A friend of mine (I'll call him John) lived in the suburbs of Phoenix when he was in his "middle school" years. He tells me that he and his friends used to spend hours running around the citrus groves that were wedged in here and there between suburban tracts. In addition to building tree houses, John and his friends frequently helped themselves to fresh fruit, right off the tree.
If all of us could get a couple of daily servings of citrus this way - fresh picked from the branch - we might have far fewer chronic health problems, including obesity and type 2 diabetes.
In the e-Alert "Orange Express" (12/17/03), I told you about a review of citrus studies that revealed how a high intake of citrus fruits can help reduce the risk of various chronic diseases. Now a new study shows that grapefruit may be one of the healthiest dietary choices for diabetics and anyone who's trying to lose weight.
Grapefruit x 3
The idea that grapefruit servings may help dieters lose weight is not news. But until now there were no studies to actually support this claim.
Researchers at Scripps Clinic of San Diego divided a group of 100 obese subjects into three equal groups: one group ate half a grapefruit before each meal, one group drank a glass of grapefruit juice before each meal, and one group was instructed not to eat any grapefruit or drink any grapefruit juice. Subjects followed their regimens for three months, while continuing to eat as they normally would.
The results were striking. Those in the group that ate grapefruit with each meal lost an average of 3.6 pounds. Subjects in the grapefruit juice group lost an average of 3.3 pounds. A few of the subjects in both of these groups lost nearly 10 pounds. Meanwhile, the average weight loss in the group that consumed no grapefruit was less than one pound.
The insulin connection
So... what dietary magic makes grapefruit such a helpful weight-loss aid? Researchers believe that grapefruit contains chemical properties that assist in the management of insulin levels - a potential boon to dieters and diabetics alike.
At the beginning and the completion of the Scripps study, researchers measured the insulin and glucose levels of all subjects. When the test was over, those in the two grapefruit groups had lower levels of insulin and glucose than they did at the beginning, while levels in the non- grapefruit group were unchanged.
The Scripps researchers believe that enzymes in grapefruit help control insulin spikes that occur after a meal, which frees the digestive system to process food more efficiently. The result: Less nutrients are stored as fat. And like all citrus, grapefruit is rich in water-soluble fiber, which has been shown to enhance digestion while helping regulate the absorption of carbohydrates that would otherwise contribute to blood sugar spikes.
And there's an added bonus to grapefruit's ability to lower insulin levels. Elevated insulin levels prompt hunger pangs. Likewise, when those levels drop, hunger fades and less food is consumed.
With the success of this study, the Scripps Clinic is now preparing a similar, but much larger study that may provide support to their findings. I'll keep an eye out for those results. In the meantime, adding some grapefruit to our diets would seem like a no-brainer. Especially because weight-loss and insulin control are not the only health benefits we get from grapefruit.
In the May 2001 Members Alert we told you about grapefruit pectin, a substance found in the pulp of the fruit, which has been studied extensively by Dr. James Cerda, a gastroenterologist at the University Hospital in Gainesville, Florida. After years of experimenting with animals, subsequent human trials by Dr. Cerda showed that an intake of grapefruit pectin may help lower LDL cholesterol levels and reverse arterial-wall damage caused by atherosclerosis.
A report on one of these studies in the journal Clinical Cardiology concluded, ""This study has shown that daily dietary supplementation of 15 grams of grapefruit pectin significantly lowered plasma cholesterol and improved the ratio of LDLC to HDLC in hypercholesterolemia patients who are unable or unwilling to follow a low-risk diet."
Getting an intake of grapefruit pectin, however, is not as easy as simply eating a few grapefruit sections. To ingest the 15 grams of pectin suggested in the Clinical Cardiology study you'd have to eat two entire grapefruits, rind and all. Not an appetizing prospect. But in the years since that 1988 study was published several grapefruit pectin supplements have appeared on the market. They can be easily found in health food stores and though Internet sources. Dr. Cerda himself developed a pectin supplement called Profibe, which you can read about at profibe.com.
Get on up
One interesting aspect of the Scripps study that's similar
to the Clinical Cardiology study is that in both trials the
subjects didn't begin any special exercise regimens or
strict diets, and yet subjects in both studies still
experienced positive health benefits. So just imagine how
useful grapefruit or grapefruit pectin might be for those
who eat nutritious meals and get regular exercise as well.
The results could be amazing.