Replace, don’t Add Fruit – Hormonal Obesity XXI

One of the greatest barriers to weight loss is conventional dietary advice to eat more to lose weight.  This was covered in a previous post “Time Dependence”.  This advice sounds completely contradictory because it is.  Nevertheless, the media is full of unhelpful advice to eat more to lose weight.  The reason, I believe, is that nobody makes any money when you eat less.

One of the most pervasive pieces of advice out there is to eat more fruits and vegetables (F/V) in order to lose weight.  There is no denying that F/V are healthy foods.  However, if our goal is to lose weight, then it logically follows that deliberately eating more of something is not beneficial unless it replaces something else less healthy.

However, that is not what nutritional guidelines recommend.  For example, in the World Health Organization Report “Diet, nutrition and the prevention of chronic diseases:report of a Joint WHO/FAO Expert Consultation” on page 68 it writes:

For children and adolescents, prevention of obesity implies the need to:

  • Promote the intake of fruits and vegetables

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans also stresses the importance of increasing intake of F/V.  In fact, this recommendation has been part of the Dietary Guidelines since its very inception.  The health benefits of F/V stem from what they add and what they subtract from our diets.  F/V are high in micronutrients, vitamins, water and fibre.  They may also contain anti-oxidents and other healthful phyto-chemicals.  This is likely the reason why we are reminded to eat more F/V.

What is not explicit is the fact the increased intake of F/V is expected to displace higher energy, less healthy foods from our diet.  Because most F/V have a low energy density (low calories in a given volume), and have high fibre, it is assumed that satiety will increase and therefore we will eat less other foods that are more energy dense.

If this is the main mechanism of weight loss, then our advice should be to “replace bread with vegetables” for instance.  But it is not.  Our advice is simply to increase F/V intake.  Is this really true?  Can we really eat more to lose weight?

A recent paper shed some light on this issue.  Entitiled “Increased fruit and vegetable intake has no discernible effect on weight loss: a systematic review and meta-analysis“, it was published in Aug 2014 AJCN.  In this paper, researcher gathered all available studies on the intake of F/V intake and weight gain. 

What they found should not be a major surprise.  The zero line on the graph indicates no net benefit or harm from increased F/V.  No individual study was able to show that there was any significant benefit, and the sum total of all the studies also showed no benefit.  Taken all together, this is very strong evidence that the advice to eat more to weigh less is simply not sound.  To put it simply, eating more F/V does not make you lose weight.  You cannot eat more to weigh less.

Why do we give such obviously-wrong advice?  Starts with an M and rhymes with honey.  Because nobody makes any money when you eat less and therefore buy less F/V.  Companies want to sell you fruit/ vegetables/ supplements/ calcium/ omega 3/ vitamin D/ snacks/ meal replacements. That is how they make money.  Nobody sells any books telling you to eat less.  We don’t want to hear what we already know.

So, should we eat more fruits and vegetables?  Yes, definitely.  But only if they are replacing other unhealthier foods in your diet.  Replace.  Not add.  Losing weight boils down to reducing insulin levels.  Eating more of something, even as healthy as fruits and vegetables simply does not achieve that goal.

This is also reinforced by the recent study “Fruit consumption and the risk of type 2 Diabetes” published in the British Medical Journal 29Aug 2013.  Looking at 3 large prospective cohorts (Nurses Health Study 1 and 2, and the Health Professional Follow Up), the researchers from Harvard looked at the risk of type 2 diabetes with the consumption of whole fruits and fruit juice.

With close to 190,000 subjects over 2 decades of follow up, this was a huge study.  After adjustment, the pooled hazard ratio for every 3 servings/week of fruits was 0.98.  In English, this means that over 12 years or so of follow up, eating an extra 3 servings of fruit per week reduced your risk of type 2 diabetes by 2%.  The risk for fruit juice was 1.08 meaning an extra 8% risk with 3 servings of fruit juice.

Clearly, adding fruits to the diet is not an extremely beneficial dietary strategy.  But not all fruits are the same.  The glycemic index, as well as the amounts of fibre, vitamins and antioxidants all differ.  This was a large enough study to allow individual fruits to be examined. One thought is that fruits with high glycemic index may not be as beneficial.  This has often led to advice such as eat fruits except for bananas and grapes.  In a stunning rebuke to the utility of the glycemic index, this study showed that grouping fruits by glycemic index was completely useless.  Eating more high glycemic load (GL) foods lowered the risk of type 2 diabetes, whereas eating more moderate and low GL foods did not.  This is completely contrary to what the glycemic index would predict.

