12 Ways Fructose Destroys Your Body

By | Sugar | 39 Comments

In the early 1800s the average person ate about 1.3 teaspoons of sugar a day.  Now the average person eats somewhere between 35 and 45 teaspoons of sugar a day. But the irony is that the modern adult probably thinks they barely eat any at all.  Our food supply has been so completely and totally polluted with sugar, that it is almost impossible to buy packaged food that doesn’t contain it.

One half of that sugar tsunami is a substance called fructose. It doesn’t matter whether the sugar is made from corn (called High Fructose Corn Syrup), beets (called Beet Sugar) or cane (called Cane Sugar or often just Sugar), it is all half glucose and half fructose.  And because we have never before in our evolutionary history as a species been exposed to significant quantities of fructose, our bodies are incredibly poorly adapted to dealing with it.

Consume serious quantities (like that contained in 35-45 teaspoons of sugar a day) and the chronic diseases caused by the maladaptation start to pile up.  The picture above shows the 12 biggest disease states that science has currently linked to fructose consumption.

Magda proves commercial diet programs are a waste of money.

By | Big Fat Lies, Sugar | 5 Comments

According to the Australian Women’s Weekly actress and comedian Magda Szubanski was paid $32,692 per kilo to lose 26 kilos in 2009 ($850,000). It appears the solution was temporary so now Magda is reportedly receiving $1.25 million to have another go.

Magda joins a long list of celebrities who’ve fallen off the Jenny Craig wagon. But continuous failure doesn’t seem to harm their brand at all. Indeed failure seems to sell more, Magda’s first attempt increased Jenny Craig sales by 307 per cent.

So, does Jenny Craig work (for people who are not celebrities)?

The Jenny Craig diet has been tested in only one randomised, controlled trial.  That is a little surprising (and dare I say, suspicious), given it is one of the largest diet programs in the world.

In this kind of trial, the participants are randomly assigned either to a group following the diet or a group not following the diet (the controls), and the progress of each group is directly measured against the other. The trial compared Jenny Craig with what they called a ‘self-help group’. The self-helpers were given information on losing weight and offered a follow-up counselling session with a dietitian, but otherwise left to their own devices.

The study was funded by Jenny Craig, who also provided all the meals and counselling sessions free of charge. Participants also had access to free weekly one-on-one counselling sessions with a Jenny Craig consultant. If they’d had to pay for all this luvin, it would have cost them $718 for the counselling and $6,240 for the food. Because of all these factors, the study is not a completely real-world example. Throw in $1,500 a month for a personal trainer and a million dollar pay day and you might almost replicate the experience of a celebrity dieter.

In the real world, we’re supposed to pay for the diet, not the other way around. Given that, this study probably represent the best possible scenario in terms of keeping people motivated and sticking to the diet for the entire length of the study, which was two years. Even so 9 per cent of participants had dropped out by the end.

After two years of free Jenny Craig meals, intense calorie restriction (the diets were between 42 and 68 per cent of their normal calorie intake) and weekly counselling, the average dieter managed to drop from 92.2 kilograms to 84.8 kilograms (which means they were still obese – in this trial defined as anything above 81 kilograms). Even the self-helpers managed to drop 2 kilograms!

The good news is that if you can convince Jenny Craig to pay for your food and weekly counselling (don’t hold your breath), you can expect to lose about 7 kilograms in two years. If you started out obese, you’d still be obese and you’d have been starving for two whole years but your pants might fit a little better.

And it seems this astounding lack of success is not a one-off observation.

A 2007 UCLA review of 31 credible long term weight loss studies found that most people on calorie restricting diets (such as that promoted by Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers) initially lost 5 to 10 percent of their body weight. But they also found that the majority of people regained all the weight (plus a bit more) within 12 months. Sustained weight loss was found only in a very, very small minority of participants.

Clearly Jenny Craig understand that since their diet doesn’t work very well, people need to be assured that their inevitable failure is something shared by the best and brightest (by that I mean celebrities, in case it wasn’t obvious).

