AN APPLE a day is supposed to keep the doctor away, but a small but passionate group of Melbourne medics believes apples and other fresh fruit are in part to blame for the extra kilos some of us are carrying.And if you're a bit of a fatty then you're a salad dodging couch potato who's already under a deferred sentence of self inflicted death, aren't you? The Institute of Stands To Reason Dunnit (among others) has told us so.
It is a controversial concept that riles nutritionists, but anaesthetist Rod Tayler's theory that restricting fresh fruit in the diet can result in weight loss has been borne out by the participants in a trial he is running at the Epworth Hospital.Actually I'm not sure this is all that new. Sugar is a carbohydrate and there are lots of low carb diets, Atkins being probably the most well known, and plenty of people who find that they lose weight that way. And it is, or should be, pretty common knowledge that fruits, berries and vegetables contain lots of sugars. It's why they taste so good. Sweetcorn? Yes?
Dr Tayler believes the biggest driver behind the rapid rise in the nation's girth is sugar, not fat.
Mary McPherson, 60, was astounded to learn how much sugar she was consuming as part of what she thought was a healthy vegetarian diet that included four to five pieces of fruit a day. By reducing that to two pieces - ''some berries and a banana'' - Ms McPherson watched excess weight fall off.Oooh, they'll get you for that, Mary. Probably should have kept shtum about it or at least said you'd cut down like Katrina.
''It was a slow loss of weight but in six to eight months I dropped about 10 kilograms and I have kept it off,'' says Ms McPherson, who now weighs 60.5 kilograms.
Instead of snacking on fruit, she ate dry roasted almonds. Occasional sweet cravings were satisfied with a single piece of dark chocolate. She also followed Dr Tayler's advice to reduce refined carbohydrates such as white rice and pasta, replacing them with brown rice and sweet potatoes. But she struggled with his recommendation to cut back on alcohol and continued to enjoy two glasses of wine with dinner
Katrina John, 26, a nurse who subscribes to Dr Tayler's recommendations, says that by cutting out the two to three pieces of fresh fruit she used to eat each working day she not only lost one kilogram in a fortnight, she started thinking more carefully about everything she ate.Needless to say not everyone is thrilled to hear this.
''Then I removed the dried fruit from the nut mix I used to have every day and I stopped drinking orange juice on the weekend and I think it all made a big difference,'' Ms John says, adding she lost seven kilograms in seven months as she also reduced her alcohol and white carbohydrate intake.
Nutritionist Rosemary Stanton rejects the argument, saying there is no evidence for it, pointing out that Dr Tayler's sweet study has not been published in a medical journal. ''I think what they are doing is mixing up fruit and fruit juice,'' Dr Stanton says.Two? I thought it was five? And am I right in thinking that 'nutritionist', unlike 'dietitian', is not a legally protected term here? Not saying that Dr Stanton is unqualified or anything, and what she's said there doesn't seem unreasonable to me (and of course Dr Taylor being an anaesthetist is away from his normal field of expertise here anyway), but my point is that all this advice we get on what to eat and what not to eat is hardly clear. One week butter is good for you, the next it'll murder you in your sleep. We must eat five pieces of fruit and veg per day, then we get fat if we do and anyway it was really only two per day all along.
Dr Stanton says that overall fruit consumption in Australia is low and it is a struggle to get most people to eat the recommended two pieces a day.
What's the right advice? Don't ask me, I'm as unqualified to give advice on eating as they come. But what I can tell you is that moderation in all things seems like the most sensible approach as well as the most pleasant (the idea of an all sprout diet doesn't bear thinking about), but I know it's not an ideal I live up to in reality. And yes, I could stand to drop a few kilos - I did say I was as unqualified as they come. The point is that there's no magic food and no magic maximum or minimum number for what's 'good' for you. For many things too much is bad, and invariably too little isn't a goo idea either. If you're not happy or not well then probably you need to change something. Otherwise the only thing I'd really suggest is not to read the newspapers too much, because consuming more than five articles on health per week is incredibly dangerous and is likely to send you to an early grave.*
* Research pending. ;-)