Sugar v fat


It’s delightful, and long overdue, that sugar is being recognised as the unhealthy addictive poison that it is – almost every day something is appearing in the press or on TV about the dangers of sugar consumption.

At the same time, saturated fat is enjoying redemption – no longer the villified enemy of health and weightloss.

But today I want to caution a swing from high carb to no carb – in preference for fat.  What is it with us that we so enjoy subjecting ourselves to extremes?  An article in the press this week highlights that both high carb, low fat, and no carb, high fat diets can be equally unpleasant and unhealthy.

To understand this we need to go back to nutritional basics.  There are 4 “macro” nutrients necessary for good health. These are carbs, protein, fat and water.  Take any of these out of the human diet and already you have something that is inherently unhealthy. With both carbs and fats it all comes down to the types of carbs and fat.

Sugar itself has no useful role in the human diet – it is nutritionally bankrupt.  Highly refined carbs – breads, pastas, flours and processed breakfast cereals are converted very quickly in the human body to sugars which, unless we are highly active at the time and therefore requiring instant energy, are quickly stored as body fat. Complex carbs are a different matter.  It takes time for the body to break these down, and instead of flooding the blood stream with sugars they provide a steady source of energy over a period of hours.  As one of the doctors in the press article found – not providing vegetables to the body (the best source of complex carbs) leads to trouble, including digestive problems such as constipation!

With fats, whilst saturated fats are not necessarily a bad thing, we have to take care of over-consumption: they contain 9 calories per gram compared with 4 calories per gram in carbs.  So swapping to high fat should be done with more than a passing nod to portion control!  The real baddies of the fats world are trans/hydrogenated fats, and unsaturated fats too high in omega-6 – which can be a cause of inflammation in the body, and why these fats are now being increasingly linked with heart disease for example.

As the article concludes, nutrition is a complex matter.  Each of us has our own unique needs to match our unique circumstances and lifestyles.  There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all diet!  And where will you get the best information?  Well it isn’t from your doctor.  A really crucial, and brutally honest, part of this article admits that doctors are simply not trained in food:

But here’s the problem: despite being doctors – I also have a degree in public health – neither of us knew much about losing weight and eating healthily. 

These topics fall between the cracks at medical school. Yes, we understood biochemistry and food metabolism, and knew a lot about the consequences of being overweight. But which diets work, why we eat too much and why losing weight is so hard don’t sit within any medical speciality.”

Doctors are just as much at the mercy of the incorrect messages that regularly stream from the profit-hungry food industry as ordinary folks.  Worse – they often reinforce those incorrect messages with their patients!  One of the saddest parts of my job is to meet people who truly try to eat healthily – but are basing their efforts on incorrect information and advice.  None of the revelations now appearing in the press and other forms of media are any surprise to a well-qualified nutritional therapist – we’ve known this for years.  And so has the food industry!

I have a few blogs up my sleeve for you in the coming days to expose some of their malpractices – so stay tuned.

One Comment

  1. Posted February 2, 2014 at 5:10 am | Permalink | Reply

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