All of this relies on the punter buying into the myth propagated by the Health and Diet industry that being fat is a character defect. They need us to believe that we put on weight because we are weak willed or lazy (or both). This means that any failure of a diet product is those character defects overcoming our willpower and not that the product was a load of rubbish.

This is, of course, utter nonsense. We are fat because we are addicted to a substance (sugar) which makes us fat. This addictive substance is embedded in everything we eat by the processed food industry so they can move more product (if they could use nicotine they would, but sugar will have to do). We are not fat because we are gluttonous or slothful (or any of the five remaining deadly sins).

If a product doesn’t actually work as promised and the company selling it knows this, then we are well on the way to outrageously unethical (if not downright immoral) corporate behaviour. But I won’t hold my breath waiting for any corporate regulator to do anything about it. Luckily we don’t have to. We have a choice. We can buy into the latest Jenny Craig (or any other diet program’s) weightless yo-yo. Or, we can just stop eating sugar.

Image by Eva Rinaldi from Sydney Australia www.evarinaldi.com (Magda Szubanski) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Bottom Line: why you should listen to your gut

By | Sugar | 8 Comments

One in every 250 Australians suffer from a severely debilitating disease but no-one (especially those who have it) dare to speak its name. The annual rate of new diagnoses has at least tripled since 1990 and hospitilisations caused by it have doubled in the last decade alone. This is a disease which is clearly out of control but the worst news is that it is likely to be just the proverbial canary in the coal-mine for much worse epidemics lurking in the background.

IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) is chronic inflammation of the bowel and lumps together two main diseases, Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease. IBD is a life-long condition that is generally first diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 40. The chronic inflammation results in recurrent bouts of abdominal pain, diarrhoea, vomiting, fever, weight loss and rectal bleeding.

Doctors are careful to distinguish IBD from IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). IBS is characterized by chronic abdominal pain, discomfort, bloating, and alteration of bowel habits but no bowel abnormalities are detectable using routine clinical testing. Evidence is however beginning to emerge that suggests that IBS may in fact be a low-level pre-cursor to IBD.

Needless to say, IBD has a significant impact on a sufferer’s emotional well-being and it’s something they generally like to keep very much to themselves. Most will suffer enormous discomfort for most of their lives and just try to soldier on. But a person experiencing a ‘flare’ of the symptoms requires near-continuous care. And hospitilisation and surgery is often required. In 2010, over 27,000 hospilitizations occurred for IBD treatment in Australia. A decade earlier there had been just 13,000.

IBD is caused by the body’s immune system attacking the bowel. The standard treatment is to prescribe anti-inflammatory (immune suppressing) drugs. Beyond that, the official position is that IBD is idiopathic (meaning we don’t know what causes it or therefore how to cure it other than by chopping out bits of inflamed bowel).

Our intestine is a glorious piece of machinery. Its job is to extract every bit of stuff we can use from whatever we shove in our gob and avoid any nasty bacteria while doing it. In order to perform this magic trick we have specialist filtering cells that extract the good stuff and drop it into our lymphatic system (fats) or our blood stream (everything else). To do this we need an enormous surface area in contact with potential food. If we uncrinkled it all, our intestine would have the surface area of a football field. With all that space to cover, our immune system naturally concentrates a lot of its resources on defending the parts of our gut responsible for absorbing stuff from the outside world.

We know that IBD is not an auto-immune disease. It is not the body attacking itself. It is our immune system reacting to a foreign body. That reaction, the inflammation response, is our body’s way of defending itself against agents of harm from the outside world.

One of the key shortcuts our immune system uses is to react viciously to something called endotoxins. An endotoxin is a key part of the cell membrane of some of the nastiest critters in the bacterial world. Cholera, Salmonella, Helicobacter (responsible for stomach ulcers and cancers), Legionella, Gonorrhea and Meningococcus are among the very long list of bacteria who carry endotoxins. So it won’t come as a surprise that our immune system goes on high alert when it spots an endotoxin in our bloodstream.