What happens when you replace, not add?  That is, if you were to replace 3 servings/week of fruit juice with whole fruit, would you see a benefit?  Now you’re cooking with fire.  Now you start to see a significant benefit for the prevention of type 2 Diabetes.  But there is a wide range of effects depending upon the fruit in question.

Certain fruits such as blueberries are far more effective at preventing diabetes than others (cantaloupe and strawberries).  Bananas and grapes, often avoided due to their high glycemic index, turn out to be fairly good in preventing diabetes.  Replacing fruit juice with fruit resulted in the following reduction in risk of diabetes:

  • Overall 7%
  • Blueberries 33%
  • Grape 19%
  • Apples/ Pears 14%
  • Bananas 13%
  • Grapefruit 12%

The overall message is clear.  Eating more to weigh less is a doomed strategy.  You need to Replace, not Add.

Continue here to Hormonal Obesity XXII – The Incretin Effect

Start here with Calories Part I – How Do We Gain Weight?

See the lecture – The Aetiology of Obesity 3/6 – Trial by Diet

2018-05-26T10:19:50-04:0010 Comments

About the Author:

Dr. Fung is a Toronto based kidney specialist, having graduated from the University of Toronto and finishing his medical specialty at the University of California, Los Angeles in 2001. He is the author of the bestsellers ‘The Obesity Code’ and ‘The Complete Guide to Fasting’. He has pioneered the use of therapeutic fasting for weight loss and type 2 diabetes reversal in his IDM clinic.

Leave a Reply

9 Comment threads
1 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
8 Comment authors
RickDarrell DartezSusmita KhanMonique MontielJason Fung Recent comment authors
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Bernard P.
Bernard P.

This is Hormonal Obesity part XXI, I assume. I want to keep all yout posts in the proper category.

farida khanum


Jennifer Payne
Jennifer Payne

Hi there, My husband and I are working on a documentary. Would love it if we could talk to you. BESIDES THAT :o) We both suffer from diabetes I have Toxicity syndrome. He is more with a mild case, mine is more severe. I have been searching for some cure for some time now b/c I recognized as a patient that things were not getting better, but worse, and I started young and I knew my body just needed help. THE FASTING IS BRILLIANT. I do need advice. For myself, I am about to start a HCG protocol- which I… Read more »


Hi Jenny – with regards to the HCG diet, I don’t have very much faith in it. Is obesity a disease of low HCG? No. Therefore, I would not expect HCG injections to be beneficial. There may be a very large placebo effect in combining a low calorie diet with HCG – that I certainly do not deny. A reasonable diet, I would think is low in processed carbohydrates and higher in natural fats, high in fibre. Since none of us follow an ideal diet, intermittent fasting is a reasonable addition to a dietary lifestyle. 24 hour fasting periods once… Read more »


[…] Continue here to Hormonal Obesity Part XXI – Replace, Don’t Add Fruit […]


[…] פוסט זה מוגש כשירות לציבור. הזכויות על התוכן שייכות לכותב של הפוסט המקורי. את הפוסט המקורי ניתן למצוא בכתובת הזאת. […]

Monique Montiel
Monique Montiel

What are your thoughts on extended juice fasting with primarily apples, cucumbers, greens, celery and carrots? My husband is on Day 5 and has lost weight and feels fine. I’m curious about the effect of the sugars.

I absolutely loved your lectures; very informative. Thank you.

Susmita Khan

In case of hormonal diabetes it’s important to follow rules in taking proper diet and replacing fruits with appropriate ones may be more effective.

Darrell Dartez
Darrell Dartez

4 months ago I decided to eat wheat free. All of my health issues went away(minor issues), but I was still overweight with a BMI of 29. Since that time I have used 16:8 daily and a three 42 hour and one 72 hour fasts. My BMI is now 25. To even come close to meeting my daily caloric needs I have been increasing the amount of fruit in my diet, all kinds, along with healthy fats from nuts, seeds, and limited whole milk dairy. I am having success, but the LCHF and Keto practicioners really make fruit out to… Read more »


When is the best time to eat fruit?