A Fruitful Approach to Preventing Diabetes

Want to lower your risk of diabetes? Eat plenty of fruit.

An Australian study suggests that two servings a day could lower the odds of developing type 2 diabetes by 36%.

“A healthy diet and lifestyle, which includes the consumption of whole fruits, is a great strategy to lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes,” said lead author Nicola Bondonno of the Institute for Nutrition Research at Edith Cowan University in Joondalup, Australia.

Her team analyzed data from nearly 7,700 Australians in order to assess the link between consumption of fruit and fruit juice with diabetes cases over five years.

People who ate at least two servings of fruit a day had higher measures of insulin sensitivity than those who ate less than half a serving a day, according to the findings. Insulin sensitivity is key to the body’s ability to use glucose for energy to perform bodily functions and store it for future use.

“We found an association between fruit intake and markers of insulin sensitivity, suggesting that people who consumed more fruit had to produce less insulin to lower their blood glucose levels,” Bondonno said in a university news release. “This is important because high levels of circulating insulin [hyperinsulinemia] can damage blood vessels and are related not only to diabetes, but also to high blood pressure, obesity, and heart disease.”

But the researchers noted: Drinking fruit juice did not boost insulin sensitivity or reduce diabetes risk. Bondonno said that’s probably because juice tends to be much higher in sugar and lower in fiber.

She said it’s unclear how fruit contributes to insulin sensitivity, but there are probably several explanations.

“As well as being high in vitamins and minerals, fruits are a great source of phytochemicals, which may increase insulin sensitivity, and fiber which helps regulate the release of sugar into the blood and also helps people feel fuller for longer,” Bondonno said.

She noted that most fruits typically have a low glycemic index, meaning that their sugar is digested and absorbed into the body more slowly.

The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

More than 450 million people worldwide have type 2 diabetes, and another 374 million are at increased risk for the disease.

Source: HealthDay

The Right “5-a-day” Mix is 2 Fruit and 3 Vegetable Servings for Longer Life

Studies representing nearly 2 million adults worldwide show that eating about five daily servings of fruits and vegetables, in which 2 are fruits and 3 are vegetables, is likely the optimal amount for a longer life, according to new research published today in the American Heart Association’s flagship journal Circulation.

Diets rich in fruits and vegetables help reduce risk for numerous chronic health conditions that are leading causes of death, including cardiovascular disease and cancer. Yet, only about one in 10 adults eat enough fruits or vegetables, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“While groups like the American Heart Association recommend four to five servings each of fruits and vegetables daily, consumers likely get inconsistent messages about what defines optimal daily intake of fruits and vegetables such as the recommended amount, and which foods to include and avoid,” said lead study author Dong D. Wang, M.D., Sc.D., an epidemiologist, nutritionist and a member of the medical faculty at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

Wang and colleagues analyzed data from the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, two studies including more than 100,000 adults who were followed for up to 30 years. Both datasets included detailed dietary information repeatedly collected every two to four years. For this analysis, researchers also pooled data on fruit and vegetable intake and death from 26 studies that included about 1.9 million participants from 29 countries and territories in North and South America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia.

Analysis of all studies, with a composite of more than 2 million participants, revealed:

  • Intake of about five servings of fruits and vegetables daily was associated with the lowest risk of death. Eating more than five servings was not associated with additional benefit.
  • Eating about two servings daily of fruits and three servings daily of vegetables was associated with the greatest longevity.
  • Compared to those who consumed two servings of fruit and vegetables per day, participants who consumed five servings a day of fruits and vegetable had a 13% lower risk of death from all causes; a 12% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke; a 10% lower risk of death from cancer; and a 35% lower risk of death from respiratory disease, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
  • Not all foods that one might consider to be fruits and vegetables offered the same benefits. For example: Starchy vegetables, such as peas and corn, fruit juices and potatoes were not associated with reduced risk of death from all causes or specific chronic diseases.
  • On the other hand, green leafy vegetables, including spinach, lettuce and kale, and fruit and vegetables rich in beta carotene and vitamin C, such as citrus fruits, berries and carrots, showed benefits.

“Our analysis in the two cohorts of U.S. men and women yielded results similar to those from 26 cohorts around the world, which supports the biological plausibility of our findings and suggests these findings can be applied to broader populations,” Wang said.

Wang said this study identifies an optimal intake level of fruits and vegetables and supports the evidence-based, succinct public health message of ‘5-a-day,’ meaning people should ideally consume five servings of fruit and vegetable each day. “This amount likely offers the most benefit in terms of prevention of major chronic disease and is a relatively achievable intake for the general public,” he said. “We also found that not all fruits and vegetables offer the same degree of benefit, even though current dietary recommendations generally treat all types of fruits and vegetables, including starchy vegetables, fruit juices and potatoes, the same.”

A limitation of the research is that it is observational, showing an association between fruit and vegetable consumption and risk of death; it does not confer a direct cause-and-effect relationship.

“The American Heart Association recommends filling at least half your plate with fruits and vegetables at each meal,” said Anne Thorndike, M.D., M.P.H., chair of the American Heart Association’s nutrition committee and an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston. “This research provides strong evidence for the lifelong benefits of eating fruits and vegetables and suggests a goal amount to consume daily for ideal health. Fruits and vegetables are naturally packaged sources of nutrients that can be included in most meals and snacks, and they are essential for keeping our hearts and bodies healthy.”

Source: American Heart Association

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

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