The correct number of endotoxins in our blood is zero. If the number in the blood stream is any higher than that then we know there is a problem with our gut. The gut is usually impermeable to endotoxins, but it can become ‘leaky’, that is, it can become more permeable to endotoxins and they can start to leak through into our bloodstream.

We know that three very common substances will cause our gut to become more permeable, fish oil, alcohol and fructose. Animal studies have convincingly shown fish oil to increase endotoxin leakage into the bloodstream. And animal and human studies have also shown that both acute bingeing and long term exposure to both alcohol and fructose will increase (up to 20-fold) the amount of endotoxin in our blood. Unfortunately both alcohol and fructose also appear to increase the populations of bacteria which produce endotoxins in our intestines (something charmingly termed bacterial overgrowth). So we get the double whammy of more endotoxins in our gut and doors left ajar (gut permeability) to let them into our bloodstream.

These endotoxins of course send our immune system into a killing frenzy which we experience as inflammation of the intestinal tract. We also know that just like any other inflammation response it is made worse if we are consuming too much omega-6 fats found in seed oils (vegetable oils).

Much more disturbingly, the inflammation response does not end at the intestine. First stop for portal blood after the intestine is the liver and there is convincing research which tells us that our inflammation response to endotoxins is what converts a ‘mere’ fatty liver (caused by overconsumption of fructose) to an inflamed fatty liver (steatohepatitis).  Worse than that, it is looking increasingly likely that our immune response to endotoxins is implicated in a raft of diseases associated with inflammation in other organs (such as the heart, pancreas and kidneys).

Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease now affects 6,203 people but Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease afflicts a massive 5,538,677 Australians. Even more worryingly, up to 13% of Australian children now have this chronic liver disease. If those numbers are anything to go by, we’re bingeing an awful lot more on fructose (or fish oil) than we are on alcohol. So when we go hunting for the cause of the massive rise in IBD in Australia, I’d be looking in the breakfast cereal, health food and soft drink aisles a long time before I’d be checking out the bottle shop.

When we suffer the symptoms of IBS and quite possibly, eventually, IBD. It is our gut sending us a message. It is saying you are consuming too much fructose (or in rarer cases, alcohol or fish oil). It is the visible warning that far more scary things are going on in organs that don’t throw off symptoms (until it is way too late). So if you are getting those messages from your gut – listen.

IBD is a life sentence of debilitation. It won’t kill you but it will make every part of your life awful from your mid-teens onwards. The science suggests the fastest, bestest, way to avoid it is to not binge on fructose (or booze or fish oil). The only problem with that is that the processed food industry is lacing everything we eat with fructose and just for good measure chucking in a pile of seed oils (vegetable oils) loaded with omega-6 fats to ramp up our inflammation response. Pay attention to what you eat, or preferably construct it yourself from basic ingredients and you will be a long way towards not suffering the horror story which is IBD.

Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Why won’t Sydney University retract the Australian Paradox paper?

By | Sugar | 8 Comments

Three years ago a Professor from Sydney University published a paper which she claimed exonerated sugar as a cause of obesity in Australia. It has been widely promoted by the processed food industry.  But from the very beginning it was obvious that there were serious problems with both the evidence relied upon and the conclusions reached. So far the University has failed to remove the paper and continues to drag its feet. Why?

In May 2010, the DAA (Dietitians Association of Australia) announced that Dr Alan Barclay, Head of Research at the Australian Diabetes Council had discovered that sugar could not be blamed for Australia’s obesity crisis.

‘Much to everyone’s surprise, it looks as if, unlike in the US, sugar is not the culprit here – or in the UK or Japan,’ said Dr Barclay while commenting on the study he had just completed with co-researcher Alicia Sims. He based this conclusion on his discovery that consumption of sugar had declined by ‘nearly 20 per cent’ since the early 1970s.

