Wild and Ancient Fruit: Is it Really Small, Bitter, and Low in Sugar?

Given the recent blog-o-drama about carbs in the human diet (for instance, here and here), this seems like a fine time to blog about a sweet subject dear to my heart: fruit! More specifically, I want to take a closer look at some common beliefs about wild fruit, and how it differs from the store-bought stuff most of us have access to.

For those looking at evolution for clues about the optimal human diet, fruit is often regarded with suspicion. On one hand, few foods are “intended” for consumption in the way fruit is: In a lovely act of symbiosis, plants offer nourishment to the animal kingdom in trade for seed dispersal. But on the other hand—the one purpled with blackberry stains—we humans are famous for playing Food God, turning once-healthy things into gross abominations. For hundreds (and in some cases, thousands) of years, we’ve been selectively breeding certain fruits to become bigger, prettier, easier to eat, and easier to transport thousands of miles away from their mothering trees. As a result, the waxed apples and seedless watermelons lining store aisles are a far cry from their wild ancestors.

And for the health minded, this is a predicament. How can we reconcile this year-round supply of modern fruit with the wild stuff we encountered in the past?

Especially in the paleo/ancestral diet communities, statements like these tend to be widely accepted in a common sense, no-reference-needed sort of way:

  • “Fruits in the Paleolithic would have been tart and smaller, and you may want to limit modern fruit because of this.” (From here)
  • “The problem is that the fruits our paleo ancestors ate no longer exist. While they had mostly bitter fruit, we’ve bred ours over the past 200 years to be extremely sweet and sugary. It’s thus become something akin to candy plus a mediocre multivitamin.” (From here)
  • “Bear in mind that the fruits that paleolithic man ate, while still being, say, apples, bore almost no resemblance to today’s apples. Modern fruit is bred to be HUGE and sweet. Most fruits are packed with a particularly bad sugar, fructose…”(From here)
  • “Fruits have been selectively bread to contain massive amounts of sugar compared to how they used to be. Eating a bunch of tropical fruit is not in the spirit of Paleo.” (From here)

At first glance, that all seems logical enough. Virtually all the food we have available today—from plant and animal kingdoms alike—has been selectively bred for both flavor and ease of eating, and fruit is certainly no exception. It seems reasonable to conclude that, apart from the rare batch of honey or seasonal berry bushes popping up outside, humans didn’t get much exposure to sugar during our evolution, and modern fruits are completely unlike anything we encountered in the past.

But are these assumptions truly accurate? Let’s take a look at the facts.

(Note: This isn’t a post about how much fruit we should or shouldn’t be eating, or how much fruit we’ve eaten in the past, or how many apples it’ll take to turn your liver into a ready-to-explode fructose grenade. Those are some hot issues, and I’m not sure they can be reasonably addressed with current research (for instance, there are virtually no studies on the effects of fruit-derived fructose in healthy humans, and quantifying historical fruit consumption is extremely difficult). My intent here is to shed light on some of the myths surrounding wild and ancestral fruit, since some of the most common beliefs are also the most inaccurate.)

Wild fruit: small, bitter, and low in sugar?

Contrary to popular belief, wild fruit—including the stuff we would’ve had access to during our evolution—is not necessarily any of the above. In fact, it can be bigger, tastier, and sweeter than anything you’ll ever find in the aisles of your grocery store.

Fruit is decidedly sparser once you get out of the tropics, but considering we were stationed in Africa until about 50,000 years ago, the flora of a backyard in Michigan might not be a great reflection of the plant life we encountered for the majority of our evolution. As a result, comparisons of cold-climate fruits to their wild ancestors (for instance, a Red Delicious versus a crab apple) tend to be misleading, and tropical fruits may offer more insight. Although we’ll probably never get a clear picture of the exact fruits available to early humans, we can look at the wild fruits growing today to get an idea of what nature is capable of producing on its own.

There’s a great book called “Lost Crops of Africa” (readable online) that has a brilliant section on wild fruit. The authors start by describing the vastness of Africa’s wild fruit supply:

Most of Africa’s edible native fruits are wild. One compilation lists over 1000 different species from 85 botanical families and even that assessment is probably incomplete. Among all those fruit-bearing plants, many of the individual specimens growing within Africa are sheltered and protected, some are even carefully tended, but few have been selected to bring out their best qualities, let alone deliberately cultivated or maintained through generations. They remain untamed. … Africa’s wild-fruit wealth is essentially unknown to science.

So what kinds of “wild fruits” are we talking about here? Let’s take a look at some.

Monkey orange: a tasty fruit enjoyed by more than just primates. Photo by Douglas Boldt of boldt.us.

Nope, that’s not a cross between brains and canned peaches: It’s a monkey orange, a wild species native to Africa. Far from small, these fruits can weigh up to 2.5 pounds each—but untouched by the sweet-seeking hands of humans, is their flavor bitter and unpalatable? Quite the opposite:

In organoleptic taste tests, people were requested to compare the monkey orange fruit with familiar fruits; the most common answers were, orange, banana, and apricot, and all possible combinations among them. The fruits emit a delicate aroma reminiscent of the spice clove. … Over 90% of the panel claimed that it was very tasty.

Nom nom nom. Moving on:

Junglesop: a giant, ugly ball of deliciousness. Photo from SkyfieldTropical.com.

Junglesop. Photo from Lost Crops of Africa: Volume III: Fruits.

Next up, we have the truly wondrous junglesop—a wild member of the same “sop” family that gives us cherimoyas, soursops, sweetsops, sugar apples, and other uber-sweet delicacies common in the tropics. If any uncultivated fruit can blast the “wild fruit is tiny” myth, it’s this sucker: Junglesops average 15 inches in length and weigh around 12 pounds each, with some of the larger fruits clocking in at 30 pounds or more. (Yes, these fruits are even heavier than your obese cat.) And folks lucky enough to live in the junglesop’s native regions seem quite fond of it:

It is so well liked in the regions where it occurs, that for example, in the Central African Republic, some people pay up more than one day’s salary for a single large fruit. A fruit of this size is several meals worth of food. In addition to being an important and widely liked fruit in equatorial Africa, it is also a very important staple for wildlife, especially primates.

Indeed, part of the reason the junglesop hasn’t been messed with by humans is because it does so darn well growing on its own. These fruits pop up like weeds in their homeland (West and Central Africa), and reach their enormous size without any human intervention. Looks like we should give nature more credit for making megafruits without our help.

Other wild fruits in this family are equally scrumptious:

One, the African custard apple, has been called “the best indigenous fruit in most parts of tropical Africa.” Another, the junglesop, produces probably the biggest fruits in the whole family—as long as a person’s forearm and as thick as a person’s thigh. A third—perhaps the strangest of all—“hangs like a bunch of sausages,” each fruit a bright scarlet link. At least two more produce small tasty fruits that make people’s mouths water at just the remembrance from a long-ago childhood. And this group includes a tangy fruit borne on a plant so strange that it barely rises above ground level.

African custard apple, mentioned above: scent of a pineapple, taste of an apricot.

You get the picture. And here are some more:

Soursop. Image from KaieteurNewsOnline.com.

Inside of a soursop. Photo from MedicoNews.com.

The soursop is an often-gigantic fruit of the Annona family that grows wild, but is now being increasingly cultivated in the tropics due to its awesome flavor. I’ve had the pleasure of trying these monsters in Hawaii, and they taste vaguely like the sour-apple gummy snacks I devoured in my youth. (I’ve also heard them described as a mixture of strawberry and pineapple.) The inside is moist, creamy white, and full of seeds. One of the few wild fruits with a documented nutrition profile, they’re decidedly high in sugar (30 grams per 150-calorie serving).

Canistel, also known as egg fruit. Photo from MarketManila.com.

This fruit is as delicious as it is beautiful. The canistel—also called an “egg fruit”—is rich and dense, tasting like a cross between pumpkin pie and sweet potato. The name comes from its texture, which is a bit crumbly and resembles cooked egg yolk. Although bigger, prettier strains are being grown commercially these days (after being introduced to other parts of the world in the mid 1920s), the canistel still grows wild in Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and El Salvador, where it retains its distinctive flavor. With 37 grams of sugar per 100-gram portion, this is another fruit that’s naturally sweet without human help.

Masuku fruit. Photo by Douglas Boldt of boldt.us.

Those are masukus, another wild fruit renowned for their sweet, delicious flavor. They might not be as visually pleasant as the store-bought fruit we’re used to seeing, but they’re highly sought after throughout Africa due to their taste.

Gingerbread plums. Image from “Lost Crops of Africa.”

