Friday, November 28, 2008
One of the primary reasons that Peter and I began this blog is that we both hate the simplistic and misleading obesity related products, diets, and training plans that we are bombarded with on a daily basis. Take, for example, the recent cover story from Women's World magazine, which announced that the University of Texas had found a cure for obesity! The first line of their article asks "Ever get the feeling that you gain weight way too easily? Blame it on fructose!". Not caloric intake, diet composition or genetic predisposition, and certainly not exercise. Fructose. They go on to include a helpful chart which shows that grapes and honey both have lots of fructose, which seems to suggest that they are foods to be avoided. In contrast, Triscuits have no fructose at all and therefore are an ideal food choice.
The recommendations to avoid fructose stem from a recent article by Dr Elizabeth Parks, which can be found here. In it, they compared the effects of liquid meals containing various amounts of fructose. They report that consuming a meal consisting of 50 or 75% fructose results in significantly more fat production in the liver than meals which contain other sugars but no fructose. Thus, according to Women's World, meals that are high in fructose are the beginning and end of the obesity epidemic. And to be fair, it is probably best to avoid many of the foods that are high in fructose - these include things like soft drinks, almost anything that is high in sugar (fructose makes up 1/2 of the molecules in table sugar), and of course high-fructose corn syrup. However, fructose is also found in large amounts in fruit, and the advice to avoid fructose could easily be misconstrued as an excuse to avoid fresh fruit in general.
Here is what upsets me about such simplistic articles - they distract people from the big picture. I am willing to bet that if your diet is too high in fructose, it is likely also too high in sodium and trans-fats, and too low in fruits and vegetables. As Dr Yoni Freedhoff alluded to a recent blog post which you can read in the Speakwell newsletter, health behaviors tend to travel in packs. Focusing on one or two "evil" foods, or chasing after alleged "Superfoods" like Acai berry, allows people to avoid the unpleasant truth that they need to make an overall lifestyle change. If you are going to follow dietary advice, you could do much worse than to abide by Michael Pollan's simple suggestion to "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.". And when it comes to exercise, Participaction's advice to "move more" is also a pretty good idea. But if you find that those suggestions are just too boring you may want to try the new superfood - Triscuits!
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