Why Fad Diets Are Wrong about Sugar in Fruit

Carrie Dennett wrote . . . . . . . . .

In recent months, my dietitian colleagues and I have been encountering more and more people making claims like “fruit is bad for you” or “fruit is toxic”. “What is going ON?” one of them posted on a dietitian internet mailing list. What’s going on is that the current crop of fad diets – such as paleo, keto, carnivore and pegan – have persuaded a lot of people that fruit is a dietary no-no.

There was a time when we didn’t question whether fruit was good for us, when we more or less took “eat your fruits and veggies” to heart. Today, many people are worried that fruit is too high in carbs, sugar and calories.

One of my patients wouldn’t eat any fruit other than blueberries because she had bought into the myth – again, promoted by fad diets – that blueberries are the only “safe” fruit to eat because they are “low glycemic” (in other words, they don’t cause your blood sugar to spike). Here’s the kicker: she didn’t even like blueberries.

Berries are the only fruit allowed on the pegan diet, a mash-up of paleo and vegan diets – the subtext being that other fruit is a ticket to high blood sugar. This, believe it or not, is a fairly liberal stance compared to other trending diets. For example, many followers of the keto diet and the carnivore diet (aka the “zero carb” diet) call fruit toxic because of its sugar. Now that’s what I consider disordered eating.

It’s true that whole fruit contains sugar, but it is natural sugar. The sugar we would be wise to limit is added sugar, found in regular soda and many highly processed foods. When you eat an apple, a pear, a peach or some berries, their sugar comes wrapped in a fibre-, water- and nutrient-rich package. Fibre slows the release of fruit’s natural sugar into your bloodstream, preventing a sugar spike, especially if you eat your fruit as part of a meal or snack that contains protein and healthy fats.

Ditching fruit may mean missing out on some key nutrients. Many fruits are rich in not just vitamins and minerals but also phytochemicals, which are natural plant-based compounds that appear to have a variety of health benefits, including helping to prevent cancer and promote cardiovascular health. Pigment-rich berries and cherries are especially good sources of phytochemicals, but apples, oranges and other fruits contain phytochemicals, too.

Some of my older patients have adopted the blueberries-only rule because of preliminary research on the Mind diet – a hybrid of the Mediterranean diet and the Dash diet. This research found an association between eating blueberries and a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease – likely because blueberries are rich in a type of phytochemical called anthocyanins. Other fruit was found to be “neutral”, meaning it appeared to neither increase nor decrease risk of Alzheimer’s – but somehow, the information has been twisted to make patients think they should avoid all fruit except berries.

This is unfortunate because even if clinical research confirms that non-berry fruit doesn’t help prevent Alzheimer’s, such fruit may still help prevent other chronic diseases we would all like to avoid. A study published in the March issue of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, for example, found that moderate fruit intake was associated with a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, several cancers and other chronic health conditions.

The bottom line is that fruit – especially when in season – adds pleasure, nutrition and variety to our meals

What about juice? Juice has been vilified (likened to soda but with more nutrients) or glorified (consumed freely because of those nutrients). While drinking juice every time we’re thirsty isn’t a good idea, 100 per cent fruit juice in moderation – an eight-ounce (237ml) glass per day – adds nutritional value to the diet without adding excessive sugar. Orange juice, in particular, does not appear to affect blood sugar, possibly because of the soluble fibre and pectin that makes it into the glass, as well as the phytochemical hesperidin.

Fears about pesticide residues on fruit have also made some people wary about eating non-organic fruit – even though organic agriculture does use approved pesticides, and traces of non-approved pesticides are regularly found on organic produce.

Fears about pesticides tend to get stirred up each year when the Environmental Working Group, a Washington-based non-profit activist organisation, releases its “Dirty Dozen” list of “most contaminated” fruits and vegetables. But the EWG’s methods have come under fire, and it is important to remember that even if a specific type of produce has “more” pesticide residue than another type, that residue could be well within levels determined to be safe.

Frankly, fruit doesn’t deserve the bad reputation it’s developing; it is the healthiest sweet around. We naturally like the taste of it because we are born with an affinity for sweetness.