Gingerbread plums are a wild African fruit with sweet, crunchy flesh reminiscent of strawberries. They’re considered one of the yummiest wild foods in Malawi. When they’re in season, many communities rely on gingerbread plums as a dietary staple, according to “Lost Crops of Africa.”

Pedalai. Photo from SkyfieldTropical.com.

A distant relative of jackfruit (a giant that tastes like Juicyfruit gum), pedalai is a softball-sized wild fruit from Southeast Asia with soft, sweet white pegs of flesh inside.

Jaboticaba, or Brazilian grape tree. Photo from OddityCentral.com.

An open jaboticaba. Photo by Jacob Katel of the Miami New Times.

Contrary to what it may seem, this wacky looking tree isn’t sprouting purple marbles: It’s a jaboticaba, AKA a Brazilian grape tree. This plant produces sweet, big, grape-flavored fruits that grow directly on the trunk—an evolutionary maneuver allowing non-climbing creatures to pick the fruits and disperse the seeds.

Bacupari.

And this is a bacupari—a wild-growing fruit native to South America, with a very sweet, slightly acidic flavor.

Abiu. Photo from CloudForest.com.

Abiu, the Amazon-native wild fruit pictured above, is said to be pretty tasty: Their “delicious flavour is reminiscent of crème caramel and it is sometimes used to flavour ice cream and make other desserts,” according to Daleys Fruit Nursery.

So there you have it: just a small sampling of the many wild fruits that can be sweet, flavorful, and (sometimes) doggone big without us humans breeding them for centuries. Interestingly, one reason wild fruits have a reputation for being more sour than cultivated kinds isn’t because they have less sugar, but because they have more vitamin C, which imparts an acidic flavor. According to a paper about wild fruits in South Africa that I’ll be discussing in the next section:

The composition of these [wild] fruits does not appear to differ much from the better-known domestic fruits except in so far as their vitamin C content is substantially higher than that of domestic fruits. The high vitamin-C content of the wild fruits must undoubtedly contribute to their characteristic acidity.

Nutrient profile of wild fruit

A common belief about wild fruit is that it’s generally lower in sugar and digestible carbohydrates than our modern varieties. Although most of the world’s wild fruits are relatively unstudied (making it difficult to analyze this claim), we do have information on some of ’em. For instance, a paper published decades ago in the South African Journal of Nutrition, called “The nutrient composition of some edible wild fruits found in the Tansvaal” (PDF), documents the nutrient breakdowns of some of southern Africa’s most popular wild fruits. Here’s a table from the paper:

Wondering why the protein, fat, and carbohydrate percentages look so funny and don’t add up to 100? These measurements are based on dry weight rather than caloric yield like we’re used to seeing—so those are just the relative weights of each macronutrient, with moisture and ash (basically a measurement of mineral content) making up the rest. You can still get a sense of which macronutrient dominates in each type of fruit by looking at that chart, but to make it easier, I went ahead and converted those numbers into “percent of total calories” for all the fruits and graphed ’em. This is using only non-fiber carbohydrate so we don’t inflate these figures with indigestible carbs (we’ll cover fiber a bit further down). The first monkey orange values are for the flesh surrounding the seeds; the second values are for the flesh on the inside of the shell.

These puppies range from 78 to 92% of calories from carbohydrates. How does that measure up with some of the fruits more likely to find their way onto our kitchen counters? Let’s compare:

Pretty consistent, right? The biggest difference is that some wild fruits are a bit higher in protein than cultivated varieties, but in general, the macronutrient breakdowns are pretty similar. With the exception of durian (and avocado, which I didn’t graph), cultivated fruits—including berries—tend to hover around 85 to 95% of calories from carbohydrate. (Unfortunately, the data set for wild fruit doesn’t tell us how much of the carbohydrate content was from sugar versus starch, so this comparison is still incomplete.)

It’s quite possible that the macronutrient breakdown of wild fruits is more diverse than indicated by the sample above, but studies from other geographical locations offer similar data. For instance, a paper on Australian Aboriginal plant foods found that indigenous fruits had a similar or higher carbohydrate content compared to domestic fruits.

Fiber

So what about the claim that wild fruits are much higher in fiber than cultivated varieties? Going back to the data set above, let’s look at the ratio between fiber and total carbohydrate in various fruits. These ratios can be read as “1 part fiber for every X parts total carbohydrate”—so the lower the second number, the greater the relative fiber content of that fruit.

Fiber:total carbohydrate ratio in wild fruits

  • Wild plum: 1:6
  • Marula fruit: 1:15
  • Wild apricot: 1:42
  • Monkey orange, flesh around seeds: 1:4
  • Monkey orange, flesh around shell: 1:4
  • Amatungulu: 1:11
  • Baobab: 1:10
  • Sour plum: 1:17
  • Red gherkin: 1:11

Fiber:total carbohydrate ratio in cultivated fruits

  • Papaya: 1:6
  • Guava: 1:3
  • Strawberries: 1:4
  • Cantaloupe: 1:10
  • Oranges, Valencia: 1:5
  • Apricots: 1:6
  • Grapefruit: 1:7
  • Pear: 1:5
  • Banana: 1:9
  • Grapes, American: 1:20
  • Nectarines: 1:6
  • Peaches: 1:7
  • Blueberries: 1:6
  • Honeydew melons: 1:12

Basically, we have quite a bit of fiber variation among both wild and cultivated species. Of the wild fruits listed in the paper above, the fiber-to-total-carb ratio ranges from 1:4 for monkey oranges to a whopping 1:42 for wild apricots (meaning the monkey orange has a decent amount of fiber, while the wild apricot has relatively little). Similarly, the sampling of cultivated fruits here range from 1:3 for guava to 1:20 for American grapes. At least from this data, it seems that wild fruit isn’t universally higher in fiber than cultivated varieties, at least not when we look at the edible portion of the fruit.

The fructose factor

If you’ve been keeping up with the latest health news, you’ve probably noticed fructose stealing the spotlight as a potential factor in obesity, non-alcoholic fatty liver, metabolic syndrome, and other health woes (for instance, see Robert Lustig’s “Sugar: The Bitter Truth“). Although most of the finger-pointing has been at high-fructose corn syrup and other refined sweeteners, fruit has also taken a whooping because of its natural fructose content. Modern fruit, in particular, has been accused of being higher in fructose than ancestral and wild strains and thus less healthy than it was in the days of yore. In my frequent internet lurks, I often see unreferenced advice to limit fruit consumption to berries, which are supposedly lower in fructose than other varieties of fruit.

But is there truly a significant difference in fructose between wild and cultivated fruits?

Once again, wild fruits are terribly understudied in terms of nutrients (especially sugar composition), but we do have a few resources out there to mine for clues. One is the paper “Phytochemicals, vitamin C and sugar content of Thai wild fruits” published in Food Chemistry in 2011. This article has a nice breakdown of the sugars in 19 wild fruits from Southeast Asia. I’ve graphed them out below.* If you’re not a botany buff, don’t worry about the gibberish-esque Latin names: Just look at the pie charts to get a visual feel for what sugars are abundant in some wild species.

*For the fruits that had a listing for both “ripe” and “raw” (not ripe), I only graphed the “ripe” data.

(Note: Maltose and galactose made up a minor portion of the sugars in some of these fruits, but for the sake of keeping things simple, I’m only graphing the three major sugars—sucrose, glucose, and fructose. And since sucrose cleaves into equal parts fructose and glucose in your body, all the blue pie slices below could be viewed as contributing half fructose and half glucose.)

If there’s any pattern here, it’s that most of these fruits are comprised of at least half glucose and a hefty dose of fructose—but three are actually sucrose-dominated, so there aren’t any set-in-stone rules regarding sugar distribution in wild fruits. Likewise, human-bred fruits are all across the board in terms of sugar. Berries (both wild and cultivated) tend to be about half fructose with only minimal amounts of sucrose, while other commercial fruits contain more sucrose and proportionately less fructose and glucose. Take a look at some common varieties as an example:

Whether you’re looking at straight-up fructose or fructose derived metabolically from sucrose, there’s really no basis for the claim that wild fruit is lower in fructose than cultivated varieties—at least in terms of sugar breakdown. After digestion, both wild and cultivated fruits seem to yield about 50% fructose.

Seasonality

Although many wild fruits do have a limited harvesting period, this doesn’t mean early humans would only have access to fruit for only a few weeks or months per year (as is sometimes stated). Particularly in tropical climates, different plant species tend to bear fruit at different times annually—and even plants of the same genus or species can have staggered fruiting periods within the same region. Although a single fruit might not have been available year-round, different species would certainly provide access to fruit beyond a single season.

