The “Healthy” Low Fat Diet: Not as Healthy as it Seems?
Over the past few months there have been a lot of reports advising people to eat butter and other foods containing saturated fats. Papers have been published by the British Medical Journal and Cambridge University as well as newspaper articles and revised information on respected medical websites, and the message is to eat more saturated fat.
Most people believe that saturated fat is the baddie and that a low-fat diet is healthy. Some scientists are now saying that this is not the case and I admire any scientist who takes a U-turn and admits they were wrong.
So, we’ve been brainwashed over the last few decades and the advice has been to eat a low-fat diet, high in whole grains with at least 6 portions of fruit and veg a day. Yes, I agree with the fruit and veg bit, but the low-fat diet? How can one explain the huge rise in obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancers, allergies, digestive disorders, depression, and so on?
The rise is mainly due to the so called “healthy” low-fat diet and far too many processed carbohydrates, the worst of course being sugar. The food industry adds sugar to replace fats in their low-fat ranges so that the food tastes of something. Not very fair for anyone wanting to lose weight!
So where did the low-fat myth come from in the first place? We need to go back a few decades…
One of the first reports linking saturated fats with heart disease was published by a physiologist called Ancel Keys. His 20 year study “Seven Countries Study” claimed that eating saturated fat raised cholesterol which eventually led to heart disease. The study recorded the eating habits of healthy, middle-aged men living in 22 countries, but the results were from only 7 countries namely Finland, Greece, Holland, Italy, Japan, USA and Yugoslavia. The results did show that heart disease was prevalent in the 7 countries who ate a diet high in saturated fat, but he didn’t include the results of other countries who ate a similar high fat diet but with low incidence of heart disease. Keys took factors such as exercise into account but not others such as the amount of sugar consumed, smoking, water quality and pollution.
Around the same time, a physiologist called Professor John Yudkin found that sugar was causing obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, liver disease and cancer, but unfortunately he couldn’t prove it. Yudkin did not see a link between saturated fat and serious illness. His work was discredited because the food industry was now making huge profits out of their new low-fat foods. So food became low in saturated fats but high in sugar instead. Yudkin published a book in 1972 “Pure, White and Deadly” which explains all about sugar, how we were all eating far too much sugar and how it damages our health.
Pure, White and Deadly was re-published in 2012 and the introduction was written by a scientist called Robert Lustig, MD, Professor of Paediatrics at the University of California. He is well known today for his anti-sugar campaigns and his YouTube video “Sugar. The Bitter Truth” which has been viewed well over 4 million times since it was posted. Lustig states that the low-fat diet pushed by food manufacturers and even health officials over the past forty years has actually increased obesity as well as other serious diseases. Do have a look at the video, especially if you want to cut back on sugar consumption.
Sugar is added to practically every man made food product, such as ready meals, tinned foods (savoury as well as sweet), drinks, bread, sauces and even meat products and if it’s not added, then they add artificial sugars instead – which I think are very dangerous.
The other real nasty added to food is “high fructose corn syrup” (HFCS) or “glucose-fructose syrup”. This very sweet syrup, invented in 1957, is made by refining corn and is cheaper to produce than sugar. The problem is that this syrup contains a higher percentage of fructose to glucose. Glucose is metabolized by every organ in the body and used by every cell, whereas fructose can only be metabolized by the liver and turns to fat.
Drinks containing sugar are one of the worst products. As almost everyone knows, fizzy drinks contain over 8 teaspoons of sugar in one can. Then there’s the “zero” and “tooth kind” drinks – maybe they don’t contain sugar but are sweetened with artificial sugars. Scientific studies show that aspartame actually increases insulin sensitivity more than sugar!
A meal based on carbohydrates, for example pasta, causes a quick surge in blood glucose. Insulin is introduced to the bloodstream to lower the glucose and the excess calories, unless used, are stored as fat.
As I see it, we all need saturated fat and limited carbohydrates. I never buy low-fat or fat-free food and sometimes I find it difficult to find full-fat on the shop shelves!
For many years I have fed my family cheese, butter, full fat yogurt, cream and other foods high in saturated fat. I stopped buying margarine about 12 years ago after watching it being made…and discovering what it is made of. We also eat plenty of free range eggs, another healthy food which has been slammed over the years. Eggs are high in protein and cheap too.
Of course, we do eat sugar in my household but only a limited amount (or at least I try to limit it!). I mostly cook with butter, lard, rapeseed oil and coconut oil. All of these are naturally high in fat and don’t contain dangerous trans fats (processed, man-made fats). I use olive oil on salads and for drizzling on food but I don’t cook with it – but that’s another story!
The key to good nutrition is to eat a balanced diet containing fresh unprocessed food including meat, fish, eggs, butter, cheese, limited grains, low sugar, plenty of fresh vegetables, a little fruit and other sources of natural fats, for example avocadoes, nuts, seeds and olive oil.
The food industry dictates what we should eat. If they’re making enormous profits out of sugar, not only in processed food and drinks, but actually replacing natural fats with sugar then what will happen when we all cut our sugar intake back dramatically? I think I know the answer – maybe, eventually, saturated fat will be back in fashion again.
Have you seen any TV adverts for margarine recently? Well, if not, I can tell you – they’ve started to add butter to some brands!