03 April 2017


Like your fruit? Well, fruit sugars are getting really bad press in some circles. Many are confused. Some health practitioners advise their clients to avoid fruit, even carbohydrates, because they are of the opinion they act just like ordinary sugar and have all the same bad health consequences.

So what is the fact of the matter? This week we find out what science has to say and how it relates to the recommendations I have been making for decades, but first

         Thought for the day

    Men occasionally stumble over the truth, 
    But most of them pick themselves up 
    And hurry off as if nothing ever happened.

                      Winston Churchill

What happens if we were to drink a white sugar based drink like Lemonade or Coke? (a can of either can have around 7 teaspoons of sugar in it!!!). Fact is we know we would get a big spike in blood sugar within the first hour; what we call hyper-glycaemia. This in turn would cause an immediate insulin release; a big one.

Insulin’s job, amongst other things is to regulate blood sugar, so quite quickly it does flatten that blood sugar spike. However, and here is the nub of the problem, whereas blood sugar is metabolized fast, insulin is long acting. So what happens after a sugar hit is as the insulin continues to drop our blood sugar levels, there is no new sugar being ingested, so blood sugar levels continue to drop, soon going below normal and we end up with what we call hypo-glycaemia.

But it does not stop there. Because our blood sugar levels are now below normal, the body thinks we are starving and releases first glycogen and later when the glycogen is used up, fat into our system. To be more explicit, good research now suggests excess sugar promotes the development of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and type 2 diabetes (T2DM) both directly and indirectly. The direct pathway involves the unregulated hepatic uptake and metabolism of fructose, leading to liver lipid accumulation, dyslipidemia, decreased insulin sensitivity and increased uric acid levels.

These facts are why the fructose in ordinary sugar and high fructose corn syrup has been compared to alcohol in its potential for harm.

So what then about the source of natural fructose, fruit?

Recent research has supplied the answer, and the rationale. While this is the type of confusion we aim to clarify for people coming to our cancer residential programs (next one is coming soon - April 24-28), it is good to set it out clearly here.

The effects of two diets were compared; one based on added sources of fructose only, the other added sources plus fruit. Total fructose levels were restricted in both diets and the effects compared. The diet that included the fruit did significantly better.

People who only had added sugar, as in sugar from corn syrup and the like, did badly; those who included fruit did well. The added sugar diet, not the one with fruit in it was associated with poor liver function, high blood pressure and hypertension. Those with fruit in their diets lost weight, those without it, did not.

Where it seems confusion arises is that some think sugar from concentrated sources acts in the body the same way as sugars in more natural, more complex forms such as in fruit. So some consider that if we eat watermelon we would get the same blood sugar spike with the same unhelpful consequences as a sugar drink. Right? Wrong!

This is the key point. 

The sugar in fruit behaves differently in the body when compared to concentrated sugars like the white sugar and corn syrup that is added to so many “foods” these days.

When tested, even if we add fruit to straight sugar, there is no spike, no hypo-glycaemia and no surge of glycogen or fat released into our blood streams. The blood sugar levels simply go up and down in a way that is perfectly reasonable for our bodies.

Why does this happen? Why is fruit different to ordinary sugar? Why is fruit OK?
Maybe it is to do with the consistency of the fruit, which may decrease the rate of stomach emptying compared with just swallowing a sugary drink. Instead of a sugar spike, we get a slower, more steady release of sugar into our blood streams.

Also, the soluble fiber in fruit has a gelling effect in our intestines that slows the release of sugars. So researchers tested to see if the difference was caused by just the fiber. They experimented with berry juice that had all the sugar but none of the fiber. A clear difference was observed early in blood sugar insulin levels. After 15 minutes, the blood sugar spike was significantly reduced by the berry meals, but not by the juices, however, the rest of the beneficial responses were almost the same between the juice and the whole fruit, suggesting that fiber may just be part of it.

Another fact is there are phytonutrients in fruit that inhibit the transportation of sugars through the intestinal wall into our blood stream; again, off-setting any spike. Phytonutrients in foods like apples and strawberries actually block some of the uptake of sugars.