On top of that, some species remain edible for months after they ripen, and others naturally sun-dry on the plant, making them easy to store for later consumption. For example:

  • The monkey orange, mentioned earlier: “These three special monkey orange trees are widely enjoyed and have the amazing capacity to stay edible in tropical heat for months after maturity.”
  • Sand apples can be easily dried and formed into a long-lasting “cake.”
  • Australian aborigines dry a number of desert fruits to eat throughout the year, including the raisins Solanurn centrale and S. ellipticurn and the bush tomato.

On the flip side

Despite all of the above, there are some notable differences between wild fruits and cultivated ones:

  • The ratio of pulp vs. inedible stuff. Wild fruits tend to have thicker peels and bigger seeds, strings, rinds, cores, and other gnarly bits relative to the amount of edible flesh they yield. Even when sugar composition doesn’t differ dramatically between the edible parts of wild versus cultivated species, a single wild fruit will generally provide a lot less edible material than a cultivated fruit of the same size. This is one area where humans have definitely left our signature in fruit breeding: We like our cultivated fruits to be seedless (or at least low in ’em), easy to bite into, easy to peel, and abundant in edible flesh. Due to their extra roughage (and sometimes-scary exteriors), wild fruits can be more of a challenge to eat. (This doesn’t just apply to sweet fruits, either: See my earlier post on wild avocados.)
  • Water content. Interestingly, wild fruits are often calorically denser than cultivated fruits due to their lower water content. Whereas humans seem fond of fruits with a juice-dribbling-down-your-chin effect, wild fruits are sometimes (but not always) dry, crumbly, crunchy, mushy, and otherwise non-juicy. The higher water content of cultivated fruits makes them appear relatively lower in protein and fat than wild varieties (as primate-diet-expert Katharine Milton points out in many of her publications), even though this isn’t usually the case when viewed from a calorie perspective.
  • Fruiting cycles. On an individual-species basis, the fruiting cycles of wild versus cultivated fruit tend to be very different. In the wild, plants can have variable fruiting periods depending on climate, season, rainfall, and even the specific year (some plants are biennial, bearing most of their fruit once every two years), leading to inconsistent fruit yields. Farmers, on the other hand, may deliberately control or extend fruiting periods so that a particular fruit stays in season longer or hits the grocery store shelves earlier than nature dictates.
  • Dangerous natural substances. Although most cultivated fruit is pretty safe from a toxicity perspective, wild fruits—especially under-ripe ones—can contain an array of natural toxins causing everything from an upset stomach to death. Alkaloids, tannins, cyanogenic glycoside (which turns into cyanide), and a variety of other compounds can exist in some types of wild fruit, making it imperative to know which parts are safe to eat. These substances can also make some types of wild fruit difficult to eat in large quantities without feeling queasy.
  • Flavor variability. Because flavor is influenced by soil quality (among other things), wild fruits of a single species can sometimes vary tremendously in taste. The junglesop, for instance, can span a wide range of flavors—not all of them pleasant. According to Lost Crops of Africa: “In some varieties [the junglesop flesh] is deliciously sweet and very good to the taste; in others, it can be not only sour but downright awful. Just how mature the fruit was when picked can affect the sweetness, but genetics also plays a part, and locals know individual trees that are always sweet and others that are always sour.”
  • Micronutrients. Some wild fruits are far more nutritious than the conventionally-grown ones we throw into our shopping carts, although the vitamin and mineral content of wild fruit fluctuates almost as much as flavor. I initially planned to write a separate section on this subject, but the papers I found were so inconsistent (some showing high levels of certain micronutrients in wild fruits, others showing low levels compared to cultivated fruit) that it seems impossible to say anything definitive.

In addition, if you rounded up every single wild fruit species in the world (not just ones preferred by primates with somewhat-similar digestive anatomy to ours), the majority likely would be small and unpalatable. Wild sweet fruits are a favored minority. This isn’t necessarily a blow against fruit, though. You could also argue that if you rounded up every animal, every vegetable, or every seed in the world, the majority would be small and unpalatable. Across the board, humans have distinct preferences within each food category, such a for sweeter fruit, fattier meat, and less-bitter vegetables.

Take-home points

If you’re in brain-burnout mode and didn’t absorb all that (I can empathize!), here’s the Reader’s Digest version of this post.

  • Although not all wild fruits are as big and sweet as our modern cultivars, at least some are, and certain varieties even surpass our deliberately-bred fruits in size and flavor. Nature—especially with selection pressure from other fruit-eating creatures—is perfectly capable of producing sweet (and sometimes massive) fruits without human intervention. It seems unlikely that early humans only ever encountered berries or other “small, bitter” fruits, and avoiding sweeter fruits on the basis of evolutionary history may be misguided.
  • Based on the limited research we have, wild fruits aren’t considerably different from cultivated fruit in terms of carbohydrate content, fructose content, or fiber content. Both wild and cultivated fruit seem to average around 90% of calories from carbohydrates, and have a sugar composition that yields roughly equal parts glucose and fructose. And both wild and cultivated fruit can be relatively high or low in fiber.
  • Although berries are often lauded as being lower in fructose compared to other fruits, from a calorie/energy standpoint, this just ain’t true!
  • Early humans may very well have had access to fruit for most or even all of the year. The fruiting seasons we witness in cooler climates—with most fruit appearing in the summer—doesn’t necessarily apply to our evolutionary homeland closer to the equator.

I blame the “wild fruit is bitter and small” belief on our woeful state of food education. Most people can name more types of candy than they can of fruit, even though there are literally thousands of edible varieties across the globe—a great many of them wild. With the exception of raw foodists, well-traveled gourmands, and anyone who hangs out at Asian markets, most people’s concept of “fruit” is limited to the standard grocery store staples, with little idea of what else is out there.

Again, this post is only intended to be descriptive, not prescriptive. Fruit is a regular part of my own diet, but I also believe dietary context and individual health history plays a big role in how people react to nature’s proverbial candy. If you avoid modern fruit on the basis that only “small, bitter, fibrous” fruit was available in the past though, it might be time for a paradigm shift.

Nutrition information in this post was taken from the USDA Nutrient Database and Fruits of Warm Climates by Julia Morton.

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544 comments

  1. Thanks Denise for this great job of investigation. The “Paleo” world desperately needed this. Currently, the trend has been toward higher carbs, but mostly in the form of “safe” starches (e.g. potatoes and rice). It seems ridiculous to me to discount fruit playing a fairly large role in a “Paleo” diet considering it may very well have been the first foods we would have eaten.

  2. Anyone who thinks potatoes and rice are paleo is fooling themselves. “Primal” maybe, paleo no. Modern starchy tubers and grains are the ultimate in neolithic, nonpaleo foods.

    I agree that Denise’s post is a great source for the paleo community. Not only does it reinforce the obvious – fruit is paleo – but it also shows us what domestication really did, which was reduce the acid content rather than increasing the sugar content. That suggests that, if we really want to be strict about paleo, we should choose sourer forms of fruit, just as the really strict adherent choose grass finished beef over commercial beef.

    1. It does NOT suggest that at all Warren Dew. If anything it suggests the exact opposite.

      If we like the fruit, and it is grown naturally, then we should eat it. It is 100% IMPOSSIBLE to make a food that tastes better or feels better than nature’s tastiest fruits. Processed foods can imitate this, but they do not do better than it. Humans articially selected fruits themselves by eating it. Fruits were also artificially selected because of how easy they were to grow.

      I mean were you paying attention at all to this blog post? Denise has shown they are practically the EXACT SAME in terms of sweetness. Your idea of eating sour fruit is this ****ing retarded puritan bull**** nonsense rearing its ugly head up again, going wildly in the face of all known evidence and everything you can see. It’s just so freaking stupid.

      1. It is 100% possible for processed foods to taste better than fruit. Don’t get me wrong I’m from Hawai’i and I like the fresh tropical fruits. But Haagen Dazs or Nerds Rope taste better.

        1. I agree with that statement JeffreyD, I didn’t say any different. I said nature’s TASTIEST fruits, ie. fruits that are freshly picked and grown in the wild. The reason they’re tasty to us is of course because they’re good for us. A stone or mud is not tasty, this is because it’s no good for us to eat. Fresh raw organic carrots are moderately tasty, so they’re moderately good for us.

          Coke is a delicious drink, ice cream can also be. The thing is that these foods are only mimicking what would be tasty to us in the wild. Coke for example is made up of fruit flavourings… ice cream it is harder to say exactly what it’s mimicking but our body and parts of our brain think it’s something it’s not.

          Oh I’m sure I’d be greeted with roars of laughter if I suggested to the “respected” scientific committees that the better something tastes, so long as it’s 100% natural, the better it is for your health…. but that’s the obvious truth of it. It’s so obvious it’s a joke. Why would we like something that wasn’t good for us?

