Research draws big question mark on whether to eat fruit or not, says excessive consumption causes liver to store more fat

Research weighs in eating fruit may not lead to a huge spike in your blood sugar levels but it could cause your liver to store more fat. As always, the idea is to balance your dietary intake as per your health and age.

Myupchar October 07, 2019 10:37:10 IST
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Research draws big question mark on whether to eat fruit or not, says excessive consumption causes liver to store more fat
  • Eating fruit may not lead to a huge spike in your blood sugar levels but it could cause your liver to store more fat

  • High-fructose diet makes your liver secrete high levels of acylcarnitines, a fat-burning enzyme, said a new study

  • As always, the idea is to balance your dietary intake as per your health and age

Eating fruit may not lead to a huge spike in your blood sugar levels but it could cause your liver to store more fat, said a new research by Joslin Diabetes Centre in Massachusetts, US. Published in Cell Metabolism, the research has again drawn a big question mark on whether you should or should not eat fruit.

Why eat fruit?

For those of us who have a sweet tooth, fresh fruit has always been a healthy compromise. Fruits like cherries, apples, strawberries have a low glycemic index (GI). For example, 120 grams of apple has about the same GI as 30 grams of wheat and rye bread. And oranges have a lower GI than wheat rotis.

GI is a measure of how quickly the body can turn the sugars in the food into glucose. The higher the GI, the more quickly that food raises blood sugar levels. A GI over 55 is considered medium. A GI over 70 is high. Cherries have a GI of 20, apples have 39, and strawberries have 41.

Another reason to eat fruits is they contain many antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that are considered good for health. Doctors even recommend that diabetics can eat some fruit, like cherries, provided they maintain their daily calorie intake by cutting back on other foods, and, of course, they must avoid fruits like mangoes and bananas.

The murmurs around fruits

To eat fruit or not to eat fruit has been a perennial discussion among health experts. Fruits mainly contain fructose, a simple sugar. While some researchers say that there is nothing to worry about, occasionally there are cautionary murmurs about the negative effects of fruit and fructose on health.

These murmurs range from promoting obesity to increased risk for diabetes and other metabolic disorders. Now, researchers at Joslin Diabetes Center have found out that excess consumption of fructose can increase the risk of fatty liver disease and other metabolic disorders.

In a news release, C Ronald Kahn, chief academic officer at Joslin and lead author of the study, explained that “adding fructose to the diet makes the liver store more fat, and this is bad for the liver and bad for whole-body metabolism”.

Research draws big question mark on whether to eat fruit or not says excessive consumption causes liver to store more fat

Representational image. AFP

The research

According to Kahn and others, this is what happens when you eat a high-fructose and high-fat diet.

First, it makes your liver secrete high levels of acylcarnitines, a fat-burning enzyme.

Second, it leads to fragmentation of cell mitochondria, the tiny oval structures that convert glucose to energy in the body. Fragmented mitochondria lose their complex branched network and turn into small vesicles that are not as functionally active. In other words, when the mitochondria are broken, the cell cannot metabolise sugar as efficiently.

As a result of these two factors, the liver makes and stores more fat, and causes further metabolic disturbances. Amazingly, acylcarnitines levels were found to be much lower in a high-fat, high-glucose diet. A glucose-only diet does not have such a major effect on the liver either.

The old debate

While the Joslin study is still new, the debate on fructose and fruit consumption is not.

A 2012 study said that fructose metabolism produces high amounts of fatty acids that ultimately contribute to obesity and weight gain. An even older study, done in 2010, explained that excess consumption of fructose-rich foods leads to insulin suppression and diabetes. It was also found to increase blood pressure levels.

Another study has suggested that eating fresh fruit increases the risk of gestational diabetes in pregnant women.

So are fruits really that bad?

The answer is a bit more complex than a simple yes or no.

Fruits are more than just fructose. They contain antioxidants, nutrients, and fibres, all of which have immense benefits for health. Instead of labelling all fruits bad, it is important to consume them in moderation. One thing to notice is that most of the research talks about the effects of a high-fructose diet.

So, how much fruit is too much? The recommended daily intake of fruit and vegetables is about five servings of 80 grams each. Stick to that, and you are unlikely to go over to the dark “high-fructose” side.

Also, every time you pick up a fruit, consider a few factors – one, the number of calories it has, the GI (how fast it spikes your blood sugar levels), and two, the glycemic load (the total carbohydrates present per serving).

Fruits such as mangoes and pineapples fall in the moderate to high GI for fructose and hence should be consumed in lower quantities. On the other hand, fruits like apples and oranges have a low GI, you can eat a bit more of these.

As always, the idea is to balance your dietary intake as per your health and age.

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health. For more information, read our articles on the Health Benefits of Fruits.

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