After this, the research was frequently wheeled out to rebut anyone who dared to suggest that sugar may indeed be the culprit. One example appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald in July 2010 when one of my books about the dangers of sugar was critiqued by Jennie Brand-Miller a professor of human nutrition at the University of Sydney.

Brand-Miller argued that Australia’s consumption of sugar has ‘actually decreased by about 23 per cent over the past 30 years. That to me blows David Gillespie’s hypothesis out of the window,’ she said.

Brand-Miller was apparently so impressed by Barclay’s findings on sugar consumption that she became the lead author of the paper by the time it was eventually published in 2011.

The paper on Australia’s paradoxical decline in sugar consumption (paradoxical because elsewhere in the world sugar and obesity rise together but here apparently they don’t) finally saw the light of day in a little known online-only journal called nutrients. Brand-Miller was the guest editor for the issue in which the paper appeared.

As you might expect, those with a buck to make from flogging sugar have leapt upon the (now published) paper with glee.

When the AFGC (Australia’s peak processed food lobby group) argued against a change to the Healthy eating guidelines which would restrict sugar consumption, they relied on the paper. When Kellogg’s wants to convince us that the sugar content of Breakfast cereal is not a problem, they rely on the paper. When Pepsico, Coca-cola or the Australian Beverages Council want to convince us that sugar doesn’t cause diabetes or obesity they rely on the paper. And of course the US, Canadian and Australian sugar associations cite it regularly.

Perhaps a little more surprisingly both the DAA and the National Heart Foundation have, in the past, also relied heavily on the paper’s findings to combat any suggestion that sugar consumption is a serious cause for concern.

Very early on, the constant assertion of the existence of an Australian Sugar Paradox happened to catch the eye of a former Reserve Bank economist, Rory Robertson. He had spent most of his life studying economic data and charts – including on commodity consumption and production – and the statement that Australia is eating less sugar now than it did in the 1970s just didn’t ring true. He made a few calls and quickly discovered that some of the data used by the paper was, to put it bluntly, made up (by the FAO – the United Nations Food and Agriculture organisation). It seemed that was necessary because the Australian Bureau of Statistics no longer collected information about sugar consumption, but the FAO still needed to produce a sugar consumption report.

Alerted to the possibility that there were serious problems with the paper, Robertson dug further and began to discover glaring errors and other concerns. For example a graph which showed a 30% increase in sugary drink consumption was described by the authors as showing a 10% decline. And both Brand-Miller and Barclay had failed to mention that the ‘not for profit food endorsement program’ (disclosed in the paper), with which they are both involved, receives payments from CSR (a large retail sugar vendor) and other companies selling foods high in sugar.  I’m sure those payments didn’t influence Brand-Miller and Barclay’s research at all but the potential for conflict should have been disclosed.

Robertson raised his concerns with the authors and the journal to no avail. Frustrated by the refusal to acknowledge obvious errors, in March 2012, he contacted Sydney University’s Deputy Vice Chancellor, Research, Dr Jill Trewhella.  He was swiftly told that his complaints were ‘potentially defamatory’ and that the best avenue of redress was to publish a paper of his own.

Robertson decided instead to campaign to have the paper removed from the public record. His logic was simple. The paper may be error riddled and published in an obscure online-only journal but it punches way above its weight. It is used extensively to undermine any suggestion that sugar consumption is dangerous and it lends the hard won credibility of Sydney University (and the Diabetes Council of Australia) to its clearly inappropriate claims. He felt that simply rebutting it in a journal would not stop it doing harm. It needed to be expunged from the academic record.

Rory is nothing if not persistent. And it appears that Dr Trewhella is finally acting on his concerns. In November 2013, she announced that she had appointed an investigator to ‘conduct an initial inquiry’ the aim of which is to determine if ‘a prima facie case has been established’ in relation to Rory’s complaints.

But now more than 10 weeks have passed and there is still no word from Sydney University as to the outcome of its investigation. It shouldn’t be that hard. The Paradox paper contains obvious errors (such as the 10% increase debacle discussed above) which go to the core of its claim of decreasing sugar consumption. And at least one of those errors has been acknowledged as recently as last Sunday by Brand-Miller in response to questioning by ABC Background Briefing reporter Wendy Carlisle.