          And one final thing: Even if the fruits are artificially selected by humans… well, in the wild humans would have selected certain fruits also and discarded others, so this would also have been humans naturally “selecting” certain fruits. The big threat facing us all is the GM foods. Those are the curse of humanity and can cause our kind extreme suffering towards the end the existence of life that is anything like ours and leave our descendants cursing us until the end of time.

    2. Padraig, you should perhaps go back and reread Denise’s post. Did you perhaps miss the part about wild fruit having “substantially higher” vitamin C content than domestic fruit, making the wild fruit more acid? Fruit that is more acid tastes more sour, even if it has just as much sugar in it. For example, a granny smith apple tastes more sour than a gala apple because it has twice as much vitamin C, even though it also has just as much sugar.

      Taste is partly inborn, but also partly trained. If you truly prefer the taste of bland fruit, you’re in the same position as the guy who prefers feedlot beef to grass fed beef. You can eat the stuff you prefer, which will be fairly healthy, or you can try to change your tastes and prefer the stuff that’s more like what we ate in the paleolithic, which will be even more healthy.

      Monte Diaz, I hope that answers your question too.

      1. Nonsense Warren Dew, the vitamin C has very little to do with how they taste. I have pure vitamin C powder and only a fraction of a quarter of a spoon would be how much vitamin c are in fruit.

        If that idea was right then lemons and limes would have by far the most vitamin c content of all, while sweet oranges would have very little vitamin c. I don’t know where you got that idea from.

        I checked white grapefruit vs red grapefruit (white grapefruit is a lot less sweet and I think it tastes better), and even though they’re the same species, there is basically zero difference in the amount of vitamin c at all.

        I don’t understand what you mean by the word “bland”, as I understand that word to mean boring or dull, which I don’t find any fruit to be. Of course I prefer sour or “tart” fruit better than ultra-sweet fruit sometimes, like I said above I prefer white grapefruit. I’m positive that you do too for some fruits. Everyone does. To be honest I have no idea what you are talking about or mean in this paragraph, but I do believe my sense of taste is still rather accurate and that after eating “normally” (as in a very high fruit diet for a few months), that the vast majority of people would also have this normal instinctive eating pretty intact.

        1. Also it’s a well known fact that vitamin c disintegrates very, very rapidly from food once it’s picked, and perhaps also from pesticides etc.. I wouldn’t put any faith in any of these researchers, even to realize something as simple as that they would have to be tested for vitamin c at the same time after being picked and they should have everything about them the same.

  3. “which was reduce the acid content rather than increasing the sugar content”

    What do you mean “reduce the acid content rather than increase the sugar content”? Bitter fruits usually have more sugar than sweet fruits. You haven’t the slightest clue of what you’re talking about.

    Some of you people are so ignorant and clueless. Your concept of sugar is of adding a teaspoon of white sweet sugar to something and that tastes good but is bad. That is NOT how it works with fruits. What a joke.

  4. Nice post… Unless the whole theory of humans coming “out of Africa” was wrong to begin with. I’ve read convincing arguments that make that a possibility.

  5. I would hope that you would agree, that there is not such thing as how you put in the first few lines of this as the “optimal human diet”. You’ll find centenarians all over the world who consume a wide variety of diets from largely plant-based to largely animal-based. Anyways, I am curious as to why your post largely focussed on differences in macronutrients between wild and store bought fruits, but completely ignored micronutrients? I wonder if you’ve looked into any studies comparing the micronutrient content of store bought fruits to their wild grown counterparts.

  6. “that there is not such thing as how you put in the first few lines of this as the “optimal human diet”.”

    I don’t see why not in theory there can’t be. Your next sentence about centenarians betrays a lack of knowledge and understanding about longevity, health and diet… just because a person is still living doesn’t mean they have the healthiest diet, some long-living people have ridiculous diets and smoke.

    1. Jane, I would say 95+% fruit. All of the Great Apes prefer fruit more than anything else. As for what types of fruit, I would say figs, bananas, oranges… because these types of fruits are favourites of the Great Apes.

      Also, these fruits, or at least some fruit, are available and fresh all year around in the tropics. Fruit in general is not seasonal in this part of the world where humans evolved, it is all year around (of course, specific fruits are more seasonal). Even intra-fruit, some fruit are better than others… we are drawn to the best-tasting ones, for example the darker ones with more antioxidants. However, I believe we shouldn’t concern ourselves with trying to intellectualize that process, we should eat as we feel… it is the only way. Maybe our feelings and instincts have been corrupted, but they’re all we’ve got. What makes the research papers about diet is sooooo stupid, they don’t know anything about diet and they will never find anything about diet except that what we are evolved to eat we do best on.

  7. Padraig,

    So why, if you are eating the optimal human diet, do you take zinc supplements? You must know they cause copper deficiency. You must also know that both vitamin C and fructose can cause copper deficiency.

    You may not know that here in the UK, the copper content of produce has fallen by 75% in the last 50 years. All very good reasons to avoid zinc supplements like the plague.

    In the US, the zinc content of soil has actually risen in many places, due to use of basic slag as a fertiliser. Basic slag is often extremely high in zinc.

  8. Padraig, something very odd happened with my last comment. It posted itself without my permission, before I had finished it or checked my facts.

    Please tell me if you have information that contradicts what I have said about zinc and US soils, or zinc and basic slag. I can’t find the papers I had read on these topics. I remember a table showing toxic levels of zinc in slag, but it could have been phosphate slag, not slag from iron foundries.

    I also think the 75% reduction in copper content of UK produce referred to vegetables, not fruit.

  9. Jane, that’s okay, I often have to double-check things myself before I post something. Thanks for also saying that it’s vegetables and not all produce, I know some people wouldn’t correct themselves on something like that. It is very good news that fruit doesn’t have this 75% reduction. One thing that I don’t have to check is about though is vitamin C causing copper deficiency… there is no way that occurs. You could take 20 grams of vitamin C and it wouldn’t harm you, it’s one of the least toxic substances known to exist.

    Also, I never said I was eating the optimal human diet. Maybe I was for a short while, but it’s very hard and expensive to find fresh fruit all the time and not eat anything else. Zinc has been depleted from the soil. I also am low on testosterone and zinc is one of the foremost supplements for building testosterone. The zinc comes in the same tablet as calcium + magnesium, but I will certainly consider not getting the tablet with zinc in it next time. Though I might take a zinc supplement every 3/4/5 days instead just to ensure I am not deficient in it.

    1. I tried over and over many times to eat the optimal human diet (or as close to it as I could reasonably get), and am still trying. But it takes so much time, is expensive, I get tired of going to the supermarket so often, and also the cravings for processed foods can get very strong sometimes as Denise has noted.

  10. Some fruits, usually those consumed as a staple, were extensively cultivated by primitive cultures.

    For example, Amazonian peach palms (high in vitamin C, protein and very sweet) were cultivated by ancient peoples who pre-dated the Inka. The fruit was extensively hybridized and planted in vast groves that were initially assumed by European explorers to be wild.

    As it turns out, those groves were planted on raised beds of topsoil that had been composted and constructed by humans. The soil is rich in ash and shards of clay pottery, used to prevent erosion from the heavy rains and seasonal flooding. See, ‘1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus,” Charles C. Mann, pp.431-33.

    It’s reasonable to assume that fruit was just as hybridized and cultivated as grain during the Neolithic period.

  11. Tim, the fruit will still be much closer to the paleolithic versions. This is because fruit trees live for decades, while grains are an annual crop. Grains and other annual crops like pulses and tubers will have had an order of magnitude more generations to evolve, and will thus be much further from the original wild versions.

    Of course, the important evolutionary diet argument is that even during the paleolithic, we didn’t eat the wild versions of modern starchy crops, while we did eat fruit – and vice versa, fruit was evolved to be eaten by animals, while the other crops were not. That’s why fruit are paleo and grains, pulses and tubers are not.

    1. Whether tubers were part of the Paleolithic diet is an open question. Potatoes in South America coincided with agriculture, but sweet potatoes and yams would have been available in Africa to hunter gatherers. The same goes for other starchy roots and tubers. Frankly, if an edible vegetable was available to hunter gatherers, they probably ate it. And it wouldn’t necessarily need to proliferate, given the fact that hunter gatherers were comprised of small bands. If enough real estate is available, wild varieties of roots and tubers could have been a dietary staple for some groups.

      I do agree that the Paleo diet wrongly tends to minimize fruit consumption. I’ve been eating a modified Paleo diet since I started CrossFit about five years ago. I eat plenty of fat and protein, but I also eat fruit and potatoes (sweet potatoes and the American variety). I eat the starches in whole foods only and don’t add salt or fat to them.

