You might have caught last night’s A Current Affair segment on the telly about sugar? I popped up as a sugar-quitting expert, along with my mate David Gillespie. However, I was used mostly as a voice of extremeness via some quotes I’ve made to ACA journalists previously, repackaged in rather extracted form. In particular, I was presented as being anti-fruit. You can catch the clip here.

Image by stephaniegonot
Image by stephaniegonot

A few people today have got outraged on my behalf (fired up that my quotes seemed to be placed out of context), or just outraged that I would diss fruit. I don’t tend to get upset by these kind of things. ACA presented an interesting take on the subject. And besides, how splendid! I now have a great opportunity to clear things up nice and crystal-like.

1. I eat fruit. One of the ACA grabs sees me listing the high-fructose fruits, as requested by the journalist at the time (during an interview a while back). I recommend eating the low-fructose fruits where possible: kiwi, berries, grapefruit and so on. If you’re doing my 8-week program, I advise cutting out fruit for 6 weeks. This is to break the sugar addiction and to recalibrate our bodies, just for that short period. I then, at the week-7 mark, invite everyone to reintroduce fruit and read how their bodies take to it.

2. I make the point over and over, based on the only comprehensive research I’ve found (by the American Heart Foundation):

we are only able to handle 6-9 teaspoons of sugar a day. Which is about the amount contained in 2-3 pieces of low-fructose fruit.

Many experts in this area – cardiologists, endocrinologists and nutritionists without vested interests in the sugar industry – confirm this amount as being appropriate. I personally find it’s the amount my body can handle before I start to feel the effects.

3. If fruit is your only source of fructose in a day, then 2-3 pieces of fruit is fantastic. If fruit is treated as a treat…which is how I was raised to eat it, and our parents and grandparents were raised to eat it…then bloody fantastic. But do you eat fruit as your treat? Do you eat fruit instead of chocolate or ice cream? Or as well as?

4. Know this: fruit today is MUCH sweeter than it was only two generations ago. They’re being bred this way because we want things sweeter.

5. Know this: fresh, whole fruit is fine. BUT:

Fruit juice is terrible stuff: it contains the same amount of sugar as coca-cola.

It doesn’t matter if it’s freshly squeezed or bottled. It’s the same stuff. Which is where my ACA quote comes in: our bodies don’t know the difference between fructose from Coke and fructose from apple juice. Sugar is sugar. Sure, apple juice has more vitamins and minerals and less toxins than soft drink. But we’re talking sugar. And so far as their impact on our metabolisms, liver, fat conversion and insulin levels go, the two drinks are as dangerous as each other.




Dried fruit is dire stuff: it’s 50-70 per cent sugar.

Again, sugar is sugar.


Sadly, so many people eat dried fruit and fruit juice thinking this is healthy. It’s not. Juice is a treat, as sugary as a Coke. A few dates are a treat, even MORE sugary than a Mars bar. I’m really not misleading Australia. I reckon the “health food industry”, who push fruit juice and dried fruit, are.

6. I choose to get those important vitamins and minerals – and fibre – from vegetables. We all have to be responsible for our sugar intake. Me, I’m aware I get a little sugar from other sources throughout the day – I sometimes like to have a few squares of dark chocolate, for instance – and so I keep my fruit intake to 1-2 pieces of fruit. I choose, instead, to eat a stack of vegetables. Most vegetables are more nutrient-dense than fruit.

Australian guidelines tell us to eat 5-7 serves of vegetables and fruit a day. I totally agree with this…but advise skewing things toward vegetables instead of fruit.

I suggest this breakdown for those on my program, once they’ve completed the first six weeks.

7. Dr Alan Barclay, the expert they use to debunk what David and I say, is an interesting expert. He’s the human nutrition manager at Diabetes Australia, NSW and media spokesperson for the Dieticians Association of Australia.  But as David Gillespie highlighted last year in an article, he also represents the Glycemic Index Ltd (GIL) a mob who hand out a “tick”-like “GI” symbol to food companies who pay them to…hand them out a “GI” symbol. One such company is sugar giant CSR. Barclay was also involved in the launch of CSR’s new GI-ticked sugar in March. Hmmmm……!!!

It baffles many why a scientist or dietician would be so hell-bent on slamming people like me who argue we shouldn’t be eating so much sugar. It seems an odd thing to get fired up about if you’re engaged in nutrition, no? Unless there’s a vested interest…….?! I can pretty much name all such experts and dieticians who do the hell-bent media slam…they’re the same names wheeled out over and over…I’m guessing they stick their hands up for the gig…and all of them have sugar interest somewhere in the vault.

FYI: This is an interesting read about the mis-information that the “low-GI crew” spread.

8. Barclay calls it “nutritionism”. Cool. But David Gillespie and I are not claiming to be impartial scientists or doctors with no agenda. We both are really open: we were curious, we tried quitting sugar for ourselves, we read up on research around the world, and now we’re sharing the information and our personal experiences. We’re also open about the fact we sell books on the matter. I’ve not yet heard Barclay, or other nutritionists and experts who quietly get paid by various lobby groups or sugary food companies, disclose their side interests.

9. The important part of the ACA story, however, was the bit at the end, about soft drinks. This week, the Cancer Council, Diabetes Australia and the National Heart Foundation have joined forces to launch a television campaign geared at regulating soft drink marketing to kids and imposing higher taxes on soft drinks. The Rethink Sugary Drinks campaign is an Australian version of a US television ad in which a man sits at a bar eating 16 sachets of sugar, representing the amount of sugar in a 600ml bottle of soft drink.

