From a young age most of us associate sugar and sweet foods with being rewarded for something or celebrating an event. We get cake and chocolates in abundance at our birthdays, religious holidays are exploited by the confectionary industries and when we have done well in a school pop quiz we get to go for ice cream. But sugar is also used to comfort (I now have an image of Brigitte Jones sitting on the sofa with a tub of ice-cream singing all by myself). Consequently sugar plays a very powerful role in our lives from a young age. We think of it as a reward, a treat and a comfort.
We are not totally stupid; we know that adding 2 spoons of sugar to a coffee isn’t healthy and we know that having chocolate fudge cake with vanilla ice-cream, no matter how tasty, is full of sugar and an insane number of calories that we just didn’t need to eat. Yet people still make the decision day in and day out to consume these foods. Ok so maybe we are a little stupid.
However, if you have an ounce of “smarts” about you and have looked at any of the statistics on the increasing rates of obesity and diabetes you will notice their is a direct correlation between rising rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease and the increased production, sale and purchase rates of low-fat, seemingly healthy foods. But how can this be?
Since 1980 the FSA gas advised that men and women follow a high carb, low fat diet with 50% of total calories coming from carbohydrates and with fats making up no more than 35%. Protein would make up the remaining calories (FSA, 2006). However it has become apparent that low fat, high carb diets seem not only to have failed in halting our ever expanding waistlines but they in fact seem to be associated with an acceleration in obesity rates around the world. National data from the USA shows that between 1960-1980 the rise in obesity was from 13-15% of the adult population, but from 1980-2000 the increase was more than double, from 15% to a staggering 31%. Similar trends were noted throughout Europe and in most modernised countries.
This is not to say that high carb diets are the primary culprit for the rising rates of obesity but what is obvious is that high carb diets (particularly from highly processed, unnatural sources) are not providing sufficient control of body fat storage. In 2002, Walter Willett stated that “within the United States a substantial decline in the % of energy from fat during the last two decades has corresponded with a massive increase in the prevalence of obesity”. He further specified that “high fat diets do not appear to be the cause of the prevalence of excess body fat in our society and reductions of fat will not be a solution” (Willett, 2002).
So how is it that with increased consciousness of our overweight culture, vast amounts of money spent on awareness promotion and a significantly higher consumption of low calorie and low fat (but higher carb) foods within our society that we continue to observe this huge spike in obesity rates around the globe?
Food has a very important relationship with your hormones and recently more interest has been paid to the relationship between carbohydrates and insulin. Insulin is in effect your “fat storing hormone” and scientists are now discovering that a high carbohydrate intake results in a significant elevation in the amount of glucose (sugar) in your bloodstream. This causes a direct increase in insulin. The unfortunate problem here is that the more insulin the body produces, the more fat you store. So in effect:
“HIGH CARBS = High Blood Sugar = Increased Insulin Production = MORE FAT STORED”
“LESS CARBS = Lower Blood Sugar = NORMAL Insulin Production = LESS BODY FAT + Easier Weight Loss”
Also more worryingly, high carbohydrate diets are now directly being related to “metabolic syndrome” – a precursor to heart disease and diabetes. Bad cholesterol increases and good cholesterol decreases. The opposite of everything we were originally led to believe by the health authorities when they promoted high carb diets. The concerning worry is that this promotion is still occurring.
Low-fat yoghurts, skinny lattes, low-fat ready meals, low fat soups, reduced fat breakfast cereals/cereal bars, diet sodas and many more are all contributing to our obesity epidemic. ALL of the things that you think are good for you are actually contributing to you not achieving your body weight goals.
In a new feature film, Australian filmmaker and actor Damon Gameau investigates the impact of “healthy” low fat foods with a high hidden sugar content over 60 days on his weight and health. The results from “That Sugar Film” will shock you!! Previously healthy and athletic, Gameau decided that for 60 days he would consume only “healthy” low fat foods, i.e. no sodas, no chocolate or general junk food but instead low-fat yoghurts, fruit juices, muesli bars and so on.
In just 2 months Gameau put on 10cm of visceral fat around his waist, was told he was on a fast track route to obesity, and had the beginnings of fatty liver disease. In addition he was lethargic, miserable and snapping at the slightest thing. Worryingly – Gameau did NOT increase his daily calorie intake for this experiment. The only thing he changed was that he decided to eat foods that are promoted to the general public as “low-fat, healthy” options.
Now THINK ABOUT THIS. He consumed foods that mother’s are buying for their families to encourage a healthy lifestyle. Opting for low fat fruit yoghurts. Opting for semi skimmed or skimmed milk instead of full fat. Opting for muesli or granola bars instead of chocolate bars. This guy who was lean and athletic and the definition of healthy became fat, tired, lethargic, irritable, and a heart attack waiting to happen. Yet the marketing giants of the food industry are encouraging you that this is the way forward. Well I happen to believe that they are lying to you. I agree with Mr. Walter Willett, low fat diets ARE NOT the answer to losing weight and low fat diets will not solve the obesity epidemic.
This is simply because of HIDDEN SUGAR. When a food like yoghurt is processed to become low fat it undergoes a number of processes in order to strain out the fat. Unfortunately this means that when something good and natural is taken out, then something bad and man made must be put in; sugar and stabilisers. Sugar is not a fat; it is a carbohydrate and for this reason the food can be labeled as healthy. But as discussed earlier sugar consumption increases insulin production which = FAT GAIN.
So all of these low fat options, these healthy treats that the marketing big-wigs want you to consume as part of a health conscious diet are actually making you fat!
Let me bullet point just a few of the ways that low fat, high carbohydrate (high hidden sugar diets) are killing us:
1) It raises your triglyceride levels – increasing your risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes
2) Carbohydrates increase insulin production, which increases fat storage. Excess carbs are turned into fat by the liver making us fatter still
3) The low fat diet means we cut out natural foods such as meat, eggs, full fat dairy and coconut that are full of various other nutrients that are essential to our health
4) The low fat diet actually lowers HDL (high density lipoprotein) aka GOOD cholesterol. HDL is associated with lowered risk of cardiovascular disease
5) Low fat diet lowers testosterone, an essential hormone for both men and women. Lowered testosterone can lead to reduced lean muscle, increased fat storage, depression, osteoporosis, decreased libido and a number of other conditions
6) The low fat diet is in fact now being linked with increased risk of heart disease
Super isn’t it. We are being killed by our food choices and this is because we are being told to make these choices because they are healthier. We are being misguided by the food and drug administration who aren’t looking at this evidence. We are being misguided by the food production companies who want you to buy their products, even though they are making you fatter and are also somewhat addictive (thanks to additives, sugar and stabilisers). The television and marketing authorities that are brainwashing us with this nonsense are misguiding us. Lastly our health authorities that continue to advise the general population that low fat diets are the answer are actually lying to us. They are not.
The diet that is the answer is one that comprises natural foods. Free range/organic animals and their produce, locally grown fruits and vegetables that aren’t sprayed with chemicals to keep them looking fresh, unfarmed seafood, natural fats (nuts, seeds, avocado, olive oil, coconut oil), natural sugars (honey, agave), unprocessed and unrefined flours (tapioca, coconut).
Phase out the bad carbs and phase in the good ones. Stop worrying about low fat and try to get your fat from natural sources. Cut out refined rubbish and live the way we were meant to. Heart disease will reduce and so will obesity and weight loss difficulties.