      1. Sweet potatoes, referred to as “yams” in the U.S., are native to the Americas, and wouldn’t have been available to humans in the paleolithic any more than white potatoes would have been.

        Precursors of African yams would have been available, but wild yams are very different from the huge modern varieties that have been bred by Bantu agriculturalists. They are no more than half an inch in diameter and fibrous, more like modern ginger than modern yams. They would have been “available” in the same way that the precursors of modern wheat would have been “available” to homo habilis in the Caucusus – as very small sources of calories in return for large amounts of effort. Optimal foraging theory says they would have been ignored as long as large bodied game was available.

        1. The real question should be: do these modern sources of high carbohydrate vegetables contain toxins that would recommend they not be eaten? Otherwise it doesn’t matter if they were available 30,000 years ago. Use our best abilites to make informed choices. Is pork an unclean animal as religous dictate informs? Is “Only eat paleo” a new new rule in a new bible?

  12. Padraig, thanks.

    It’s true, high-dose vitamin C is remarkably non-toxic. However,

    ‘..this study confirms that a high ascorbic acid intake is antagonistic to copper status of men as has been demonstrated in laboratory animals.’
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6837490

    The thing is, vitamin C increases iron absorption. More iron means a higher requirement for copper. If your diet is high in iron and marginal in copper, like most people’s, you don’t want to take high-dose vitamin C.

  13. Denise, I have no argument with your demonstration of the wide, year-round availability of fruits in Africa, and even that fruits in temperate regions would have similar macronutrient content in prehistoric times as today. What I reject is that human civilization began in Africa. Anything is possible I suppose, but it seems highly improbable that Scandinavians, for example, can trace roots back to Africa. If it all started there, what would have been the motivation to migrate to areas where food was more scarce and the climate harsher. In fact, putting oneself in the place of a prehistoric, it doesn’t make sense that the idea of migrating anywhere would have occurred to him. You live where you live and that’s it. I can’t imagine migration occurring until perhaps the advent of agriculture, and even then I can’t envision people transforming from black to pale and blond in only 10,000 years.

    What makes sense to me is the following. When food is plentiful sex hormones are produced and consequently more mating is taking place. In northern climates, fruit is, in fact, only available part of the year, and the wild food supply would be more scarce in the other seasons. Sex hormone production would be inhibited in times of scarcity. And it has been shown that calorie restriction, and more specifically, glucose restriction, results in slower aging and increased lifespan. Cynthia Kenyon has done some amazing work in this field. So in Africa you had more reproduction taking place, meaning more offspring, and shorter lifespans meaning more generations. In northern climates people were living longer and not reproducing as much. Statistically where do you think you’ll find more preshistoric remains?

    Also fructose is not converted to glycogen in the liver as one commenter stated. It is metabolized by the liver, but directly into fatty acids and most likely stored as fat, as it is always accompanied by glucose and therefore insulin is high.

  14. If it all started there, what would have been the motivation to migrate to areas where food was more scarce and the climate harsher. In fact, putting oneself in the place of a prehistoric, it doesn’t make sense that the idea of migrating anywhere would have occurred to him.”

    Howard, first of all… this journey took a really long time. They had no idea they were going to Scandanavia and harsher climates when they migrating. Many animals migrate for many reasons. They didn’t just appear out of nowhere. Evolution can occur quite rapidly. Look at the selection of dogs over the past few thousand years and how different they are from their origin of the wolf. Some people wonder how evolution can occur so rapidly given the current explanations (leading some to question evolution altogether), however this is a problem with evolutionary theory, not of migration. Everyone accepts that relatively fast (few thousand years or so) change happens especially if the environment changes.

    There are so many problems with your next paragraph that I don’t even know where to begin, the whole thing is a joke, sorry.

  15. Padraig, that’s okay–my ideas (and I) have been called far worse and you were kind to use restraint. You might want to read “Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar & Survival” by T.S. Wiley, and check out the research being done on aging and longevity by Cynthia Kenyon.

    1. “Padraig, that’s okay–my ideas (and I) have been called far worse”

      Probably by the so-called “paleo” (low sugar) community, right? Those guys can get very nasty very fast, perhaps it’s got something to do with them denying themselves food that has sugar in it (based on their deranged concept of sugar)…. I accept that that’s higly speculatory, but there can be no doubt that extremely low sugar = low/angry mood sometimes.

      1. Actually, you’re right, it was among the Paleos. But ironically I consider myself to be a member of that group and find that my mood has improved since having eliminated carbs. However, in any group when one’s paradigm is challenged, the response is often an angry or defiant in defense of the beliefs. I have to fight the same urge–I keep re-thinking my positions, and keep questioning.

  16. ME, I think you are insulting everyone here’s intelligence and wasting all of our time by making unfounded claims about whole fruit and “proving” those claims with studies done on HFCS.

    You want to believe that fruit is dangerous, so you reel in whatever possible argument you can find to support that bias, however far-fetched and unrelated. This being the case, no one can debate with you. Again, if for some reason you don’t like fruit, simply stop eating it.

    1. Since you also can not comprehend the argument and clearly haven’t read any of the cited studies, let me simplify it for you:

      Padraig claims that the optimal human diet is “95% fruit”. I am arguing against this position with the only clinical data available regarding fructose consumption at these levels. The clinical study data includes various forms of fructose, not just HFCS. I am not arguing that “fruit is dangerous” in general, and have made no such claim.

      I am raising what has been shown by the research: that consuming more than 50 g of fructose a day results in adverse health markers. Interpret that as you wish.

      1. ME — although there’s a dearth of literature on the effects of fructose from whole fruit, there is at least one study out there done on honey (which has a similar glucose/fructose ratio as HFCS) that shows fructose from honey results in lower triglycerides than an equivalent amount of refined fructose. Read it here:
        Substituting Honey for Refined Carbohydrates Protects Rats from Hypertriglyceridemic and Prooxidative Effects of Fructose — look in Table 3 and you’ll see that the honey-fed rats had significantly lower triglycerides than the ones fed fructose, even though the absolute amount of fructose consumed was the same.
        Though not explicitly about fruit, this does give credence to the idea that whole-food fructose can have a different metabolic effect than refined sources.

        1. Thank you – that is very interesting.

          Of course the only reason the starch fed to the control rats is not itself prooxidative is because rats can turn glucose into vitamin C, an option humans don’t have.

        2. That is a useful study, but the increase in TG is still there for honey. Not to the same extent as fructose, but still a significant increase as compared to the control group.

        3. One other comment about this study. The actual food consumption of the rats wasn’t apparently monitored:

          “Diet and distilled water were consumed ad libitum. ”

          Maybe the rats consumed the same amount of fructose, maybe they didn’t.

        4. ME, the difference in triglycerides with honey and with the control diet was not statistically significant, if you check the superscripts. The honey fed rats grew the most, so it seems to me unlikely they ate less than the fructose/glucose rats.

          1. Thanks for pointing out the superscripts, so the only statistically significant change for the honey fed rats was reduced Vitamin E/TG ratio, which is odd because neither the Vitamin E or TG levels on their own show a statistically significant change (but I am not a statistics wonk).

            Yes, it is possible that the honey fed rats ate more, but that statement is still speculative.

  17. Howard, I looked up Cynthia Kenyon and discovered she did her postdoc in the lab where I did my PhD. I know the people who have influenced her, and they think modern disease is caused by faulty genes rather than diet. At least they used to think that, perhaps they’re changing their minds now that the Human Genome Project has failed to come up with the genes.

    She eats a paleo-style diet with almost no carbs, not even sweet fruit, because of her finding that worms don’t live as long if you feed them sugar. With her background, this will have been a revelation. The genes people were wrong! It’s sugar! But actually, it isn’t really the sugar at all. It’s the excess sugar, over and above the micronutrients needed for metabolism of the sugar.

    1. Yes, Jane, Cynthia Kenyon was influenced by people who think genes cause disease and set about doing her research with that bias. But her research is on aging and longevity, not disease, and she DEFINITELY found that she could alter the lifespan of c. elegans by manipulating genes. And yes, she also discovered that glucose restriction would lengthen their lifespan. And that it would turn off their ability to multiply. Neither she nor I give a hoot what others eat. We believe limiting glucose (which is in fruit, BTW) will make us live longer. I still love berries and have them every once an awhile.

  18. Fructose has unique biochemical pathways in humans and most of the great apes. It inteferes with liver function. The liver drops everything to deal with fructose metabolism. In view of the huge run up of added sugars in western diets in the past 60-80 years fructose must now be viewed as uniquely toxic with its assault on the liver. The prescription for most of the sick organisms that have resulted from the 900 or so excess carbohydrate calories consumed on the SAD diet is a long sugar holiday. A 95% fruit diet is an extreme radical take on what our species evolved on. Take a look at mother’s milk for a more rational macronutrient ratio. This is Denise’s blog. It doesn’t belong to an angry, nattering, name calling minority with nothing to do but aggressively put forth a combination of fantasy and fact without much spirit of calm inquiry and sharing of information. Go do your own damn blog and quit choking this one to death. Poor Denise.

