How Much Fruit Is Too Much?

How Much Fruit Is Too Much?
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Does the threshold for toxicity of fructose apply to fruit or just to added industrial sugars such as sucrose and high fructose corn syrup?

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Previously, I explored how adding blueberries to our meals can actually blunt the detrimental effects of high glycemic foods; but how many berries? The purpose was to determine the minimum level of blueberry consumption at which a consumer may realistically expect to receive antioxidant benefits after eating blueberries with a sugary breakfast cereal. If we eat a bowl of corn flakes with no berries, within two hours, so many free radicals are created it puts us into oxidative debt. The antioxidant power of our bloodstream drops below where we started from before breakfast as the antioxidants in our bodies get used up. And a quarter cup of blueberries didn’t seem to help much. But a half cup of blueberries did.

What about fruit for diabetics? Most guidelines recommend eating a diet with a high intake of fiber-rich food including fruits, because they’re so healthy—antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, improve artery function and reduce cancer risk. However, some health professionals have concerns about the sugar content of fruit, and therefore recommend restricting the fruit intake. OK, let’s put it to the test. Diabetics were randomized into two groups–one told to eat at least two pieces of fruit a day, and the other told at most, two fruits a day. The reduce fruit group reduced their fruit. It had, however, no effect on the control of their diabetes or weight–”and so the intake of fruit should not be restricted in patients with type 2 diabetes.”

An emerging literature has shown that low-dose fructose may actually benefit blood sugar control. So having a piece of fruit with each meal would be expected to lower, not raise, the blood sugar response. The threshold for toxicity of fructose may be around 50 grams. The problem is that’s the current average adult fructose consumption. So the levels of half of all adults are likely above the threshold for fructose toxicity, thanks to industrial sugars like table sugar and high fructose corn syrup, and adolescents currently average 75.

Is that limit for added sugars or for all fructose? If we don’t want more than 50, and there’s about 10 in a piece of fruit, should we not eat more than five fruits a day? Quoting from the Harvard Health Letter, “The nutritional problems of fructose and sugar come when they are added to foods. Fruit, on the other hand, is beneficial in almost any amount.” What do they mean almost? Can we eat ten fruits a day? How about twenty fruits a day? It’s actually been put to the test.

Seventeen people were made to eat twenty servings a day of fruit. Despite the extraordinarily high fructose content of this diet, presumably about 200 grams a day—8 cans of soda worth—the investigators reported no adverse effects (and possible benefit actually) for body weight, blood pressure, and insulin and lipid levels (fats in the blood) after three to six months. More recently, Jenkins and colleagues put people on about a twenty-servings-of-fruit-a-day diet for a few weeks, and no adverse effects on weight or blood pressure or triglycerides, and an astounding 38-point drop in LDL cholesterol.

There was one side effect, though. Given the 44 servings of vegetables they had on top of all that fruit, they recorded the largest bowel movements apparently ever documented in a dietary intervention.

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 Katie Schloer.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to vic xia via flickr.

Previously, I explored how adding blueberries to our meals can actually blunt the detrimental effects of high glycemic foods; but how many berries? The purpose was to determine the minimum level of blueberry consumption at which a consumer may realistically expect to receive antioxidant benefits after eating blueberries with a sugary breakfast cereal. If we eat a bowl of corn flakes with no berries, within two hours, so many free radicals are created it puts us into oxidative debt. The antioxidant power of our bloodstream drops below where we started from before breakfast as the antioxidants in our bodies get used up. And a quarter cup of blueberries didn’t seem to help much. But a half cup of blueberries did.

What about fruit for diabetics? Most guidelines recommend eating a diet with a high intake of fiber-rich food including fruits, because they’re so healthy—antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, improve artery function and reduce cancer risk. However, some health professionals have concerns about the sugar content of fruit, and therefore recommend restricting the fruit intake. OK, let’s put it to the test. Diabetics were randomized into two groups–one told to eat at least two pieces of fruit a day, and the other told at most, two fruits a day. The reduce fruit group reduced their fruit. It had, however, no effect on the control of their diabetes or weight–”and so the intake of fruit should not be restricted in patients with type 2 diabetes.”

An emerging literature has shown that low-dose fructose may actually benefit blood sugar control. So having a piece of fruit with each meal would be expected to lower, not raise, the blood sugar response. The threshold for toxicity of fructose may be around 50 grams. The problem is that’s the current average adult fructose consumption. So the levels of half of all adults are likely above the threshold for fructose toxicity, thanks to industrial sugars like table sugar and high fructose corn syrup, and adolescents currently average 75.

Is that limit for added sugars or for all fructose? If we don’t want more than 50, and there’s about 10 in a piece of fruit, should we not eat more than five fruits a day? Quoting from the Harvard Health Letter, “The nutritional problems of fructose and sugar come when they are added to foods. Fruit, on the other hand, is beneficial in almost any amount.” What do they mean almost? Can we eat ten fruits a day? How about twenty fruits a day? It’s actually been put to the test.

Seventeen people were made to eat twenty servings a day of fruit. Despite the extraordinarily high fructose content of this diet, presumably about 200 grams a day—8 cans of soda worth—the investigators reported no adverse effects (and possible benefit actually) for body weight, blood pressure, and insulin and lipid levels (fats in the blood) after three to six months. More recently, Jenkins and colleagues put people on about a twenty-servings-of-fruit-a-day diet for a few weeks, and no adverse effects on weight or blood pressure or triglycerides, and an astounding 38-point drop in LDL cholesterol.

There was one side effect, though. Given the 44 servings of vegetables they had on top of all that fruit, they recorded the largest bowel movements apparently ever documented in a dietary intervention.

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 Katie Schloer.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to vic xia via flickr.

Doctor's Note

Cutting down on sugary foods may be easier said than done (see Are Sugary Foods Addictive?),  but it’s worth it. This video is part of an intermittent series on the dangers of high levels of fructose in added sugars. See the first two installments in How Much Added Sugar Is Too Much? and If Fructose Is Bad, What About Fruit?

That’s where I show the berry-blunting effects.

What’s this about being in oxidative debt? See my three-part series on how to pull yourself out of the red:

Ironically, fat may be more of a problem when it comes to diabetes than sugar; see:

In 2020, I did a new video on added sugar: The Recommended Added Daily Sugar Intake

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

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