What could be more a more virtuous food choice than fruit? Natural, full of fiber and vitamins, it is a great snack, and a healthy way to start the day. Or is it?
Dr Georges Mouton, MD, pioneer of functional medicine, gives lectures on – amongst many other health and wellbeing topics – Fructose Damage, that sum up why we should limit intake of this sugar.
Fructose as a potential health hazard
Fructose is the natural sugar found in fruit, and many people believe it is a healthier sugar than glucose, or sucrose (which is around 50% glucose and 50% fructose) – because the body does not bring insulin into play to process it. For this reason, sweet products for diabetics often replace the glucose with fructose, and generally we feel that using agave or fruits to sweeten a dish is preferable to using standard sugar.
However, there are many reasons to steer clear of fructose, whether it comes from completely natural sources such as fruit or honey, or – much worse – in processed forms such as high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and from agave nectar, which is rarely genuine and often little more than well-marketed HFCS.
In his lecture, Dr Mouton explains how a high fructose diet can accelerate chronic kidney disease and potentially cause certain types of liver disease. He also cites studies that suggest a link between a population’s fructose intake and the incidence of high blood pressure. The metabolic syndrome, which involves central obesity, high blood pressure, and abnormal blood lipids, pre-disposes towards cardiovascular disease and also seems to be triggered by excessive fructose consumption. One study suggests that reducing fructose intake might help to slow the growth of pancreatic cancer.
If all that is not enough, a high intake of fructose can lead to fat gain, in both adults and children.
Fruit – an unnatural food if consumed in excess
Whilst much of the problem with fructose comes from processed forms, such as HFCS widely as a sweetener, overuse of fruit juices and smoothies and simply eating too much fruit can alas be harmful for fat loss efforts, and for longer-term health. Many people find this difficult to accept, since fruit is a naturally available food that humans have enjoyed for millennia.
The truth is that until relatively recently, the overwhelming majority of fruit consumed was seasonal, and available mostly in small quantities – bananas and oranges would have been a luxury in the UK, and there would be no strawberries available in winter. Now we can have any kind of fruit at any time of the year, and this is not how fruit should be eaten. Additionally, the plump, sweet varieties of, for example, strawberries on the supermarket shelves are far removed from their wild cousins – consider the size and taste of a wild strawberry.
In Northern European climates, fruit would naturally only be available for a few months – late summer and early autumn. It would then of course be possible to preserve fruits over the winter, putting up apples, or making jams, but the majority of the fruit eating would probably take place over a short period. Before these methods of preserving came into being, early humans would only have been able to eat fruits as and when they were available, and combined with our natural liking for sweet foods, this would have meant a brief fruit fest, before the weather turned colder. There may be an evolutionary reason for this timing, allowing the acceleration of fat storage before the possibility of winter famine.
If you have ever picked your own fruit, you will know how tiring collecting and selecting fruit can be – this is another element that is removed, when we can obtain any fruit without effort.
Fruit was once a seasonal treat that required physical work to obtain. Now it is readily available all year round, in whole and processed forms (smoothies, juices, bars), and we are encouraged to eat several portions of it per day. This style of fruit consumption is unnatural, and many of the fruits we eat are unnatural, in that they are bred for sweetness, and consumed out of season, in countries where they would never normally grow. Add to this the problem of high fructose corn syrup, and we see that our diets are drenched in a type of sugar that has been shown to be potentially harmful for health.
For fat loss, I recommend cutting out fruit. For active, lean individuals, the best fruits are those that are in season and that are less sweet; the best time to eat these is around intense exercise.
Dr Georges Mouton is an internationally acclaimed pioneer of functional medicine. He lectures all over the world, and runs practices in Spain and in London. He is the author of “Dr Mouton’s Methods” and “The Intestinal Ecosystem and Optimal Health”. To find out more and to read his articles and lecture notes, see www.gmouton.com.