  19. A very narrow and unenlightening reading of the reply. Try to pull the whole statement into your consideration.

    1. This is not science lecture — this is a blog. Argument, even radical and preposterous, is what drives blogs and interest.

      If you want peace and harmony, go to a scrapbooking class.

      “The liver drops everything to deal with fructose metabolism.” So what? That says it all, doesn’t it, about the value of your contribution.

  20. “A 95% fruit diet is an extreme radical take on what our species evolved on.”

    An “extreme radical take”, huh? My parents used to think that my raw diet was an “extreme radical take”. It could be argued better that the extreme radical take is to cook foods and to deny yourself eating the food that you want to eat due to some radical pseudoscience that has only ever produces what it’s supposed to in a test tube!

    The Chimpanzees and Orangutans, who have been seen to throw away fresh monkey meat after capturing it in favour of eating fresh fruit instead, disagree with you. I too love fruit and love eating it. If you want to eat meat, try eating actual raw organic meat. That is how it was available to your ancestors. I’m sure it would be somewhat tasty, but not as much as fruit.

    A lot of stuff on diet, in particular fructose, is just pseudoscience or wholly irrelevant. It’s taking the good name of science and just abusing it. Scientists are required to come up with theories and papers as part of their job description, the fact that they can come up with nothing useful for diet other than you should eat naturally means they come up with this sort of stuff. Even then, NONE of them are seriously claiming that 100grams of fructose a day is bad. In fact didn’t they say the EXACT OPPOSITE in the link that ME posted, ie. that the amounts of fructose that were bad for you were unrealistic for humans to take?

    Health agencies can’t be trusted, but they have never warned about the “dangers of fructose”, it’s only this cult that’s going around the web interpretating these ideas they’re own way, led by people such as Cynthia Kenyon, and you bought into it. I’m sure it must be nice to pretend that you have the “inside knowledge” about something and that all those people buying fruit are damaging themselves. I’ve seen people say things with absolute seriousness like heart disease is caused “almost entirely by AGEs”… with the implication that AGEs are caused by fructose/glucose, ie. from food like fruit. Thank you Jane and Heather for your informative and interesting posts.

    1. The use of fire for cooking a substantial portion of our food is a prominent factor in our evolution in becoming the species Homo sapiens. Apparently Homo erectus got the fire for cooking food ‘thing’ started well over 800,000 years ago. Cooking food, and the culture that goes with it all, is part of our basic biology as Homo sapiens.

  21. As far as I can tell, Cynthia Kenyon believes that it’s glucose, not fructose, that’s bad. That implicates starchy foods such as bread and potatoes much more than it does fruit. Nor does she go around telling other people they should eat like she does; I think she’d be the first to admit that her diet is based on a guess, not on full knowledge.

    1. Yes, Warren, that’s correct, glucose. But fruit does contain glucose. Neither she nor I are telling anyone what to eat. She found that she could lengthen the lifespan of c. elegans worms if she restricted glucose. Whether right or wrong I was using that fact to support my hypothesis on where we originated. I definitely believe that prehistorics ate fruit.

  22. Also, just because fructose partially uses the liver as a metabolic pathway in no way indicates that it is not as good. Muscles weaken and atrophy when not in use, eyes that are not used when a person is born for some medical reason never develop sight properly.

  23. Attn: Those commenting to “ME”

    If he hasn’t figured it out by now, he never will. It’s a lost cause. Quit wasting perfectly good glucose on him that you could be using to help someone else.

    RE: Longevity

    I guess I’ll eat my fruit and live to a thriving 90 vs low-carbing and living a miserable bonked out 93. But wait… isn’t stress one of the biggest factors in longevity? Last time I checked, worms didn’t have many stress factors in their lives.

    Now back to my show on Discovery watching swinging primates with fatty livers from diets based on figs and bananas.

    1. “I guess I’ll eat my fruit and live to a thriving 90 vs low-carbing and living a miserable bonked out 93. ”

      Grok, you don’t really believe in that nonsense do you? If you eat a low-carb diet you will experience all sorts of problems far before anything like that age. Kidney problems, cardiovascular problems, bone health deteriorating, high risk of cancer. Now if you can manage to eat just raw meat, then maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. But a low mood will also put your stress hormones on full alert. This is why protein is known as a “toxic fuel”.

      Grok I suggest you re-evaluate how your belief system works if you really believe that people will live *longer* on a low carb diet. Maybe low carb has some merits for a person suffering from very high and irreversible insulin resistance or has diabetes… a lot of these low carb propopents are or have been *extremely* fat themselves. A normal health individual would not do well to eat a low carb diet.

  24. Howard, you’re right. I just looked up Cynthia Kenyon again and found she’s the one who discovered the (really famous) daf-2 longevity pathway.

  25. I stand vindicated. A radical extreme take on what humans evolved to eat. Eat what you want Padraig but your jumping up and down screaming psuedoscience doesn’t make it so. Where is your science? You eat a diet that 99% of the human population doesn’t and claim your are onto something that just eludes the rest of us. Argrogant one way Jesus saves whacko’s claim a much greater percentage of us humans than you can. Doesn’t make you wrong but I formally challenge you to a sports event where you will be able to show off you superior nutrition. Let’s see how far you can go on your sugar diet when it comes to performance. How about a photo of sucessful glowing fructarian health. Orangatan don’t look too Olympian but I am sure they are suited to their habtat. We know what healthy humans look like. Jack LaLanne recently died at 96. Why don’t you look up this example of robust health and try to encoporarte this into to your resricted world view. Loosen your sphincter a little and accept that there is a range of human nutrition that seems to work well and you don’t have the secret eluding mankind. Do expand your reading and educate yourself to the rapidly expanded science happening in front of you. Establish your blog where you don’t clog the arteries of this one.

    1. No need. Anyone who can think logically can see that Padraig hasn’t cited any scientific studies to back up his opinions. In fact, he calls them “test tube nonsense.” He also continues to lie about what the study I cited actually states.

      I’m just ignoring him now as he either has some serious mental health issues (see some of his previous posts early in this thread for what I’m referring to) or is just trolling. Seems that others have made this decision as well…

  26. Xogenesis, what do you mean “Orangatan don’t look too Olympian”? I think you are just getting careless and rambling a bit now (even more than you were. Orangutans are exceptionally fit and healthy, look at this

    Orangutan beating a Sumo Wrestler in a tug of war: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zj7EVThZJsE

    Chimp easily beating Navy Seal over course: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3wbVIgVi66k

    Baby Orangutan vs acrobat ( the Orangutan would have won only she appeared to get completely bored and let go): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kbo3jjs4AW0

    I mean what an absolute ridiculous thing to say. Orangutans don’t look too Olympian and suggesting in a vague way it must be because they’re eating fruit. You are making me laugh!!!

    As for “clogging up this blog”, this section is for comments and people can choose to read them or not. If I consider or feel like I should write a comment then why not listen to my natural instinct and write it? Denise doesn’t need saving from the like of you, lol. I’m not telling you not to write comments here, all I ask is that you don’t spread misinformation and this hearsay stuff about fructose, like ME who was citing studies that turns out, say the exact opposite of what he claimed they said.

    1. Hrrmm… actually the chimp does not win against the navy seal, but he comes close. I thought I had seen the video before, I did see a video of a chimp easily beating a human before but can’t seem to find it now. Personally, I think it has to be something of a fix as a human can *not* beat a healthy chimp in a contest like that if they’re both trying. The chimp wasn’t motivated. Chimps are very fast and the climbing contests are obviously ridiculous: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJ3lxypbiQo And here is chimp karate, where the chimp is performing at a world class level doing amazing kicks with hardly any training, which would take many years of intense training for a human to do: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yXG4HrH1L-k

      Whatever the case, I think it’s safe to say that Orangutans are exceptionally fit by any human standards.

  27. Spoken like a true outrsaged believer Padraig. Go ahead and miss the essential thrust of the reply and obfuscate again. I will take only this passing few comments to point out your arrogant monopoly of a blog that shines, otherwise, in clear thinking. Sitll waiting for a photo of your fuitarian slendor. And by the way Orangatans don’t look like human Olympian’s. Do they? They are herbivores, though and vastly overpower us. Paleolithic humans vastly overpowered our much evovled present form. Like I said, eat what you want Padraig but pity the poor infant who’s deranged parents think they can be weened to a fruitarian diet. Look at the tragic results in your news links. That should be enough.