But something else makes the investigator’s task even easier. A peer reviewed paper has been published by the University of Western Australia which explicitly states that having analysed the paper and its conclusions, there is no Australian Paradox (because Australian sugar consumption is ‘substantially increasing’). It couldn’t be more black and white if it were a Zebra.

The Australian Paradox paper is, at best, incompetent. There is no justification for its continued existence. Every day that it remains on the public record, it is being used as ammunition by the processed food industry, Sydney University’s reputation as a premier university is being tarnished and the science of human nutrition is being ridiculed.

It’s time for the University to stop pussy-footing around and do what needs to be done. Retract the paper. Prolonging the embarrassment does not make it less embarrassing.

New Sugar Guide available in the Resource Store

By | Sugar | No Comments

The 2014 Low Fructose Guide to Australian Breads lists the 10 best and 10 worst breads on sale in Australia today (from a sugar content perspective). It also contains a separate section for gluten and wheat free offerings and a comprehensive listing of the sugar content of over 220 supermarket breads and larger bakeries (such as Baker’s Delight).

Get yours today by visiting the Resource Store.

Buy David’s Books

By | Books, Cookbook, Education, Recipes, Sugar, Sweet Poison, Vegetable Oils | 6 Comments

All of David’s books are available from this site. And each book purchased is personally signed by David. If you buy multiple copies of books you will receive multi-buy discounts and keep an eye out for sugar themed or oil themed bundles which also offer great discounts.

All of the books are also available electronically (obviously those aren’t signed).

In addiction to the books there is a great range of electronic resources (such as guides to the sugar content of common foods) available in the Resource Store.

The Books

 Free Schools Cover Small
Free Schools

David Gillespie has six kids. When it came time to select high schools, he thought it worth doing some investigation to assess the level of advantage his kids would enjoy if he spent the required $1.3 million to send them all to private schools.

Shockingly, the answer was: none whatsoever.

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The Sweet Poison Quit Plan Cookbook

Ex-lawyer and ex-sugarholic, David Gillespie, revolutionised the lives and eating habits of thousands of Australians with his bestsellers on the dangers of sugar, Sweet Poison and The Sweet Poison Quit Plan. To help get us unhooked from sugar, David with the help of wife Lizzie, gave us recipes for sweet foods made with dextrose-pure glucose, a healthy alternative to table sugar. Here, David has worked with a chef to develop more delicious fructose-free recipes.

All proceeds from the sale of this book are donated to charity

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Toxic Oil

“‘Vegetable’ oil makes you exceedingly vulnerable to cancer. Every extra mouthful of vegetable oil you consume takes you one step closer to a deadly (and irreversible) outcome.”With these words David Gillespie begins his follow-up to the bestseller Big Fat Lies: How the diet industry is making you sick, fat & poor. In Big Fat Lies he analysed the latest scientific evidence to show us that vegetable oils, specifically seed oils, are dangerous to our health, despite that fact that they are recommended by government health agencies.

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Big Fat Lies

In Big Fat Lies David explodes the myths about diet, exercise and vitamin supplements, examining the latest scientific evidence and exposing the role the multibillion-dollar food, health and diet industries have played in promoting the health messages we follow or feel guilty about not following.

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The Sweet Poison Quit Plan

Packed with reader anecdotes and lists to help you organise your sugar-free life, this book presents one of the most accessible and achievable strategies around for losing weight and avoiding some of the more pernicious lifestyle diseases that are increasingly associated with excessive sugar consumption. Gillespie is an informed and entertaining writer who makes his subject fascinating, and inspires with his passion and logic.

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Sweet Poison

The #1 Bestseller, Sweet Poison exposes one of the great health scourges of our time and offers a wealth of practical and accessible information on how to avoid fructose, increase your enjoyment of food and lose weight.

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The World Health Organisation has taken a tough stand on sugar. It’s about time we listened.

