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Do Fruit & Nut Bars Cause Weight Gain?

Despite the caloric density of both nuts and dried fruit, they do not appear to lead to the expected weight gain.

March 18, 2013 |
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Supplementary Info

Sources Cited

D. R. Keast, C. E. O'Neil, J. M. Jones. Dried fruit consumption is associated with improved diet quality and reduced obesity in US adults: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1999-2004. Nutr Res 2011 31(6):460 - 467

A. Davidi, J. Reynolds, V. Y. Njike, Y. Ma, K. Doughty, D. L. Katz. The effect of the addition of daily fruit and nut bars to diet on weight, and cardiac risk profile, in overweight adults. J Hum Nutr Diet 2011 24(6):543 - 551

S. C. Chai, S. Hooshmand, R. L. Saadat, M. E. Payton, K. Brummel-Smith, B. H. Arjmandi. Daily apple versus dried plum: Impact on cardiovascular disease risk factors in postmenopausal women. J Acad Nutr Diet 2012 112(8):1158 - 1168

J. M. Peterson, S. Montgomery, E. Haddad, L. Kearney, S. Tonstad. Effect of consumption of dried California mission figs on lipid concentrations. Ann. Nutr. Metab. 2011 58(3):232 - 238

W. Rock, M. Rosenblat, H. Borochov-Neori, N. Volkova, S. Judeinstein, M. Elias, M. Aviram. Effects of date ( Phoenix dactylifera L., Medjool or Hallawi Variety) consumption by healthy subjects on serum glucose and lipid levels and on serum oxidative status: A pilot study. J. Agric. Food. Chem. 2009 57(17):8010 - 8017

P. K. Vayalil. Date fruits (Phoenix dactylifera Linn): An emerging medicinal food. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 2012 52(3):249 - 271

J. M. Alkaabi, B. Al-Dabbagh, S. Ahmad, H. F. Saadi, S. Gariballa, M. A. Ghazali. Glycemic indices of five varieties of dates in healthy and diabetic subjects. Nutr J 2011 10(NA):59

C. E. O'Neil, D. R. Keast, T. A. Nicklas, V. L. Fulgoni III. Nut consumption is associated with decreased health risk factors for cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome in U.S. Adults: NHANES 1999-2004. J Am Coll Nutr 2011 30(6):502 - 510

Acknowledgements

Images thanks to André Karwath aka Aka via Wikimedia Commons and susanvg

 

Transcript

Dried fruits are calorically dense. Should we be concerned that eating dried fruit may make us fat? You may have noticed in the conclusion of the fig study I covered that adding 14 figs to people's daily diets did not lead to significant weight gain.  Wait a second. That's 300 calories of figs a day. Over 5 weeks that's 10,000 calories. Did they disappear into thin air, no, figs are so packed with fiber and satiating, that even without trying people just ended up eating less of other foods throughout the day. I get full just thinking about eating 14 figs a day. Was this just a fluke, though? Let's look at those other new studies. What about adding three quarters of a cup of dried apples to your diet every day for a year? 200 extra calories a day, but no significant change in weight. 200 extra calories of prunes a day for a year? No significant change in weight and same thing with a month of a daily 300 calorie load of dates. In general, the 5-10% of Americans that average a tablespoon or more of dried fruit a day tends to be less overweight, less obese, have a slimmer waist and less abdominal obesity. They tended to eat more, but weighed less.  Similar findings were found for those that eat nuts and nut butters, lower body mass index, slimmer waist and significantly less overweight and obesity.  I've already explored the potential mechanisms, nuts are filling, many boost metabolism, and we may end up flushing down some of their fat. What if you put them both together? What would be the effect of adding daily fruit and nut bars on top of one's regular diet for two months? Took about a hundred folks who were overweight, randomized into two groups. Half ate their regular diet, and the other half ate their regular diet plus two fruit and nut bars a day, totally an extra 340 calories. But these weren't candy calories; these were largely whole plant food calories, dried fruits and nuts. Two daily fruit and nut bars for two months did not cause weight gain. And they had added sugar in them. Maybe that's why cholesterol didn't get better despite the nuts, which should have helped. Recipes with less sugar might be expected to improve lipid profiles. So I'd recommend these kinds of brands instead. Or, even cheaper, just eat some dried fruits and nuts on their own.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Jonathan Hodgson.