  28. Howard, there’s something that might interest you (and Padraig) about Cynthia Kenyon’s work on longevity and genes. The daf-2 pathway is linked to a really important antioxidant enzyme, MnSOD, which protects mitochondria. (MnSOD = manganese superoxide dismutase)

    Mutant daf-2 means more MnSOD, and giving worms or flies extra MnSOD makes them live longer.

    So what does that have to do with sugar metabolism? Well, it turns out that it’s very relevant indeed to insulin resistance. A recent paper says that all the different ways of producing insulin resistance converge on excess mitochondrial superoxide, which is detoxified by MnSOD. In other words, the gene that makes you live longer is the same gene that protects you against insulin resistance, and the link between this gene and the environment is manganese.

    If Cynthia Kenyon knew that, she might be more willing to eat sweet fruit. Blueberries and pineapple are FULL of manganese.

    1. Jane, thank you for that info–it is fascinating and helps to answer questions (at least in my mind) about how certain peoples can have eaten lots of fruit and maintained good health. That does not negate her observations about glucose restriction; anti-oxidants are less important if there is no oxidation taking place. But it should certainly alleviate the concern of having some delicious fruit every now and then.

  29. The paper I just mentioned is ‘Insulin resistance as a cellular antioxidant mechanism’, Hoehn et al 2009, PNAS 106:17787. It says

    In addition to showing that mitochondrial superoxide (O2•−) is increased in all four models of IR, we also show that either pharmacologic or genetic strategies that override mitochondrial O2•− reverse or prevent the onset of IR both in vitro and in vivo. Moreover, selective induction of O2•− using the mitochondrial complex III antagonist antimycin A (AntA) rapidly induced IR and we observed an inverse relationship between the expression of mitochondrial superoxide dismutase (MnSOD) and IR in skeletal muscle of intact mice. We propose that mitochondrial O2•− is a unifying element of IR principally acting as a nutrient sensor in key metabolic tissues to regulate nutrient intake in accord with energy oversupply.

  30. Today Mercola tells us this:

    ‘All sugars and grains (including organic ones) promote insulin resistance, which sets you firmly on the path toward ill health.’

    It’s true that insulin resistance sets you firmly on the path toward ill health. But it isn’t sugars and grains that promote insulin resistance, it’s sugars and grains that have had their manganese removed.

  31. Howard, that’s very interesting. So Cynthia Kenyon believes glucose should be restricted because it promotes oxidation. Could you please direct me to something she has written on this subject? I need to see her arguments.

    ME, that link is one of the best accounts of manganese I’ve ever seen.

    Reply

  32. It’s OK Howard, I found it.

    Interestingly, many scientists have long believed the secret to longevity is a calorie-restricted diet, but compliance with a way of eating that leaves you constantly hungry and craving nutrition is not very high. Dr. Kenyon notes that a low-calorie diet is effective because it’s actually a low-carbohydrate diet that helps to control insulin production (which turns on the “Grim Reaper” gene) and is the primary hormonal culprit in the aging process.

  33. The quote above explains why Cynthia Kenyon thinks glucose should be restricted: it makes you produce too much insulin. But in fact, it shouldn’t, if your insulin-producing beta cells are working properly. When blood glucose rises after a meal, beta cells should respond at once with a small amount of insulin. If they can’t, they will respond later with too much insulin. Then you have hyperinsulinemia, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, obesity, etc etc. Eventually the beta cells wear out and you have diabetes.

    Beta cells need manganese to function properly. They are very sensitive to oxidative stress, which is not related to the amount of glucose you eat, but to the ratio between manganese and iron. Excess iron causes oxidative stress, and manganese prevents it.

    1. Read this Jane; Iron Behaving Badly by Douglas Kell
      http://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/0808/0808.1371.pdf
      a brilliant review of all the then-published evidence, thousands of papers.
      Insulin increases ferritin expression and iron retention.
      Fructose disregulates insulin sensitivity more than glucose.
      Diabetes was seen in parts of the world, such as Afghanistan, where fruits was able to be grown for much of the year, before Western diets.
      Eating most calories as raw fruit may not cause IR in most people, but my hunch is it’s not going to cure diabetes either.

  34. It’s not just “too much” insulin that Kenyon thinks is an issue. She thinks normal amounts of insulin cause normal amounts of aging, so life extension depends on having below normal amounts.

    It’s to be noted though that worms are not humans or even mammals. In humans, there’s an insulin response to protein as well to carbohydrate, and in some mammals, restriction of essential amino acids has been shown to extend lifetime, showing that it isn’t just an issue of carbohydrates.

  35. Calorie restriction diets “work” because they are using lab mice/rats who eat far more in captivity than they do in the wild and are often genetically mutated also. That’s not how much they eat in the wild. 100% fruitarians are exceptionally thin anyway, I believe this is just the natural way for Humans to be and all they would desire to eat also. While I do think that low calories relative to the norm are good, I doubt that it has anything to do with the effects seen in much lower organisms such as fruitflies, which you can also about double their lifespan by throwing them in the fridge. So what they call “calorie restriction”, is really just the normal amount of calories in humans. I don’t believe in the SIRT1 stuff, but I suppose it’s possible, unlike fruit being bad for you.

    The relevant point discussed here is that there have been CR experiments carried out with high protein or high carb, and it’s been found that there is little difference between the two. IN FACT…. some people even consider CR to actually be just a superset of METHIONINE restriction, a type of protein which is high in foods with a lot of protein. And that the calorie restriction just causes methionine restriction, some experiments have given strong evidence for this being the case, even with calories being kept constant between the groups. Whatever the case, protein is not a good substance to live on and should always be avoided in favour of fruit. The old ideas about glucose and oxidive stress etc., A.G.Es etc. are old hat now and few scientists take them seriously anymore.

  36. Wild fruit contains good bacteria, maybe good fungi and we can get vitamin b12 from it, not so much insects that you can see. The fruit we buy in store is also populated by microorganisms, but as you can imagine, they are much different. The vitamin b12 in particular is all gone.

    The idea that we need more protein and fat than there is in fruit is a total myth.

  37. Will/Warren/Jane, thank you. Reading the comments section has mostly led me to believe that perhaps a diet of 95% fruit creates personality disorders in people who need their own blogs. Since Denise is dominantly raw/fruit apparently and she is unusually intelligent and many other good things, I’ll consider it an anomaly, not evidence. Anyway, your participation on the threads has been very interesting. I’m seriously gluten-intolerant but Jane’s comments have given me a perspective on grains I had never heard anything about before and I hope to find more reference to.

    PJ

  38. Padraig, calorie restriction diets work in lab animals because their ‘normal’ food is not normal at all. Commercial feed manufacturers don’t have a clue. Here is an example.

    Captive cheetahs are dying, see ‘The mystery of the dying cheetahs’. It turns out that their feed has about 5 times as much iron and zinc as it should have. See ‘Nutrition of captive cheetahs’, which says many zoo animals including cheetahs have deposits of iron in their tissues. Excess zinc prevents iron export from cells, which needs copper and is antagonised by zinc. This is what I told you about in relation to zinc supplements. The same thing is implicated in Alzheimer’s disease.

  39. I should have mentioned, the cheetahs have a disease called AA amyloidosis, which people think might be contagious. However, the AA protein is produced in response to tissue damage, and nobody seems to be asking why the cheetahs should have tissue damage. The most obvious explanation is of course the iron.

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  41. But was it eaten? I have seen two items recently suggesting that Grok, god bless him, may not have had a sweet tooth.
    Firstly an episode of the TV series tribe where an Ethiopian tribe with goats and AK47s lived a hungry existence on a mononotonous diet of goat’s milk and a starchy root vege (oh, and they had beautiful healthy teeth, Dr Price). When asked what they would do when the food ran out altogether they replied “we’d have to collect fruit”.
    Secondly, the “professor Gumby” guest spot on Kurt Harris’ Archevore blog where the visiting anthropologist describes how San-!Kung living a close-to-paleo HG existence never ate the very sweet and tasty fruit he found in abundance on their territory.

  42. What a load of complete nonsense. Fruit is factually the food of choice for all primates, WHEN GOOD FRUIT IS AVAILABLE. All indigenous populations who have GOOD FRUIT available always eat as much fruit as they can and never get fat and never have any problems… like me. All of the other great apes do so as well. This idea of sugar/fructose being bad is faddist nonsense, it is a load of bullcrap, it is new age stuff that hasn’t got a shred of scientific evidence.

