Is Fruit Juice Bad For Me?

Nothing describes an American breakfast like a fresh glass of orange juice to wash down your meal. However, is orange juice or any other fruit juice bad for me? Let's take a look!

Gary Taubes reminds us about insulin in his book Why We Get Fat, "it’s carbohydrates that ultimately determines insulin secretion and insulin that drives the accumulation of body fat. Not all of us who eat carbohydrates get fat, but for those of us who do get fat, the carbohydrates are to blame. The most fattening foods are the ones that have the greatest effect on our blood sugar and insulin levels."

"The carbohydrates in leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale are bound up with indigestible fiber and will take much longer to be digested and enter our bloodstream. As a result, blood sugar levels remain relatively low when we eat those vegetables; they initiate a modest insulin response and are therefore less fattening."

"The fructose is metabolized almost exclusively in the liver, which has the necessary enzymes to do it. So fructose has no immediate effect on our blood sugar and insulin levels, but the key word is "immediate" - it has plenty of long-term effects. The human body, and particularly the liver, never evolved to handle the kind of fructose load we get in modern diets. Fructose exists in fruits in relatively small quantities - 30 calories in a cup of blueberries for instance. There are 80 calories worth in a 12 oz can of Coke. 12oz of apple juice has 85 calories of fructose. Our livers response to this flood of fructose by turning much of it into fat and shipping it to our fat tissue. This is why even forty years ago biochemists referred to fructose as the most "lipogenic" carbohydrate - it's the one we convert to fat most readily. Meanwhile, the glucose that comes from the fructose raises blood sugar levels an stimulates insulin secretion and puts fat cells in the mode to store whatever calories come their way - including the fat generated in the liver from the fructose. Not only will this cause us to accumulate fat directly in the liver - a condition known as 'fatty liver disease' - but it apparently causes our muscle tissue to become resistant to insulin through a kind of domino effect that is triggered by the liver cells' resistance. Once you start to fatten, if you want to stop the process and reverse it, these sugars have to be the first to go."

What does all of this mean?

The whole blueberries have indigestible fiber which takes longer to be digested. Because of the fiber, digestion is slowed down thus keeping blood sugars moderate. Fruit juices have had the fiber removed from them so it is concentrated fructose which magnifies the problem and the blood sugar will have a significant spike.

We discussed in an earlier post, Understanding Insulin, that today, 86 million adults (more than 1 in 3 Americans) have prediabetes, where their blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be classified as Type 2 Diabetes. The CDC projects by 2050, 33% of all Americans will be diagnosed with diabetes (those numbers do not include the Americans with prediabetes).

I know a lot of members are eating less sugar but have replaced it with fruit or fruit juice and believe this is healthier. While there are some antioxidants and vitamins in the fruit vs. candy or soft drinks, you are still consuming sugar - maybe even a more dangerous sugar. Fatty Liver Disease is a very serious condition which is directly related to fructose being metabolized in the liver.

WebMD states, "Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is now the most common cause of chronic liver disease in the U.S. Although it is similar to alcoholic liver disease, people with this type of fatty liver disease drink little or no alcohol. NASH (nonalcoholic steatohepatitis) can lead to permanent liver damage. The liver may enlarge and, over time, liver cells may be replaced by scar tissue. This is called cirrhosis. The liver can't work right and you may develop liver failure, liver cancer, and liver-related death. NASH is one of the leading causes of cirrhosis."

The Mayo Clinic and WebMD both say the following, "Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is common and, for most people, causes no signs and symptoms and no complications. The conditions which can increase your risk of NASH are high cholesterol, high levels of triglycerides in the blood, metabolic syndrome, obesity, prediabetes, and type 2 diabetes."

I attended a seminar a few of years ago and Dr. James LaValle was the guest speaker. James LaValle, is a nationally recognized clinical pharmacist, author, board certified clinical nutritionist, naturopathic doctorate, founder of LaValle Metabolic Institute, an interdisciplinary medicine facility in Cincinnati where he has served thousands of patients using his metabolic model for health. He has a wealth of knowledge to share to us all. At the seminar, he spoke about a friend of his who is a Dr is a Hepatologist, doctor who studies the liver. His friend is a nationally recognized doctor in Hepatology. He spoke to Dr. LaValle about "fatty liver disease" and it's effects. The Dr.'s concern was that the growing numbers of Americans diagnosed with "fatty liver disease" was growing at a faster rate than the numbers of Americans diagnosed diabetes 20 years ago. His concern is once the liver develops the scar tissue, cirrhosis, the outcome is not pretty. Prior to this conference, I had never heard about "fatty liver disease" but I wrote it down because the outcome was so grim. Since then, the past 2-3 years, I began to hear it more and more in the news as a growing problem in our country.

What can you do?

Reduce your fructose intake to no more than 1 serving of fruit per day, if at all, (absolutely no fruit juice) because your liver never was intended to metabolize the amount we are consuming. Reduce the amount of product with high fructose corn syrup, honey, fruits, and especially fruit juices to only 2-4 times per month to ensure you do not have prediabetes or develop fatty liver disease. Remember, prediabetes, diabetes, and fatty liver disease are almost 100% lifestyle induced. It's up to you what pathway you want to go down.


Steven Zahn

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