So, how much fruit should you eat? That depends on your age, gender and level of physical activity. Two cups (256g) per day is the US Dietary Guidelines’ recommendation for men and younger women; the recommendation drops to 1½ cups (192g) for women older than 30. If you get more than 30 minutes per day of moderate-intensity exercise, you may choose to include more.

The bottom line is that fruit – especially when in season – adds pleasure, nutrition and variety to our meals. So go beyond plopping some berries in your cereal or yogurt: have an orange with your scrambled tofu, an apple with your almonds, a juicy peach for dessert. You’ll be happier – and healthier.

Source: SCMP

Mangosteen – An Asian Fruit Fit for a Queen

Kat Thompson wrote . . . . . . . . .

Imagine a fruit that tastes like a cross between a peach and a strawberry, has sectional pieces like a tangerine, and is juicy like lychee. While it might sound like a creation straight out of the brain of Willy Wonka, such a thing actually exists. It’s called the mangosteen — a fleshy fruit native to Southeast Asia with a flavor best described as transcendent.

In Thailand, mangosteen is known as the queen of fruit (next to his majesty the durian, which is considered king) for its surprisingly complex flavor, nutritional value, and medicinal properties passed down through local Thai wisdom. It’s a dark purple fruit, small and round like a baseball that — when squeezed — cracks open to reveal pearls of white, delicate flesh. It’s also said that back in the late 1800s, Queen Victoria proclaimed she would grant knighthood to any person who could return to England with fresh mangosteens in tow (no one was ever able to). Funny enough, the Thai word for mangosteen, mangkhut, is very similar to the Thai word for crown, or mongkrut.

Although mangosteens are believed to have originated from the Sunda Islands of Indonesia, the flourishing trees were allegedly domesticated in Thailand and Myanmar. Today, the plant grows throughout Southeast Asia in Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, and even southwest India — with Thailand being the largest exporter of the purple fruit.

Mangosteen is temperamental. It only thrives in very specific climates and attempts to bring the tree to similar environments — Florida, California, and Hawaii — haven’t been very successful. The fruit also doesn’t fare well in transport; it spoils quickly, and is therefore highly marked up when sold in non-local spaces. In fact, Asian markets in New York and Los Angeles sell mangosteens for upwards of $18 per pound (compared to Thailand where you can get a kilogram, which is a little over two pounds, for about $3).

That being said, it’s extremely rare to find fresh mangosteens stateside. Up until 2007, it was illegal to import mangosteens for fear of introducing Asian fruit flies, a cumbersome insect, to the US. Imported mangosteen have to go through a process of irradiation — exposure to ionizing radiation — to ensure the fruits are safe for consumption and free from any pests. Cravings for mangosteen had to be satiated with smuggled fruit and invitations to the Thai consulate. In addition to that, mangosteen season isn’t particularly long: it extends from April to July, and the journey to America can sometimes be too lengthy for a fruit that is delicate and spoils quickly.

Because of mangosteen’s scarcity, the fruit has acquired a cult-like following. A Facebook fan page for mangosteen has accrued almost 8,000 likes, with fans sharing health-related articles and cries of passion with fellow mangosteen enthusiasts. One of Thailand’s largest music festivals, the Mangosteen Music Festival, is named after the beloved fruit. Even fruit tourists make the journey to Southeast Asia to get a taste; New York Times writer, R. W. Apple Jr., wrote that, “No other fruit, for [him], is so thrillingly, intoxicatingly luscious… with so precise a balance of acid and sugar, as a ripe mangosteen.”

However, there are still year round opportunities to consume mangosteen — as long as you don’t need to have them fresh. Canned mangosteen can be found at most East Asian grocery stores and can even be purchased online through Amazon. Mangosteen juice is also packaged and sold — in bottles, cartons, and even cold-pressed — both on the internet and through health shops like GNC and The Vitamin Shoppe. Even Snapple has their own bottled version of peach mangosteen juice.

If you’ve never tried mangosteen before, the flavor alone warrants a trip to Southeast Asia. The soft, white flesh melts in the mouth. It’s sweet but not cloying. It’s tangy, but won’t make your lips pucker. Mangosteen is a balance of flavor and texture — a fruit fit for a queen.