  43. Whatever. Proff Gumby lived with the San-!Kung for some months and I’ll take his word over your n=1 extrapolation when it comes to their eating habits.
    Here’s the post http://www.archevore.com/panu-weblog/2011/1/5/guest-post-professor-gumby-essay-001.html
    I’m not trying to convince you mind.
    We are not the other great apes; we evolved differently. When it comes to diet humans may be more like our common ancestor than the other apes, because all apes have gall bladders, but only humans (and the occassional cannibal chimp) use it for the designed purpose; digesting high fat meals.

  44. Are the numbers used for modern fruit taken from fruit fresh and ripened on the plant, or for supermarket fruits after storage and shipping? I actually don’t think modern fruit is bred for sweetness. It’s bred for looks, productivity and it’s ability to withstand the trip to the market, with all that involves in the modern age. It would be my guess that heritage produce is probably sweeter than modern produce. It certainly has more flavour. I remember as a kid 20 years ago that I wouldn’t eat the strawberries in the store because they were tasteless compared to the ones from our garden. And the ones in the store now are worse! Huge, yes. Red, yes. And year round? yes. But sweet? no. And don’t get me started on tomatoes. And if you buy seeds, after all that work, they produce the same tasteless fruit cause they have messed with the breeding.
    Trina

  45. very silly statement, small and bitter.
    It that is so why have my sugar taste buds evolved so much?!!
    Sugar and fat.. are indicatros of high vitamine,
    fat–> liver, tongue etc
    sugar-> fruit that is ripe

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  47. Dear Denise: After reading your blog straight through in one sitting, from the tooth care thing to the China Study posts, to this one, I have two things to say:

    No. 1; You rock.
    No..2: I’m reminded of a bumper sticker I loved once, which said, “We have charts and graphs to back us up, so fuck off.” (Do you think that would work on your Campbell detractors??)

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  52. Very nice analysis of wild vs cultivated fruits there Denise! 🙂
    Your inclination towards statistics results in a very neat and
    clear comparative overview, which blows the entire unsubstantiated
    Paleo fruit myth out of the water.

    Having lived in South Africa for a few years and having traveled
    around southern Africa, I encountered many “wild” fruits there and
    almost all of them were very sweet and tasty. People over there
    don’t even consider the difference between “wild” and “cultivated”,
    as just about all native fruits and vegetables are barely cultivated
    or selectively grown at all. It is mostly the imported, non-native
    fruits and vegetables that are grown in a “modern” and selective
    way, things like apples, pears, potatoes, etc.
    The mangos, marulafruit, custard apples, prickly pears, melons,
    and many other “wild” fruits are often picked right off the “wild”
    trees that just grow wherever they happen to sprout. I reguarly
    bought a box full of freshly picked fruits on the side of one of the
    dirt roads, where locals would tend to set up improvised roadside
    stalls where they would try to sell fruit to passers-by. Most of the time
    the tree they picked the fruits from was just right behind them and
    still bursting with fresh fruit. It cost next to nothing to buy a box,
    as the sellers never had to actually grow the stuff, they just picked
    it fresh off the “wild” trees.

  53. Oh man, I want to eat all of those fruits I never knew about. Who wants to go on a trip to Africa with me (you’re buying, btw)? Anecdotally (is that a word?), I have noticed that since I started limiting my fruit intake recently, I’ve lost weight much more rapidly (~30lbs over the last 3 months vs ~30lbs over the previous year when I was eating fruit like a fiend). However, I have also just reduced my portions in general. But my exercise is less than during the Summer…

    But yeah, someone fly me to Africa and buy me some monkey oranges!

  54. The fruit may have been just as sweet. I’m sure the honey was too, difference is you had to climb a tree and deal with the bees. So as with the fruit, if there were more anti-nutrients and they offered less palatable material to munch on….most modern humans probably wouldn’t touch them. I don’t have much experience climbing trees and getting fruit in the wild, but it is work. Even throwing rocks at coconuts! (which I have done). So I think an important point is that we have to pay attention (and compensate for) the conveniences that we have created. Grabbing a pre-gathered or picked, pre cleaned, non-bug infested, fruit, in a sweatless manner from a shelf. Same goes with anything else of course. No, most of us are not out hunting our meat, but, it is my understanding (may be wrong here) that meat has not varied much (grass-fed organic) with the exception of less fat (providing there is good grass and soil)

    1. yeah exactly. I’ve taken to climbing trees from time to time and it’s an interesting skill. It takes strength, stamina, lots of coordination and awareness. I think it is very good for you both physically and cranially.

      One thing I don’t agree with is that in general wild fruit is “bug infested” or there are bees around them. Bees go to flowers. Any fruit that is bug infested we know is not to be eaten. There will still be plenty of food left over… or at least there is in the wild for a sensible population of primates.

        1. WE GET ALL THE PROTEIN WE NEED IN FRUIT. WE DON’T NEED “BONUS PROTEIN” AND NEITHER IS IT GOOD FOR US.

          The other great apes often eat insects, so they can be good for us sometimes. However bug-infested fruit is something that tastes bad and so is bad for us. I’m really going mental saying things that are so obvious to me. >_<

  55. My most favorite and peaceful thing to do of all time, is to wander the trails in Central NY, and pick wild black raspberries. I look forward all year to the ripening, and have taken time off work specifically to enjoy the outdoors, and berry picking!

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  57. The article is totally pointless because humans didn’t evolve in rainforests filled with fruit. We evolved in cool arid high altitude grasslands in East Africa. Fruit is so rare in this region that even the Gelada baboons native to this area have evolved to live entirely on grass.

    Those of us of European origin also went through a 30,000+ year evolutionary period during the last ice age when fruit was a very rare commodity (hence the extremely high rate of fructose intolerance in northern and central Europeans).
    .

  58. The purpose of selectively breeding fruit is not to make it sweeter [lemons have quite high sugar levels but are so acidic that the sweetness is not noticed]. It is to remove toxins, reduce acidity, remove hairs or spines, make peeling easier, improve the texture and flavour, increase shelf life, increase the size and colour etc.

    Most wild fruits are unpalatble, poisonous, fibrous or acidic, One or two pea sized Deadly Nightshade berries can kill a child. Surinam cherries are delicious but you will probably suffer explosive diarrhoea not long after eating them. The bromelain in raw pineapple or the papain in papaya will dissolve the tissues in your mouth. Lemons and limes are extremely acidic. Rosehips are extremely fibrous, rather sour and quite bitter.

  59. “The article is totally pointless because humans didn’t evolve in rainforests filled with fruit. We evolved in cool arid high altitude grasslands in East Africa. Fruit is so rare in this region that even the Gelada baboons native to this area have evolved to live entirely on grass.”

    False. Humans evolved with in lower East Africa with fruit all around at all times during the year for millions of years. If we were like the Gelada baboons in any way, then we’d have evolved to live somewhat on grass wouldn’t we?

    “Those of us of European origin also went through a 30,000+ year evolutionary period during the last ice age when fruit was a very rare commodity (hence the extremely high rate of fructose intolerance in northern and central Europeans).”

    Wikipedia contradicts the basis for your argument: “Fructose malabsorption is found in up to 30% of the population of Western countries and Africa.[2] Some estimates for Asia seem to be considerably lower but are still at 10% of the population.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fructose_malabsorption ===> the patterns show ample evidence AGAINST this idea. Also we are still in “the last ice age” if you mean the one that was 30,000 years ago, I think you mean glacial cycle, which is not a very good point anyway since fruit can adapt and grow well during all glacial cycles and ice ages. 30,000 years is the blink of an evolutionary eye anyway… as opposed to millions of years adapting to eat fruit.

    “The purpose of selectively breeding fruit is not to make it sweeter [lemons have quite high sugar levels but are so acidic that the sweetness is not noticed]. It is to remove toxins, reduce acidity, remove hairs or spines, make peeling easier, improve the texture and flavour, increase shelf life, increase the size and colour etc.”

    With this I agree. It’s amazing how many people don’t understand this.

    “Most wild fruits are unpalatble, poisonous, fibrous or acidic, One or two pea sized Deadly Nightshade berries can kill a child. Surinam cherries are delicious but you will probably suffer explosive diarrhoea not long after eating them. The bromelain in raw pineapple or the papain in papaya will dissolve the tissues in your mouth. Lemons and limes are extremely acidic. Rosehips are extremely fibrous, rather sour and quite bitter.”

    No, no, no. This is highly misleading and inaccurate, and just plain wrong. Chimpanzees, orangutans, and humans, have evolved to live with wild fruits fruits. Humans didn’t evolve with “deadly nightshade”, they also wouldn’t have eaten any unpalatable fruits.

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    1. Padraig, Madrage, Gagrag, Badday, Makeitup, Goaway come again another day. Just sayin. Yea,paleo man living in France 30,000 years ago with 9.000 feet of ice piled up on top of the Alps had the luxury to peel a grape.

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