By | Sugar | 2 Comments

Last week the WHO (World Health Organization) leaked a draft report about sugar. The report will tell the world’s health authorities that they should be severely limiting the amount of sugar we all eat. It will recommend that we consume no more than 5 teaspoons of sugar a day. Given the average Australian is putting away somewhere closer to 35-45 teaspoons a day, it’s a very big call indeed.

The WHO is the health policy unit of the United Nations. Its aim is provide evidence based leadership on health research. It is well funded, free from corporate influence and motivated entirely by a desire to ensure that the 193 UN member countries get the best possible, evidence based, health advice. The WHO doesn’t run a Tick program or receive sponsorship from the processed food industry. Indeed it has even recently taken the extraordinary step of banning one ‘research’ group sponsored by industry from participating in its decision making processes.

Shrinath Reddy, a cardiologist and member of the WHO panel of experts, told the Sunday Times the WHO is moving on sugar because “There is overwhelming evidence coming out about sugar-sweetened beverages and other sugar consumption links to obesity, diabetes and even cardiovascular disease.”

The worldwide burden for those diseases is accelerating very quickly. According to a new report out this week the number of overweight and obese in the developing world has quadrupled since 1980.

A billion people in the developing world are now on the chronic disease express. But don’t worry, we still win. Less than a third of the population in China and India is overweight compared to our two thirds or more. They are just starting to get the hang of this Western Diet Thingy, so expect very big rises in the very near future.

The WHO have looked dispassionately at the evidence and have seen the tsunami of human misery caused by sugar coming for more than a decade They publicly warned that sugar was strongly implicated in obesity, type II diabetes, hypertension and heart disease in 2003.

They then took the extraordinary step of telling member governments that they should ensure their populations limited sugar consumption to a maximum of 10% of total calories (around 10 teaspoons of sugar a day – the same amount you would find in a Coke or a large Apple Juice). They did this despite an overt and vicious public campaign conducted by the Food industry.

The US sugar lobby demanded that the US Congress end its $406 million funding of the WHO. This is the same WHO that co-ordinates global action against epidemics like HIV, Bird Flu and SARS. But the US food industry wanted it destroyed because it dared to suggest we eat less sugar.

The lobbying behind the scenes was even more ruthless. Derek Yach, the WHO Executive Director who drove the sugar reduction policy work told a British documentary crew in 2004, that millions were spent trying to torpedo the policy. US Senators wrote directly to the WHO threatening its very existence. They also threatened the Food and Agriculture Organisation (a sister UN department concerned with food production) with a cut in funding.

In the end the food industry campaign paid off. The WHO removed its 10% recommendation from the final text of its recommendation. It was watered down to a suggestion that people ‘cut the amount of sugar in the diet’.

As one of the people involved at the time, Professor Phillip James, Chairman of the International Obesity Taskforce, predicted “we’ll end up with nice little policies telling [us] to have ‘just a bit less sugar and a little more balanced diet’ the nonsense that’s gone on since the Second World War during which time we’ve had this vast epidemic of heart disease, diabetes and obesity.”

Even the briefest glance at the official dietary guidance on sugar in Australia or the UK will tell you Professor James wasn’t too far from the mark with his prediction. Our guidelines are stuffed with words like ‘moderation’ and ‘balanced diet’ when it comes to sugar.

But the thing about evidence is, it doesn’t go away. And in the 10 years since the WHO last tried to save us from sugar, the evidence has become overwhelming (to quote Dr Reddy).

The WHO got a serious kicking when they tried to suggest a 10 teaspoon upper limit on sugar consumption, so you can imagine that the evidence they have reviewed must be truly overpowering to have them step up to the plate again. But this time they want the limit to be 5% (5 teaspoons) or less. I hope they’re wearing their flak jackets because I suspect a whole heap of blood money from the processed food industry is pouring into ‘lobbyists’ pockets as we speak.

