So what's all this about Fructose?

Here in the UK health issues and specifically the role of sugar continues to be hotly debated. With the experts divided and each supporting their opposing views with science it's hard to know which way to turn. I've come to the conclusion that, to some extent, it now seems to be down to intuition and what works for you.

I recently attended an interesting on line conference, arranged by the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, which spawned much debate. However, none more vigorous than the discussion about sweeteners. I have my own views about sweeteners and have previously written about this. Now it seems that the debate has shifted to the adverse health effects of fructose - a natural sugar found in fruit. Unfortunately,  as a result, real fruit is now getting  some bad press.

Has the world gone mad? What's going  on here?

Let's get clear. Real fruit that has come from the earth or has been picked from trees is a gift from nature to be loved and enjoyed. Fruits have health benefits and contain good dietary fibre, vitamins, minerals and phyto-nutrients essential for good health. The low water soluble fruits especially - like  blueberries, kiwis,  apples and cherries - have anti-ageing properties and help with cleansing and de-detoxification of the body. Blueberries are thought to also help improve brain function and cherries and apples have anti-inflammatory properties and all of them have anti-oxidant properties. Scientists at Tufts University in the USA have developed a method of quantifying the anti-oxidant power of specific fruit and vegetables  and fruits like prunes, raisins, blueberries and other berries are at the top of the anti-oxidant scale.

It's true that fruits contain fructose. However, this is not the same substance that is found in a lot of  highly processed food, which contains high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) -  a liquid sugar extracted by the solvent Gluteraldehide, which can sometimes contain traces of mercury. Since 1978 HFCS has been used extensively by the soft drinks industry. Certainly, since that time, on both sides of the Atlantic we have seen obesity, diabetes and heart disease reach epidemic levels and many are now asking questions about the role of sugar and specifically HFCS on our health. This is the type of fructose that  is the villain of the piece and not the little blueberries that make the planet a brighter and healthier place.

The irony is that HFCS is pedalled as a "healthy alternative" to sugar. However, according to some experts, nothing could be further from the truth.  One such expert is Dr Robert Lustig, who is an expert on childhood obesity and so has seen the outcomes for himself in his patients.  As a result he has out spoken views on this issue and has openly challenged the soft drinks industry; claiming that pseudo-science has been used  to mask the real dangers.

Certainly from what I've read HFCS is best avoided. The trend now, certainly in the UK, is to  eat seasonably and go for organic whole foods which are locally sourced.  Better still, if possible, grow your own fruit. In the USA, if buying pre-packed products,  avoid GMO foods and always read the label, as you never quite know what's been added.

I've long been a proponent of a low GI diet. (That is a diet which is low in starchy carbohydrates, which helps to normalise the blood/sugar.) However, if you're diabetic, are needing to loose in excess of 3 stone in weight, have food cravings or are Insulin or Leptin resistant, then it may be reasonable to restrict your fruit intake to about 15 grams fructose/day. Otherwise, eat whatever fresh fruits you like. However, it might be best to restrict fructose intake to 20-40grams/day. This guide will help you make the calculations -

Lemon1 medium0.6
Passion fruit1 medium0.9
Apricot1 medium1.3
Raspberries1 cup3.0
Kiwi1 medium3.4
Cherries1 cup3.8
Strawberries1 cup3.8
Pink grapefruit½ medium4.3
Nectarine1 medium5.4
Peach1 medium5.9
Orange1 medium6.1
Banana1 medium7.1
Apple1 medium9.5
Persimmon1 medium10.6
Pear1 medium11.8
Grapes1 cup12.4
Mango1 medium16.2

Table courtesy of Leslie Kenton

The message for me seems to be that eating fruit is a healthy food choice. Yes, be mindful about amounts and the Glycaemic Index is important, particularly if weight loss is required. Jean Carper writes extensively about this and her food bible provides a lot of really useful nutritional  information about every day  fruits and vegetables. 

So that's some of my thoughts on the issue. Hope that's helped to shed some light. 

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