Two separate studies released this week present findings that would perplex nutrition advocates but make children happy. The reasons are that a new research from the Federico 2 University of Naples in Italy insists that French fries are healthy, while a review article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal said a chemical in grapefruit could be fatal to some people on certain medication.
Fast food fare such as French fries, hamburgers and sodas have often been blamed by health experts for the rising obesity rates in many countries because of the fat and sugar content of these items popular among the youth.
However, Professor Vincenzo Fogliano and Italian chief Giuseppe Daddio pointed out that if fried in a correct way, a French fry or potato chip could be an excellent nutritional product.
The basis of their claim is a study on the way cooking oil is absorbed during the frying stage. The two explained that zucchini and eggplant, which is considered healthy food, absorb 30 per cent of the oil, while potatoes and pizza absorb only 5 per cent due to their starch content.
"A fundamental rule is that starch plays an important part in sealing the food being fried and reducing the oil absorption. The starch in potatoes . . . is particularly effective," The Sydney Morning Herald quoted Mr Fogliano.
But he added that the quantity of oil absorbed increases if the food is frozen or a pre-fried product, which is how 95 per cent of how French fries and chips are cooked in Australia, the chief executive officer of Melbourne-based Lord of the Fries restaurant, Mark Koronczyk, admitted. However, Mr Koronczyk said it is not the way fries are cooked in Europe and in his restaurants which use only fresh potatoes.
In a stamp of approval, the Dieticians Association of Australia said home-made fries are actually good fries, but added these items are still high in fact and does not contain sufficient nutrition.
On the opposite side, the Canadian article said recent studies found that grapefruit interacts badly with some drugs such as antibiotics, statins, heart and cancer medications. When concentrated as grapefruit juice, it causes high levels of the medicine in the bloodstream which could lead to more health problems, said Kathy Chapman, chairwoman of the Cancer Council of Australia's Nutrition and Physical Activity Committee.
Besides grapefruit, other citrus fruits including lime, pomelo and bitter orange are known to block enzymes that break down some drugs. Grapefruit also contains a fructose, a type of sugar, which when taken in excess is linked with obesity and could harm the liver.
However, Ms Chapman said these findings should not lead people to cut back on their intake of fruits and vegetables which can indirectly reduce the risk of cancer due to their vitamin and fibre content.