The WHO is not running down sugar because it hates sugar farmers. It is not doing it because it likes getting mauled by the US Government (and its sponsors). It’s doing it because we will all suffer immensely if we don’t act on its advice.

I don’t know if the WHO can withstand the punishment they are about to receive. And I have no confidence that their recommended limit will make it through the firestorm of food industry sponsored ‘science’ which will suddenly surface. But I do know that when good people decide the evidence is so powerful that they should say it anyway, then the rest of us better be bloody listening.

That Sugar Film

By | Sugar | No Comments


‘That Sugar Film’ is a feature documentary being made by Madman Entertainment and Old Mates Productions. It is a bold and colourful ride exploring all things sugar. We look at sugar’s prevalence in society and see if it is having any major effects on the mind and body.

As part of the film, our host and director, Damon Gameau, who has eaten little to no sugar in the past 2 years is putting himself through a ‘Super Size Me’ inspired adventure of consuming 40 teaspoons of sugar per day found in common food and drinks. This is only marginally above the average daily amount consumed by teenagers world wide.

He will be monitored by a team of doctors and scientists from Australia, New Zealand and the USA. He will also head out on an international journey and be joined by many familiar faces who are willing to look at sugar a little more closely.

While Damon is taking part in the experiment he will be keeping a daily diary of what items he has consumed to reach 40 teaspoons a day. Take note that there will be little consumption of perceived ‘junk’ food but rather he will be highlighting the hidden sugars that are found in many ‘healthy’ marketed products.

Directed by Damon Gameau

Produced by Rory Williamson and Nick Batzias

Correction to Fruit Fix Post

By | Conflicts of Interest, Sugar | 3 Comments

I’m nothing if not responsive to reader requests. Richard Andersen has written to express some concerns about my recent post on Uncle Toby’s Fruit Fix bar. Richard is General Counsel (a lawyer) for Nestle Australia Ltd and he says that Nestle is worried that you might have misunderstood some things in my post. So in the interests of clarity and fairness, in this post, I’ll go through each of Nestle’s concerns and correct the record.

Righto, off we go – Nestle says that I “represent[ed] … that the Fruit Fix Strawberry variant contains only strawberries … The front of pack clearly describes the product as ‘… apple, strawberry and grape snack’, which you have failed to mention in your post.

Well true enuff Richard, you’ve got me there mate. I didn’t recite the front label of the pack. I just went ahead and referred to the product by the name Uncle Toby’s used to describe it on their site (I didn’t actually buy a packet of the stuff!). So for the record folks, Fruit Fix Strawberry is an apple, strawberry and grape snack. It does not under any circumstances contain just strawberries, so don’t go thinking it does.

Richard then says that Nestle is concerned that comparing the sugar content of a strawberry to a fruit fix is misleading because Fruit Fix also contains apples and grapes. I don’t want anyone being mislead so here is the full comparison (including apples and grapes – SFF is Strawberry Fruit Fix):

Protein: Strawberry 1% Apple 0% Grape 1% SFF 1.3%

Fat: Strawberry 0% Apple 0% Grape 0% SFF .5%

Sugar: Strawberry 4.6% Apple 10.4% Grape 15.5% SFF 72.7%

Fibre: Strawberry 2% Apple 2.4% Grape .9% SFF 7.3%

The highest sugar concentration is 15.5% which is still a long way from 72.7% so I’m not sure what point Nestle is trying to make. Even if Strawberry Fruit Fix contained nothing but grapes, you’d still need to eat almost half a kilo of them to get as much sugar as 100g of Fruit Fix, but there you go, full disclosure.

Next Nestle was concerned that I “… make an inference that additional sugar has been added to the product … The product uses fruit puree and juice, which are inherently high in natural fruit sugars”.Notice how they underlined the word natural, I think it must be a magic word. Lawyers always underline magic lawyer words.

I can’t see where I have suggested that sugar is ‘added’ in the original post. But just in case anyone is confused, I unequivocally state that I don’t think any ‘additional sugar has been added to the product. There’d be barely any room for anything else if they did, given all the sugar that’s already there.

