Struggling To Lose Weight? How Much Fruit Are You Having?

A recent article from Biotics reminds us that high fructose corn syrup – endemic in the US, but in foodstuffs here too – is one of the key reasons for weight gain. HFCS is a mix actually between fructose and glucose and is also called isoglucose and glucose-fructose syrup.

It’s quite a technical piece, but it got me thinking about fruit consumption too. I eat a lot myself on a restricted diet and, today, was doing someone’s case review whose weight gain was no doubt carb related.

The piece makes an interesting point that fructose is the real baddie in weight gain and that we are probably evolutionarily set by it to gain weight in times of starvation. As the author says:

It has been postulated that there is an intracellular alarm signal, alerting an organism that food may becoming scarce, and that entering a “safety mode” of fat storage is desirable. It seems very likely that fructose is that signal, leading to a cascade of cellular responses which would enhance survival in lean times. 

Cruelly, we become addicted to the sweet stuff:

fructose stimulates cravings and drives foraging behaviors, ensuring as much consumption as possible.

I recognise that, don’t you? Once you’ve had some sweet fruit or a soft drink with high fructose syrup in it (not that I have that myself), you find yourself wanting more not long after. I do have a sweet tooth myself and enjoy my fruit and honey throughout the day. But I am probably eating more of it than I should – and it’s probably evolutionary – and because I need more calories as I malabsorb.

The fact is that glucose and fructose are metabolised differently. Glucose is metabolised quickly via the bloodstream for energy, whereas fructose is metabolised through the liver and stored as fat. I know which one I’d want more of!

Look at how sugar intake has increased in the last few hundred years (at least in the US, but I wouldn’t think the UK is that far behind):

 Given that sugar intake has increased from about 4 pounds (per person per year) in 1750 to 160 pounds, and that fructose (the major component of high fructose corn syrup) has become something of a staple in the American diet, the metabolic pathways which might have once spared us from extinction may now be contributing to extensive morbidity and mortality. 

That’s enormous, isn’t it?

So, should we be cutting down on fruit? Not necessarily. Happily, whole fruit comes with pectins and other fibres that bind the fructose ands glucose so we don’t get such a massive insulin spike from it (the glucose part anyway). And that’s a good reminder why we should be eating whole foods rather than biscuits, cake, drinks and the like. Generally, if we eat fruit or sweet things with fibre and/or protein, it will not be absorbed quite so fast. That said, as the article states, fructose is metabolised in the liver, so differently to other sugars, so I’d say you don’t want to go too mad, even with whole fruit – 2 or 3 portions a day maybe?

Honey is about 40% fructose, so more than other sugars, but it is also a lot sweeter so you can get away with using a lot less. Again, have it with fibre and protein, eg. I make a fruit ‘crumble’ out of skin-on apples and berries then sprinkle it with ground nuts. If it’s too tart, I’ll use a little honey. Note that agave syrup is very high fructose, by the way!

Hope that helps. If you’re trying to lose weight, choose low GL foods as per the Belly Fat book and watch the amount of sugar, especially fructose, you are consuming.

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