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Trick or (healthy) treat: dried fruits a good alternative

Robin Wulffson MD's picture
obesity, glucose, fructose, Halloween, diabetes, cardiovascular disease

You can make a small step to introduce kids to healthy snacks this Halloween. Candies available in the marketplace primarily contain glucose or brain-dimming fructose. Fresh fruits are a health alternative; however, ever since some sadist placed sharp objects in fruit some years back, fruit or unsealed packages of assorted goodies are not appropriate.

A good alternative is dried fruits. Raisins, for example, are available in small packages. Granola snack bars may be appropriate (check the label for ingredients. A recently-introduced product is Funky Monkey freeze dried snacks. They are certified organic and contain three servings per one ounce package and range from only 35-120 calories. Flavors include Applmon, Bananamon, Carnaval Mix, JiveALime, MangOJ, Pink Pineapple and Purple Funk. The down side is the individual packs are priced just over $2.00 (if you buy a $26.00 12 pack); thus, they are limited to “special kids” in your neighborhood.

Actually, if kids pig out on sugary snacks just one day a year, they are not in danger of becoming morbidly obese. They need to get in the habit of consuming healthy food on a daily basis. Snacks such as Funky Monkey appeal to kids because they taste good—and are crunchy. According to a recent study by the NPD Group, Inc. (formerly National Purchase Diary), adults and children only eat about a ½ a cup of fruit instead of the recommended 1 ½ cups of fruit per day.

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According to a recent study by UCLA, 38% of children are obese, which is a rate nearly three times higher than it was 30 years ago, when the obesity epidemic began. The study describes both the health and economic repercussions of elevated obesity rates. According to the study, children who are overweight or obese often grow up to be obese adults with increased risk for chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, strokes, and some cancers. Furthermore, noted the study authors, California spends a significant amount of public and private money on the health consequences of obesity: more than $21 billion annually.

The study noted that California has improved its childhood obesity rate in recent years. In 2004, California began implementing a series of state laws banning sugary drinks and junk food from public school campuses. That, along with other local and statewide policies addressing the availability, marketing and promotion of unhealthy foods and an increased emphasis on healthier food and expanding opportunities for physical activity, may be contributing to the statewide improvements revealed in this study.

Another UCLA study, which was published last May in the peer-reviewed journal Physiology, reported that a high fructose diet for as little as six weeks can dumb down your brain. Fructose is a monosaccharide (simple sugar), which the body can use for energy. The investigators found that a diet steadily high in fructose slows the brain, which impacts both memory and learning. In addition, they discovered that omega-3 fatty acids can counteract the disruption. The researchers focused their study on high-fructose corn syrup, which is an inexpensive substance that is six times sweeter than cane sugar; the sweetener is commonly added to processed foods, including soft drinks, condiments, applesauce, and baby food. According to the US Department of Agriculture, the average American consumes more than 40 pounds of high-fructose corn syrup per year. “We're not talking about naturally occurring fructose in fruits, which also contain important antioxidants,” noted Dr. Gomez-Pineila, a professor of neurosurgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. He added, “We’re concerned about high-fructose corn syrup that is added to manufactured food products as a sweetener and preservative… “Eating a high-fructose diet over the long term alters your brain's ability to learn and remember information. But adding omega-3 fatty acids to your meals can help minimize the damage.”

See also:
Halloween costumes can damage your vision
Join the fight against childhood obesity
Sports drinks linked to teen obesity
Chemical BPA in food linked to childhood obesity
CDC releases sad statistics regarding obesity in the US



Fructose is problem, not glucose! Red Vines and Smarties have glucose and no fructose or noncaloric sweeteners.
Too much glucose results in obesity. Complex carbohydrates are healthier.