance; factors associated with an elevated risk for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Contrary to this, women can get rid of the excess sugar load in a likely less deleterious way.

Though further studies are required to confirm these observations in a larger population, the above study corroborated the importance of gender in studies evaluating the relationship between nutrition and metabolic disorders.