No, I’m happy to accept Nestle’s word that the sugar in Fruit Fix comes entirely from fruit. Nestle seems to think that a molecule of sugar that was in some way associated with a piece of fruit in a prior life is an entirely different kettle of fish than one which found its genesis in a piece of sugar cane (like grapes, sugar cane is about 15% sugar in its natural state). I think this must be some sort of grass-ism (sugar cane is a grass).Nestle appear to believe that fructose molecules from fruit come from a better neighbourhood than those from grass. Apparently once being part of a piece fruit earns them the special label ‘natural’ as opposed to those (I guess) unnatural ones which were once part of a piece of sugar cane.

Nestle also takes exception to me suggesting that they are telling lies by emblazoning their product with ‘1 Serve of Fruit’ and advertising the product as a healthy and nutritious snack. They point out that unlike me, Nestle have carefully ensured they know the legal definition of the word ‘fruit’.

Silly old me. You see when someone says ‘1 Serve of Fruit’, I think of an apple or maybe a banana. But that’s where I’ve gone wrong according to Nestle. No, what I should be doing is reaching for my handy copy of The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating where I will discover (once I drill down to the fine print) that fruit juice and fruit puree are also considered to fit the definition of ‘fruit’. Since Fruit Fix is made from both of those ingredients, it is therefore ‘fruit’.

So when you define the words just the right way, Nestle is telling God’s honest. Personally I think it would be more honest to emblazon the box with ‘Five to Sixteen equivalent serves of sugars that were once part of a piece of fruit’ but I can see how the Nestle marketing people might not go for that.

Unfortunately Nestle didn’t give me their definition of ‘healthy and nutritious’ so I’ll just have to rely on common sense for that one. I take the phrase to mean the food will promote good health (or at least not bad health). And this is where Nestle and I will have to disagree on the ‘truth’. Nestle maintains that a food which is almost three quarters sugar (and the majority of that, fructose) promotes good health. But there over 3,000 published studies which say exactly the opposite.

The latest one (published just last month in the Journal of Clinical Investigation) reported on a study at the University of California where 32 overweight and obese people were persuaded to try a 10 week diet which was either 25 percent fructose or 25 percent glucose. Fructose and glucose are the two sugars that bind together to make table sugar. So ‘sugar’ is half fructose and half glucose (yes, even when it comes from fruit rather than cane).

The people on the fructose diet ended up with increased (1.5kg) abdominal fat, higher triglyceride levels (which leads to heart disease) and 20 percent higher insulin resistance (which leads to Type II Diabetes) after just 10 weeks! None of this happened to the group on glucose.

The University of California research is just the latest in a long line of studies which say the same thing. Sugar (or at least the fructose half or it) is highly dangerous to humans. And there is no shortage of research which shows that fat in the blood (the higher triglyceride levels) from fructose leads to obesity, heart disease and type II diabetes.

The ‘sugar’ in the Fruit Fix is likely to contain significantly more fructose than table sugar, coming as it does from condensed fruit juices. So Nestle are telling parents that it’s good to feed their kids something which consists of large amount of a substance which has been proven to cause obesity, heart disease and diabetes (to name a few of the problems). That does not fit my definition of ‘healthy and nutritious’, so in that sense I believe Nestle is lying when it says that Fruit Fix is a ‘healthy and nutritious’ alternative to fruit.

I guess to lie you must know that what you’re saying is not true. And I have assumed that Nestle would be aware of the research on fructose. I do sincerely hope that their defence (as one of our biggest food suppliers) is not that they weren’t aware of the dangers of sugar.

It’s a free country. Nestle has just as much right to sell high sugar, fruit flavoured confectionary as the next guy (actually a Mars Bar, for example, has considerably less sugar – ‘just’ 55.3%). What they should not do is tell us that it is a healthy and nutritious snack while they’re at it. And the Heart Foundation shouldn’t be aiding and abetting this deceit by stamping the product with its Tick of approval.