Source: Thrillist

More Evidence Fruits and Greens Can be Good for the Brain

Lisa Rapaport wrote . . . . . . . . .

Middle-aged men who eat lots of fruits and vegetables may be lowering their odds of cognitive problems as they get on in years, compared to peers who don’t consume these foods very often, a U.S. study suggests.

Researchers followed almost 28,000 men for two decades starting when they were 51 years old, on average. Every four years, participants answered questionnaires about their consumption of fruits, vegetables and other foods. They also took tests of thinking and memory skills when they were 73 years old, on average.

Based on those test results, researchers found that by the time they were in their later 70s, men who had regularly eaten the most vegetables over the previous decades were 17 percent less likely to have moderate cognitive problems and 34 percent less likely to have more extensive cognitive deficits than men whose diets contained the least produce.

Fruit consumption, overall, didn’t appear to influence the risk of moderate cognitive problems, but men who drank more orange juice were 47 percent less likely to have extensive cognitive deficits than men who drank the least, the researchers note in the journal Neurology.

“Long-term intake of vegetables (e.g., green leafy, dark orange and red vegetables), fruit (e.g. berry fruits) and fruit juice (e.g. orange juice) may be beneficial for late-life subjective cognitive function among U.S. men,” lead study author Changzheng Yuan of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston said in an email.

Men should still go easy on the orange juice, however.

“The protective role of regular consumption of fruit juice was mainly observed among the oldest men,” Yuan said.

“Since fruit juice is usually high in calories from concentrated fruit sugars, it’s generally best to consume no more than a small glass (four to six ounces) per day,” Yuan added.

To assess the impact of eating habits in middle age on cognitive function later in life, researchers administered questionnaires designed to measure memory and reasoning skills.

Source: Reuters

Today’s Comic

Inside the Fight Over Juice in Canada’s Food Guide

Ann Hui wrote . . . . . . . . .

At the Canadian Nutrition Society’s annual conference in Halifax in May, a bright orange booth seemed out of place to nutritional biochemist Dylan MacKay. It was for a group calling itself the Canadian Juice Council. “I’d never seen or heard of them before,” Dr. MacKay said. “And I’ve been going to CNS conferences for years.”

A few months later, in Southwestern Ontario, a letter to the editor in the Waterloo Region Record responded to an opinion column about proposed changes to Canada’s Food Guide, and in particular, signs that the guide would remove fruit juice as a substitute for whole fruits. The letter, signed by the Canadian Juice Council, defended juice as part of “a healthy, balanced diet.” A similar letter also began arriving in the inboxes of Canadian senators.

Beyond those instances, there are few traces of the Canadian Juice Council, whose Twitter page has just one follower. Although its website was created in July, 2017, health groups approached by The Globe and Mail, including the Heart and Stroke Foundation, said they’d never heard of the CJC.

And no wonder. The Juice Council doesn’t exist in the way you might expect: as an institution disseminating impartial facts and information about juice. Rather, it was created by the lobbying arm of the beverage industry – in a practice known as “astroturfing,” used by lobbyists in all kinds of industries to create the appearance of a grassroots movement and a larger chorus of voices than actually exists.

The Juice Council is also just a small piece of a much larger, years-long campaign by the beverage industry to fight Health Canada plans that would end the practice of recommending juice as a straight substitute for whole fruit, and would also require prominent labelling of the sugar content in juice.

Over the past two years, The Globe has compiled hundreds of pages of documents – e-mails, meeting records, and government memos obtained through freedom-of-information requests – detailing the various facets of that campaign. Together, they paint a picture of the complicated web of actors involved in creating one corner of food policy, and the extreme efforts by some of them, including competing departments within government, to influence how Canadians think about their food.

The beverage industry’s campaign, by many accounts, has been intense; some observers have likened it to efforts undertaken by tobacco lobbyists.

And the beverage that is the subject of the fiercest lobbying? Fruit juice.

