Posts Tagged ‘what to eat’

The surprising truth about fruit sugar, from a pioneer of functional medicine

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

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.

Conclusion
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.

Dr Georges Mouton, MD

Review: “In Defence of Food”

Monday, July 19th, 2010

Overview

Michael Pollan’s “In Defence of Food”  outlines a very simple strategy for eating -  “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly Plants”.

Positives

Whilst there are many excellent books on approaches to diet and the dangers of “nutritionism” (such as Gary Taubes’ “Good Calories, Bad Calories”), this is perhaps the clearest, easiest to follow and most balanced – as well as the shortest.

It argues that the nutritional research trend of reducing food to its components (fat, protein, carbohydrate, phytochemicals, vitamins, etc.) is largely unhelpful, citing the case of whole grains as an excellent example. Scientists still do not know what it is about whole grains that makes the people who eat them healthier. It is not due, as initially thought, to fibre, phytic acid or any specific vitamin. However, the general public is now extremely nutrient-conscious, and attentive to fat content, carbohydrate content and vitamin enrichment – the ideal market for the nutrient-adjusted “food-like” substances produced and marketed by food companies.The fact that manufacturers of crisps and desserts can receive a “heart healthy” approval (for a fee) because of their engineered fat content is sickening.

The Western diet, based on refined flour and sugar, is presented as the main cause of the “Western” diseases – obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer. Pollan explains how humans can thrive on a variety of diets – vegetarian, high protein, low fat, high fat – but not the Western diet.

The last section of the book gives suggestions for escaping the Western diet.

Negatives

It is difficult to find real fault with this book. The suggestions for escaping the Western diet will be largely unhelpful for people with limited resources in terms of money and potentially time, though (organic delivery services will help with the time aspect). I wholeheartedly agree with the notion of spending a little more to get good quality meat and vegetables, but this is not an option for everyone.

Also, the focus on eating “mostly plants” is at odds with the fact that there are a number of very healthy human populations who eat little or no plant material, as reported in the book. Pollan does not promote vegetarianism as the only way forward, though, stating that since humans have been going to so much trouble for so long to obtain meat, it probably has a place in the diet. It is also fair to say that eating more plant food would not be a bad idea for most people.

Finally, Pollan dismisses supplements as useless, except perhaps multivitamins for the over-50s and in some cases a fish oil. Fish oil is well researched, with benefits for insulin metabolism, inflammation and cardiovascular health and I would put it ahead of multivitamins in terms of importance – even for people who eat well. I would also advise supplementation with vitamin D3 for most people living in the UK.  As for other vitamins, supplementing with B complex may be helpful for improving energy levels and mood, and I suggest a good quality multivitamin as an optional extra for those who place excessive demands on their bodies – such as frequent, heavy exercise, an extremely busy work and travel schedule or an ambitious fat loss plan. It is not yet clear whether multivitamins have significant health benefits, although studies do not generally discriminate between types of multivitamins (and there is likely to be a huge difference in biological activity).

Verdict

Everyone should read this book! Real food should be easily available and affordable, not an effort to obtain, or a luxury – and perhaps the most likely way to achieve this is through consumer power. If Farmers’ Markets and organic delivery services blossom, and the non-food taking up most of the space in our supermarkets is shunned, producers will have to change their practices.