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A grapefruit or two a day can keep the pounds away but then, nutritionists say, so can a lot of other fruits.
"There's nothing magical about grapefruit," says Manhattan's Julie Upton, a registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.
"Research shows that when you have a piece of fruit before meals, you tend to eat less than you would normally.
"I never saw anyone get fat on fruits and vegetables."
Upton and other nutritionists were responding to the latest diet flash last week's widely publicized report in which researchers at San Diego's Scripps Institute found that obese patients lost an average of 3.5 pounds in 12 weeks after eating half a grapefruit before each meal.
Those who drank grapefruit juice before each meal lost nearly the same amount of weight: 3.3 pounds.
In the study underwritten by the Florida Department of Citrus Dr. Ken Fujioka said his data confirmed that the old-fashioned "Grapefruit Diet" was valid though he could only speculate as to whether or not grapefruit actually reduced insulin levels that might lead to weight loss.
As Orlando, Fla., dietitian Tara Geise, another ADA spokeswoman, pointed out, "The results might be the same with tangerines or oranges or any other citrus fruit we don't know until they're tested."
Nevertheless, the dietitians agreed, you can't go wrong adding fruit and vegetables to any diet. Current food-pyramid guidelines call for five servings of fruit and vegetables a day, and Upton says that's soon to increase to five to 13 servings a day.
Grapefruits which weigh in at zero fat, 3 grams of fiber and about 110 calories, whole are probably as good a dieter's friend as any, especially since they're high in cancer-fighting antioxidants.
They also help fill you up.
"Grapefruits do have a lot of water in them," says Cathy Nonas, the dietitian who heads the obesity and diabetes programs at Harlem's North General Hospital. "Research shows that high-water-content foods can help fill you up."
And the work that goes into actually eating a grapefruit the cutting, sectioning and peeling "makes you conscious about what you're eating, in general," Nonas says.
"Lay off the juice, because it tends to add calories," she adds. "You'll do better with the whole fruit.
"And while you're at it have more fresh vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy, fish and meat."
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