One year after Justin Trudeau’s government was elected in 2015, Health Canada revealed its Healthy Eating Strategy, a slate of policies intended to improve eating habits in a country where one-fifth of citizens are obese and where cardiovascular diseases are among the leading cause of death. Two particular proposals would affect how Canadians think about juice.

One of those involved revamping Canada’s Food Guide, the nutritional bible of schools, hospitals and doctors, which had not been updated since 2007. Currently, the guide designates a half-cup of juice as a substitute for one portion of fruit; the only minor caveat is that people should “have vegetables and fruit more often than juice.” Experts say that has given juice, which has high concentrations of sugar, an undeserved “health halo.”

And indeed, the new Food Guide – which the government is hoping to unveil in the next few months – appears poised to dim that halo, removing the juice-for-fruit substitution and advising Canadians to avoid drinks high in sugar.

The other Health Canada proposal would require juice to bear a label flagging its high sugar content. That policy would be part of a larger “front of pack” labelling system that would place clear warnings on foods high in sugar, salt or saturated fat.

Since the proposals were announced in October, 2016, the Canadian Beverage Association, which is funded by the likes of Coca-Cola (the makers of Minute Maid, Simply and Five Alive) and PepsiCo (Tropicana, Dole and Ocean Spray), has fought back hard. “These are large decisions governments undertake on a not-so-regular basis,” said CBA president Jim Goetz, a former staffer to prime minister Paul Martin. “So when it does happen, we … want to tell our story.”

Doing that has involved more than 50 meetings with federal ministers, staffers and senior bureaucrats. (The lobbyist registry measures instances of “oral and arranged communications,” but Mr. Goetz said the vast majority of those meetings were face-to-face.) In October, 2017, alone the CBA had more than 18 meetings with government officials, although Mr. Goetz said some may have been to discuss non-juice-related matters.

They’ve also enlisted the help of a team at Ensight, the Ottawa-based sister company of Navigator, the Toronto crisis-communications firm. That team includes a former war-room strategist of prime minister Stephen Harper; and another individual Maclean’s magazine once called one of Ottawa’s “12 most powerful lobbyists.”

From an 11th-floor boardroom in the Canadian Beverage Association’s office on Toronto’s waterfront, Mr. Goetz described the CBA as “a trade association like any other trade association.” He noted, “There’s even a trade association for trade associations.”

He said that the Juice Council, which he described as an “offshoot” of the Beverage Association, was created to campaign around Health Canada’s new proposals. But he added it was also meant to provide a forum for CBA members to “talk about issues related to 100-per-cent juice.”

And while neither the Juice Council’s website nor its letters to government mention any connection to the CBA, Mr. Goetz said there had been no attempt to hide the link. “You found us,” he said. “Right?”

Barely two weeks after then-health minister Jane Philpott announced the new proposals, Mr. Goetz sent a letter, marked “privileged and confidential,” to a Health Canada assistant deputy minister. A few weeks after that, he met with that bureaucrat, and several others at Health Canada, to express his concerns.

From the start of its revision process, Health Canada has promised not to take private meetings with industry over Canada’s Food Guide. In an e-mail to The Globe, a Health Canada spokesperson said the December, 2016, meeting did not violate that promise, because the pledge applied only to the team handling the Food Guide revision – not anyone else in the department.

In any case, the CBA was not limiting its interventions to Health Canada. Before long, it had written to the Treasury Board and to Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (formerly Industry Canada). At a time when the government was aiming to increase agricultural exports by more than a third, to $75-billion by 2025, Health Canada’s proposals, the CBA argued, would hurt the nearly 60,000 people employed in the juice industry.

And in June of last year, after senator Judith Seidman said in a committee meeting that “juice is still 100-per-cent sugar,” she opened her inbox to find Mr. Goetz and the CBA had e-mailed more than 100 of her colleagues. The e-mail chided her remark as “a significant departure from recent scientific literature.”

Mr. Goetz said the CBA’s outreach was necessary to ensure other departments are aware of Health Canada’s proposals. “People would be a little surprised,” he said, “to know that sometimes decisions are made in a bit of a vacuum.”