You can watch the video here.

They’re an interesting trio behind the campaign. I’ve commented on the sugar-vested companies that sponsor these organisations before here. And so I guess I’m sitting back thinking, if I had to wade into the anti-sugar debate and didn’t want to get my feet too grubby, what would I do? I know! I’d target something that most people agree is bad – soft drink – which might just give me license to push more seductive messages later…like “sugar in moderation is OK”.

Regardless, it’s a worthwhile campaign, even if it just gets people visually aware of how much sugar is in soft drink. Step two is to get them aware that just as much is contained in fruit juice.

What do you think?



Have your say, leave a comment.

  • Helen

    Please can you publish a link to, or the name of, the American Heart Foundation study that you refer to here

    ” I make the point over and over, based on the only comprehensive research I’ve found (by the American Heart Foundation): we
    are only able to handle 6-9 teaspoons of sugar a day. Which is about
    the amount contained in 2-3 pieces of low-fructose fruit.”

    I’ve searched and can only find one that says 6-9 tsps (female/male) of ADDED sugar i.e. unrelated to fruit consumption.

    Many thanks.

  • Stevo

    ACA is renowned for both disinformation and misinformation.

    In terms of the “quitting sugar” thing, I am not convinced. I think our own bodies are the best ‘compass’. Listening intuitively to how your body feels to a particular food lifestyle is the most important thing.

    I am not a massive “foodie” to changing my diet is not as big a deal for me as it is for others, such as my partner.

    Personally, I adhered to a Paleo diet over 12 months, eating strictly nuts, whole grains, organic breads, eggs, fish, veggies, only organic meat, no alcohol, very little sugars … I detoxed for about 2 weeks, after which I felt ok, but I did notice my energy levels fluctuated from day to day.

    My type 1. diabetes that was still persistent. I also had a lot of bloating if and whenever I ate fruit – which was really irritating. I was diagnosed with a “fructose intolerance”. But the advice didn’t make sense to me.

    However…when I cut gluten out of my diet – this was the first most profound change I made. Going gluten free took me to a new level in terms of energy. Most exciting was the bloating and stomach issues I had disappeared with 48 hours – never to return. I have been gluten-free ever since.

    The second most profound change to my health was when I began eating primarily fruits and vegetables in my diet – cutting out all dairy and red meat. This was 2 years ago. I now eat between 40-60 pieces of fruit a week and TBH, I feel like am 21 again!

    I can’t say my diet regimen will work for everyone, but I also don’t believe the “quitting sugar” philosophy is going to work for everyone either. Certainly artificial and refined sugars should not be consumed.

    In my experience, eating naturally form sugars contained in whole organic food, such as juicy sweet fruits, has been only beneficial to my health.

  • RN

    Weary about studying for 4 years? Excuse me but I would not want someone giving me nutritional advise who has not had proper formal tertiary education? Would you like a doctor giving you medical advise if they have not undertaken the appropriate amount of study and training? Or a lawyer giving you legal advise if they too have not undertaken the appropriate amount of study and training.

    Lauren do not worry if you are passionate and have a true interest in nutrition and dietetics the time will fly buy.

    As a registered nurse myself, and after working with dieticians in the clinical setting the key is moderation. If your body does not get what it needs you will find yourself binging on foods.

    I personally would not advise anyone to completely cut out fruits from their diet, as fruit acts as a natural laxative. Fruit and vegetables complimented with adequate physical activity (that is physical activity that the person is able to manage-tolerate) helps facilitate a healthy regular bowel habit- reducing your risk of potential bowel/GI problems.

    The key is moderation.

  • RN

    At the moment this has been thrown into the idiopathic/auto-immune basket.

    Its only discussing lifestyle factors as a potential cause/or risk due to the decrease in insulin sensitivity. I would be asking the question of how many children in this or these studies are obese? over weight? Have a family history of diabetes? diet high in sugar? For it to result to the premise of cutting out fruit from ones diet?

    In ED sucrose is used on infants – for pain relief from minor procedures.

    Your body needs sugar- an example is your brain; your brains primary source of energy is glucose it really does not use anything else.

    It is about maintaining a steady GI- dips in blood glucose levels can cause you to binge- further dips can cause you faint- extreme dips can result in loss of consciousness until glucose is administered.

    Highs in blood glucose is unhealthy and can prolonged highs can have your body secreting a large amount of insulin- over time this can result in reduced insulin sensitivity; predisposing you to diabetes type 2.

    In nut shell have some sugar but not too much!
    But I do not think sugar is causing paed’s to have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease! Especially a population that is so young- from the scientific knowledge I have learnt and my clinical experience there definitely is genetic, immunological and endocrine factors contributing to the cause of this illness- its just about figuring out how?

    How is fructose consumption causing this? In someone so young is it fructose or is it something going wrong in the body? The fructose may exacerbate symptoms but is it the cause?

  • Kirstin

    Are you speaking just to added sugar? I have been running the math and to make a simple salad with spinach, bell pepper, avocado, tomato, carrot and no dressing you are looking at 6g of sugar. Please clarify.

  • Hi Sarah, just a quick question for you. In most charts on levels of fructose in fruit, banana comes out as mid to low, but it’s one you say is high. Equally blueberries are to be avoided but you say berries are low and ok. I’m confused!