Sucrose feeding over a long period has been reported to induce glomerular basement membrane (GBM) thickening and insulin resistance in normal rats. These effects are attributed to the fructose moiety of the sucrose molecule, to Cu deprivation or both. Consequently, our aim was to evaluate the long-term effects of fructose feeding with normal or high amounts of Cu on body weight, plasma lipids, blood glucose regulation, GBM thickening and insulin binding to adipocytes. Four groups of eight Sprague–Dawley rats were fed for 10 weeks on a diet containing 570 g carbohydrate/kg supplied either as starch (S), dextrose (D), fructose (F) or fructose–starch (1:1, w/w; FS), and an adequate amount of Cu (12 μg Cu/g diet). A fifth group was fed on diet F supplemented with 24 μg Cu/g diet (FCu). After 10 weeks the epididymal adipose tissue and kidney weights expressed per 100 g body weight (relative weight) were heaviest in the F and FCu groups (P < 0·0001, ANOVA). The GBM thickness was within the normal range in the five groups but significantly higher in group D (1·95 (SE 0·04)) nm and lower in group FS (1·79 (SE 0·02)) nm when compared with group S (1·85 (SE 0·03) nm; P < 0·05). Insulin binding to adipocytes (expressed per cell) was lowest in the F and FCu groups, intermediate in groups D and FS and highest in group S (P < 0·05). Fasting plasma insulin level was higher in group F than in the FCu and FS groups (P < 0·05), whereas fasting plasma glucose, total cholesterol and triacylglycerol levels remained within the normal range in all groups. We conclude that in normal rats a 10-week fructose-rich diet with an adequate amount of Cu produced deleterious metabolic effects on adipose tissue, insulin binding to adipocytes, and plasma insulin, but not on GBM thickening even though kidney weight was significantly increased. However, a moderate fructose intake mixed with other sugars did not have adverse effects.