To help out on the site please email volunteer@nutritionfacts.org

Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

The video documenting similar findings in nuts and nut butters is here: Nuts and Obesity: The Weight of Evidence and the mechanisms are summarized in Solving the Mystery of the Missing Calories and explored further in:

What's the problem with eating added sugars? Besides all the empty calories, it can lead to the formation of excess uric acid in the body (Flesh and Fructose).

If you missed my last two videos on dried fruit, check out Dried Apples, Dates, Figs or Prunes for Cholesterol? and Prunes vs. Metamucil vs. Vegan Diet. One more coming up, Raisins vs. Jelly Beans for Athletic Performance.

For more context, please refer to the following associated blog posts: Best Dried Fruit For Cholesterol The Best Nutrition Bar, and Raisins vs. Energy Gels for Athletic Performance

If you haven't yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/oliver.h.perry.5 Oliver Hugh Perry

    Howdy Dr,

    Love your videos, I recently heard about soaking/sproating nuts and seeds to increase the bio-availability of their nutrients and also decrease their natural anti nutrients. Have you come across many studies on this topic?
    would love to hear your thoughts :)

  • Diane McLean

    Thank you for the daily nutrition update. I truly appreciate your assistance in helping improve my health while advocating a plant-based diet.

  • dimqua

    Dr. Greger,

    Are there any foods that you would recommend for healthy weight gain?

    • Jordan Bray

      Ditto that! Since going vegan 2+ years ago, I feel great. But a bit too ‘delicate’ and ‘boney’ compared to my meat-eating self. Only a small problem to have in exchange for good health? Or can I gain some weight back on plant foods and still be really healthy?

      • Rafal

        Beans are a great way to gain weight, lots of protein and calories. Sweet potaotes as well or any kind of potatoes

  • http://www.facebook.com/elainevigneault Elaine Vigneault

    This is really interesting to me. I’m curious if more studies would continue to support this idea. Certainly dried fruits and nuts are healthy calorie-dense foods but it seems unlikely that the high calorie content wouldn’t have any effect on weight somewhere along the line.

  • Tom

    I am curious about the details of this study. I recall one of the nut studies Jeff Nelson let us know that the subjects were calorie restricted and that is why the addition of the nuts did not cause weight gain. They just kept modifying calorie intake to maintain weight. So Im curious who funded this study? (Larabar?) Who wrote up the article (corporation vs researcher)? And what was the diet and calorie content of the subjects?

    • Thea

      Tom: check out the “sources sited” section. It is collapsed by default. But if you click on the words to open the section, you will see that Dr. Greger gives you links so that you can follow up on details about studies that he references.

  • chrystea

    But does it inhibit weight/fat loss?

  • Vegan Heart Surgeon
  • Junes

    Hello Dr Greger, The apricots on you photo is orange

    Dried apricots have actually 3 types:

    Sulphured dried apricots (Orange color)

    Natural dried apricots (Dark brown color)

    Most common type of dried apricots are sulphur treated ones, which is applied before sun drying so it keeps the fresh color. The more you apply sulphur, dried apricots get brighter. Treating apricots with sulphur increase the shelf life, while making it’s taste worse (in my own opinion).

    Sulphur usage rate on dried apricots for Europe Union countries are 2000 ppm and for United States it is limited to 3000 ppm (brighter).

    Many people don’t know about that, but if you just lay apricots under the sun for drying without sulphur, color will get dark.

    Natural Dried Apricots are sweeter and have better taste because you don’t get the sulphur taste.

  • Ilana

    What is your response to the other well-known vegan drs like McDougall and Essylstein who arduously advocate against all fat – even nuts and avocado. They have science, you have science – what do you think?

  • John Weissman

    What does all that sugar do to insulin level? Fiber isn’t always, if it ever is, the saving grace regarding insulin.

  • bluecat

    What’s up with his weird speech pattern? The veeerrrryyyyyy strange way he draaaaaaws out words in an extremely annoying waaaaaay in a halting & unusually odd style????

    • pretzel

      I like it!

  • zandyzalper

    1:30 says “fried fruit”