Sugar, fat and obesity


The media is jam-packed full of diet-related information right now.  Sugar is finally being recognised as the biggest dietary culprit of obesity and related illnesses, while saturated fat is emerging from its previous poor, but erroneous, reputation as the enemy.

And great – because the advice that I have been giving will not longer be seen as off-the-wall!  Finally, mainstream advice is catching up with what some of us have known and promoted for several years now.  So I hate to have to reveal that abandoning sugar in favour of more saturated fat will not in itself resolve the obesity crisis, or the health problems associated with overweight and obesity.

The reason being that, while we have definitely identified some of the key pieces, so much of the jigsaw is still missing or being overlooked.

According to the BBC this morning, the obesity crisis is skyrocketing.  It is suggested that previous estimates have become our current ‘underestimates’ regarding the rising incidence of overweight and obesity, and of course all the health problems that will occur as a result.  Here in the UK it was previously suggested that by 2050 a full 50% of the population will be obese.  We will surpass this, it is now estimated by the National Obesity Forum (NOF).  Likewise, on a global scale, we now know that obesity is quadrupling in the developing world. We are all becoming fatter and sicker – fact!

“There needs to be concerted action. There is a lot more we can be doing by way of earlier intervention and to encourage members of the public to take sensible steps to help themselves – but this goes hand in hand with government leadership and ensuring responsible food and drink manufacturing and retailing,” says Professor Haslam, Chairman of the NOF.  Meanwhile, Prof Kevin Fenton, director of health and wellbeing at Public Health England (PHE), said obesity was an international problem that required action at “national, local, family and individual level”.

OK, so the experts are all agreed we need to take action.  And yes, in the past few days we have seen calls for the food industry to be forced to reduce the amount of sugar it needlessly hides in our foods (sadly not immediately shown any enthusiasm by our Government!), but here’s the BUT…

…before we take action, isn’t it sensible that we formulate a sensible plan?   It’s no good reacting in an ad-hoc way on the basis of disparate ideas.  There are several aspects to healthy weight management that need to be considered in a co-ordinated way to ensure the best outcomes.  Having recognised a need, we now have an opportunity to get it right; to establish what helps and what harms; to establish a clear rationale for action; plan for action; and take focused action.  So here are my thoughts based on what I know works with Rebalance:

  • Most diets harm because they fail to take into account the need to protect or improve body composition.  Danish studies have found that weight loss is not the same as fat loss, and on average of the weight lost on an intentional diet a man will lose about 41% muscle rather than fat, and a woman 35%.  Poor body composition is intrinsically linked with poor health.
  • Portion control is key, and should ensure the consumption of a wide range of nutrients to meet all the body’s needs.  It isn’t a case of calories consumed simply being less than calories expended.  What those calories are made of is crucial, because the body processes different nutrient types in different ways.
  • Blood sugar balance is crucial for satiety and to combat cravings.
  • There is no magical one-size-fits-all diet .  Every individual needs to eat according to their own health and lifestyle needs.
  • The food and diet industries have failed us all for decades by continuing to promote so called healthy products and approaches long after research has discredited them.  Turning to the same people who are failing us to find the answer is nonsensical.  It’s time for a sweeping change, not just a policy on a bit less sugar !

I’ll keep you posted!


  1. Posted January 13, 2014 at 2:20 pm | Permalink | Reply

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  2. Posted September 20, 2014 at 8:49 pm | Permalink | Reply

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