The CBA’s most targeted efforts involved Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), which both promotes the farming industry and has a role in regulating it. In letters to that government department, the association warned that Health Canada’s changes could cause job losses in beverage-processing, and also hurt farmers.

Speaking to The Globe, Mr. Goetz said that fruit farmers in some parts of Canada are reliant on the juice industry for up to half their crop sales. But farmer Brett Schuyler, who is also a director with the Ontario Apple Growers, told The Globe that, although he disagrees with the proposed Food Guide changes, the vast majority of juice-making fruit in Canada comes from China and Chile; some growers in Quebec, he added, might be slightly more dependent.

Regardless, from June, 2016, to October, 2017, when Ottawa was mulling and then unveiling its proposals, AAFC officials met at least five times with the CBA and representatives from the beverage industry. The groups also exchanged letters and e-mails throughout that period. In one letter, Jean Gattuso, the president of Lassonde Industries (whose labels include Allen’s, Oasis and Del Monte), warned that juice was “under threat,” and that removing it from the Food Guide would create “unintended consequences,” including further challenges to food security for those living in Northern communities, who aren’t always able to access whole fruits.

And beginning in 2017, the CBA orchestrated a letter-writing campaign, enlisting at least 10 organizations – among them, the Nova Scotia Fruit Growers’ Association and the BC Tree Fruits Cooperative – to write to the AAFC and its minister, Lawrence MacAulay. Health Canada’s Food Guide proposals, the letters warned, “would amount to the Government of Canada using its authority and spending to specifically attempt to damage the Canadian juice industry…”

Within Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, documents show, an official position began to crystallize. A May, 2017, internal memo noted that the “AAFC is concerned that labelling proposals are introducing substantial costs and burden on industry without sufficient evidence of effectiveness.” The following month, an AAFC memo – marked “secret” – described concerns about changes to the Food Guide, concerns the ministry later expressed directly to Health Canada: “AAFC [has] suggested modifications to develop a more neutral tone regarding messages on processed foods,” the memo reads. Among the foods that could be affected was “100-per-cent juice.”

In e-mailed statements to The Globe, spokespeople for both the AAFC and Health Canada said they were striving to ensure decisions were made using the best evidence possible. “Health Canada is working closely with AAFC to ensure that stakeholder concerns are well understood,” a spokesman there said in an e-mail, adding that changes to policy, would be “based on the totality of scientific evidence.” A spokesperson for Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor echoed this. Mr. MacAulay, the Agriculture Minister, did not respond to a request for comment.

While 100-per-cent juice does contain many of the vitamins and minerals of whole fruit, it contains more sugar per serving, and far less of the fibre that slows the body’s absorption of that sugar. One 12-ounce bottle of orange juice contains about the same amount of sugar as 12 ounces of Coke – more sugar than the World Health Organization recommends for the average adult in a single day. Excess sugar consumption is also linked with heart disease, obesity and diabetes.

But the CBA has repeatedly argued that science is on its side. Attached to most of its letters to government officials has been a 15-page compilation of research studies. Among the findings they contain: Juice is a good source of vitamin C, potassium and other nutrients, particularly for those who can’t meet their fruit-intake recommendations.

Many of the researchers cited by the CBA are funded, at least in part, by the food and beverage industry; one of the most-cited studies in the document was funded by powerhouse Welch’s. Mr. Goetz acknowledged this in an interview. But many of the studies, he said, are not industry-funded. As well, he noted, some are meta-analyses, which combine the results of many studies. “We stand by our document,” he said.

Still, some experts see the juice industry’s efforts as akin to Big Tobacco’s decades-long attempt to portray cigarettes as harmless. From the 1950s onward, it spent millions of dollars to fund and disseminate scientific research sowing doubt about the links between smoking and cancer. David Hammond, a professor of public health at the University of Waterloo – whose past research has examined tobacco-control policy – has been advising Health Canada on the effectiveness of health labels. “I would say [the juice industry] is acting equally as forcefully as tobacco companies to protect their interests,” Dr. Hammond said.

Mr. Goetz, for his part, called any comparison between juice and tobacco “nonsensical.”

