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The five-a-day disaster: why the numbers don’t add up

Published on May 16, 2014,

The Guardian has an interesting article from Paula Cocozza suggesting the five-a-day mantra promoted by the UK and other governments around the world is being hijacked by large food retailers and producers ‘to flog us processed, calorie-packed fruit and veg’. Whether you support the five-a-day initiative or not, it was surely never intended for items like tins of pasta shapes in tomato sauce…

The five-a-day disaster: why the numbers don’t add up

When it comes to eating fruit and vegetables, we have all got the message: the required number is five. More is even better. The message is so ubiquitous, it has taken on a life of its own, a fame way beyond its achievements… For years, fruit was celebrated as the ultimate convenience food, but now manufacturers seek to render fruit in supra-convenient forms. Children go to school with mutant fruit forms in their lunchboxes – fruit strings, fruit shapes, fruit chews – that are made from juice and puree concentrate. Some have an alarming sugar content, yet they promise on the box to provide one of the five a day…

7+ Fruit & Veg a Day? On a Low Carb Diet!?

Published on April 24, 2014,

The blog Natural Ketosis has a look at research reports of the benefits of eating seven or more servings of fruit and veg per day (up from the standard recommendation of five per day) and asks how this can be done if you are following a low card diet. The bottom line: focus on vegetables that grow above the ground. Click on the blue link below to read the full article…

7+ FRUIT AND VEG A DAY? ON A LOW CARB DIET!?Earlier this month a paper was published in Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health reporting favourable improvements in markers of CVD and decreased total cause of mortality with increased consumption of fruit and vegetables. We covered the article in a blog earlier this month here and assessed the strength of the research behind the original ’5-a-day’ message. The paper demonstrated that an increasing fruit and vegetable intake was associated with decreased all cause, cancer and cardiovascular mortality with individuals consuming 7 or more portions of fruit and vegetables per day exhibiting the lowest risk. This has led to numerous recommendations to increase our fruit and veg guidelines from 5-a-day to 7-a-day.

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Mainstream Media Reporting Health Risks of Fruit Juices and Smoothies

Published on September 9, 2013,

The UK’s Guardian newspaper is running a high profile article alerting readers to the health risks of drinking fruit juices and smoothies – for so long seen as a ‘healthy’ alternative – based on warnings from the scientists who previously raised of the dangers of soft drinks and sodas. This is an extract…

Fruit juice drinks in Tetra Pak

Fruit juice drinks in Tetra Pak (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fruit juices and smoothies represent a new risk to our health because of the amount of sugar the apparently healthy drinks contain, warn the US scientists who blew the whistle on corn syrup in soft drinks a decade ago.

Barry Popkin and George Bray pointed the finger at high fructose corn syrup in soft drinks in 2004, causing a huge headache for the big manufacturers, including Coca-Cola and Pepsi.

“Smoothies and fruit juice are the new danger,” said Popkin, a distinguished professor at the department of nutrition at the University of North Carolina, in an interview with the Guardian.

He added: “It’s kind of the next step in the evolution of the battle. And it’s a really big part of it because in every country they’ve been replacing soft drinks with fruit juice and smoothies as the new healthy beverage. So you will find that Coke and Pepsi have bought dozens [of fruit juice companies] around the globe.”

In the UK, Coca-Cola owns Innocent smoothies while PepsiCo has Tropicana. Launching Tropicana smoothies in 2008, Pepsi’s sales pitch was that the drink would help the nation to reach its five a day fruit and vegetable target. “Smoothies are one of the easiest ways to boost daily fruit intake as each 250ml portion contains the equivalent of 2 fruit portions,” it said at the time.

However, Popkin says the five a day advice needs to change. Drink vegetable juice, he says, but not fruit juice. “Think of eating one orange or two and getting filled,” he said. “Now think of drinking a smoothie with six oranges and two hours later it does not affect how much you eat. The entire literature shows that we feel full from drinking beverages like smoothies but it does not affect our overall food intake, whereas eating an orange does. So pulped-up smoothies do nothing good for us but do give us the same amount of sugar as four to six oranges or a large coke. It is deceiving.”

Nine years ago the two scientists had identified sugar-sweetened soft drinks, full of calories and consumed between meals, as a major cause of soaring obesity in developed countries. But they argue that as people change their drinking habits to avoid carbonated soft drinks, the potential damage from naturally occurring fructose in fruit juices and smoothies is being overlooked.

All sugars are equal in their bad effects, says Popkin – even those described on cereal snack bars sold in health food shops as containing “completely natural” sweeteners. “The most important issue about added sugar is that everybody thinks it’s cane sugar or maybe beet sugar or HFC syrup or all the other syrups but globally the cheapest thing on the market almost is fruit juice concentrate coming out of China. It has created an overwhelming supply of apple juice concentrate. It is being used everywhere and it also gets around the sugar quotas that lots of countries have.”

In a survey of sweeteners in US food products between 2005 and 2009 for a paper published in 2012, Popkin and colleagues found that fruit juice concentrate was the fifth most common sugar overall and the second most common, after corn syrup, in soft drinks and in babies’ formula milk.

More studies need to be done before governments and health bodies around the world will take notice. There are only two really good long-term trials – one in Singapore and one by Harvard, he says. “But all the long term studies on fruit juice in anything show the same kind of effect whether it’s a smoothie or natural [juice] and whether it’s a diabetes or weight gain effect,” Popkin added.

…In an article this year in the journal Pediatric Obesity, Bray and Popkin review the issue 10 years on from their famous paper. “The concern with HFCS in our diet has led to a reduced proportion of HFCS in beverages compared to other sugars,” they say, but add “this is a misplaced shift … fructose remains a major component of our global diet. To date, to the best of our knowledge every added amount of fructose – be it from fruit juice, sugar-sweetened beverages or any other beverage or even from foods with high sugar content – adds equally to our health concerns linked with this food component.”

More at:  Smoothies and fruit juices are a new risk to health, US scientists warn

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