Background: The energy content of whole, fresh fruit derives primarily from simple sugars, which are currently under heightened scrutiny for their potential contribution to obesity and chronic disease risk. Yet fruit also has a relatively low energy density, moderate palatability/reward value, and high fiber content, which together may limit energy intake. Although reasoned arguments can be made that fruit is fattening or slimming, the question is best resolved empirically. Methods: Methods were preregistered with PROSPERO (CRD42018111830). The primary outcome is the impact of whole, fresh fruit consumption on measures of adiposity including body weight in randomized controlled trials (RCTs). Secondary outcomes are the impact of whole, fresh fruit consumption on energy intake in RCTs, and the association between whole, fresh fruit consumption and changes in measures of adiposity in prospective observational studies. CENTRAL and PubMed databases were searched through October 2018. Cochrane risk of bias tool was used to assess risk of bias in RCTs, and the GRADE method was used to judge and convey the certainty of conclusions. Reporting follows PRISMA guidelines. Results: RCTs, and particularly those of higher quality, suggest that increasing whole, fresh fruit consumption promotes weight maintenance or modest weight loss over periods of 3-24 weeks (moderate certainty), with limited evidence suggesting that a high intake of fruit favors weight loss among people with overweight or obesity. Consistent with this, single-meal RCTs suggest that consuming whole, fresh fruit tends to decrease energy intake, particularly when consumed prior to a meal or when displacing more energy-dense foods (moderate certainty). Prospective observational studies suggest that habitually higher fruit intake is not associated with weight change, or is associated with modest protection against weight gain, over five or more years. Conclusions: Current evidence suggests that whole, fresh fruit consumption is unlikely to contribute to excess energy intake and adiposity, but rather has little effect on these outcomes or constrains them modestly. Single-meal RCTs, RCTs lasting 3-24 weeks, and long-term observational studies are relatively consistent in supporting this conclusion. Whole, fresh fruit probably does not contribute to obesity and may have a place in the prevention and management of excess adiposity.
Keywords: adiposity; body weight; energy intake; fruit; obesity; sugar.