Also, consider this. We know eating white bread produces a big insulin spike within two hours. However, add some berries and although we have added more sugar in total, the effect of the berries is to blunt the spike. Like pancakes? Eat blueberry pancakes!

The take home messages? 
Just the same as what we have consistently recommended since starting our work in 1981!

Sugar spikes are a real problem. Slowly released sugars are not so significant.

The occasional small amount of white sugar is no big deal unless you are being diligent in response to major illness like cancer when it is best to avoid it altogether. Remember, when you are well, it is what you eat mostly that is important. So aim to avoid sugar at home, but if out, no need to be too paranoid; just be careful and make smart choices.

Fruit sugars are OK. (Best eat fruits with their peels or skins if they are edible.) Two to three pieces of fruit per day are recommended; more if it suits you.

Refined carbohydrates are not OK (as in white bread).

Complex carbohydrates are OK (as in good quality wholemeal bread).

WANT MORE DETAILS? Read You Can Conquer Cancer - has many details like this re food...

Enjoy your fruit. Enjoy your complex carbohydrates.

Madero M et al. The effect of two energy-restricted diets, a low-fructose diet versus a moderate natural fructose diet, on weight loss and metabolic syndrome parameters: a randomized controlled trial. Metabolism. 2011 Nov;60(11):1551-9. doi: 10.1016/j.metabol.2011.04.001. Epub 2011 May 31.

Petta S et al. Industrial, not fruit fructose intake is associated with the severity of liver fibrosis in genotype 1 chronic hepatitis C patients. J Hepatol. 2013 Dec;59(6):1169-76. doi: 10.1016/j.jhep.2013.07.037. Epub 2013 Aug 6.

Johnson RJ et al. Sugar, uric acid, and the etiology of diabetes and obesity. , Diabetes. 2013 Oct;62(10):3307-15. doi: 10.2337/db12-1814.

Stanhope KL. Sugar consumption, metabolic disease and obesity: The state of the controversy. Crit Rev Clin Lab Sci. 2016;53(1):52-67. doi: 10.3109/10408363.2015.1084990. Epub 2015 Sep 17.


April 24 – 28th Cancer and Beyond   -    COMING SOON in the Yarra Valley

For many people these days, living with cancer is an ongoing reality. So how to do that? How to live fully and well in the potential shadow of a major illness?

It seems to me to be virtually essential to regularly take time out, to stand back, to re-assess, to keep on track, to get back on track when necessary, to clarify the confusion that is so easy to get into with all that is in the Press and on the net, and to perhaps most importantly, to be re-inspired and re- enthused for the journey ahead. FULL DETAILS Click here


  1. Great blog Ian, really appreciate you clarifying this muddy issue!

  2. You write so well Ian. I love your manner and your information. I love how you back up what you say with science. Thank you.

  3. Thanks Ian, love my fruit, will love it even more now.

    Jenny Baxter

  4. What about the reaction of raw unheated organic honey in our body?

    1. It also is fine in small amounts - 1 to 2 teaspoons a day in my experience for most people is OK

  5. An excellent and informative post Dr. Ian! And the timing is perfect, as I am just starting a 30 day Open-ended Juice fast and detox. Open-ended, meaning if I have not reached my goals, then I will continue until I do? The goals are elimination of some skin tags, and lesions from my (too long)surfing days in Huntington Beach and Mexico. I did this same fast almost 30 years ago when I had many more lesions than I have now. I fasted and detoxed then for over 90 days, and it was very successful! Thanks again for your information, as I will be applying it to my fast.

  6. Thanks for this clear and simple explanation, based on science.I so appreciate your sensible and rational approach.(Especially when humour is so often involved.!)

  7. Thanks Ian, really interesting!! Adds alot of clarity around the subject of refined sugars and the natural sugars found in fruit. Wonderful!!

  8. Thank you Ian! Great post. If we all eat again how our grandparents used to eat, we will be fine.

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