Health Canada says its work on the Food Guide is “almost completed.” With the department having already released its “guiding principles” for the document, experts are hopeful the final product will stay the course.

And a final design for front-of-pack labels is expected “in the coming months.” Still, with a federal election less than a year away, health organizers and nutrition experts are concerned that label requirements could be scrapped entirely or, if not, then very much watered down. Earlier this fall, as Canada and the United States renegotiated the terms for their trade relationship, the food industry argued that front-of-pack labels would create barriers for Canadian producers. And at the end of September, a report released by the Agri-Food Table, a group of food-industry representatives convened by Innovation Canada, recommended shelving the labelling proposal immediately.

Yoni Freedhoff, a University of Ottawa professor of family medicine and a vocal critic of fruit juice, said he believes Health Canada officials want to move forward with both of their original proposals. But, he added, such decisions often get vetoed farther up the chain – something he said is common in food policy, where government’s conflicting interests are laid bare.

“Many of the true decision-makers, they’re not scientists and public-health people,” Dr. Freedhoff said. “They’re politicians.”

Source: The Globe and Mail

Fructose Link to Diabetes May be Different for Sodas than Fruit

Lisa Rapaport wrote . . . . . . . . .

Sodas sweetened with fructose may have a greater impact on risk factors for diabetes than whole fruits that are natural sources of fructose, a research review suggests.

The link between fructose and diabetes has been unclear. Some research has suggested this relationship may be explained at least in part by what people eat and drink and whether they are overweight or obese.

For the current analysis, researchers examined data from 155 studies that assessed the effect of different food sources of fructose on blood glucose levels. Combined, these studies included about 5,000 people with and without diabetes.

Fruit and fruit juices as part of a diet with a healthy amount of calories appeared to have a slightly beneficial effect on blood sugar, especially in people with diabetes, the analysis found.

But foods, sodas and juices with lots of calories and few nutrients seemed to have harmful effects on blood sugar.

Most of this evidence was low quality, however, researchers report in the BMJ.

“While this analysis did not find consistent effects of fructose per se on risk for diabetes, results appear to support the adverse effects of added sugars in the form of sugar-sweetened beverages,” said Dr. Mark Herman of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.

“This analysis also supported potentially beneficial effects of fruit,” Herman, who wasn’t involved in the study, said by email. “It is likely beneficial to restrict consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, and someone that is craving something sweet might consider a piece of fruit instead.”

Globally, almost one in 10 adults has diabetes, according to the World Health Organization. Most have type 2 diabetes, which is associated with obesity and aging.

Doctors generally advise patients with diabetes and people at high risk for developing the condition to limit sodas, juices and other sugary treats with fructose, sucrose or other sweeteners that add lots of empty calories to the diet. This can help reduce the risk of weight gain, and help keep blood sugar within a healthy range.

Fructose occurs naturally in a range of foods, including whole fruits and vegetables, natural fruit juices and honey. It is also added to foods, such as soft drinks, breakfast cereals, baked goods, sweets, and desserts.

It’s possible fruit and certain other foods with naturally occurring fructose might help improve blood sugar levels because they are high in fiber, which can slow down the release of sugars in the blood stream, the study authors note.

“These findings might help guide recommendations on important food sources of fructose in the prevention and management of diabetes,” senior study author Dr. John Sievenpiper of St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto said in a statement.

Sievenpiper has received money from a variety of food and beverage companies and advocacy groups including the International Dried Fruit and Nut Council, Calorie Control Council, Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, The Coca- Cola Company, and PepsiCo.

Patients should consume sweets in moderation, limit added sugars, and beware hidden sweeteners in processed foods, said Dr. Valerio Nobili of University La Sapienza in Rome.

“For example, 1 tablespoon of ketchup contains about 4 grams (about 1 teaspoon) of sugars, while a single can of sweetened soda contains up to 40 grams (about 10 teaspoons) of sugars,” Nobili, who wasn’t involved in the study, said by email.

“Both . . . patients with type 2 diabetes and healthy individuals should avoid added sugars while increasing the natural sugars, such as those contained in whole fruit,” Nobili advised.

Source: Reuters