- Page 1: Intro
- Page 2: But fat is bad for us, isn't it?
- Page 3: For me at least, fat is my friend
Why I believe a low fat diet is potentially dangerous
In this morning’s news here in the UK a report from by the National Obesity Forum charity, challenging the sensibility of low fat diet advice, is dominating the headlines. The report basically questions official government-backed guidance that we should all be eating a low fat diet. Instead, the report recommends that we should eat more fat, including saturated fats. It also warns foods marketing as low-fat can be a threat to our health. I believe my own health suffered because I followed a low fat diet and it has improved radically since adopting a low carb, high fat, diet.
This subject is close to my heart because I fell into the category of a Type 2 diabetic 2 years ago. Until then I was a firm believer in a low fat diet. Today, since switching to a low carb, high fat diet after my diagnosis, I have seen a major improvement in my health. While I am still technically a diabetic, I don’t take any medication and my routine blood tests show that my blood sugar is normal. My cholesterol remains normal and I have also lost a considerable amount of weight.
Much criticism of the National Obesity Forum report is being documented in the news. There is some marginal evidence that the report’s presentation is not technically ideal. However, I don’t feel we should be distracted by such criticisms. The National Obesity Forum report is just one of a mounting succession of reports that actually point to carbohydrates, sugar and starches in our diet, being the villain. Fat, the report says. is part of the solution to losing weight and maintaining a normal weight.
My personal experience supports this. The controversy stems from the reaction of health care professionals defending principles that they were trained to believe in. These principles are based on historical research that is now being rapidly discredited by scientists everywhere. My personal feeling is that many who question the report aren’t up to date wit their nutritional science.
Being fat is dangerous but what makes us fat?
There is no disagreement that being overweight is bad. Being overweight is directly linked to all sorts of health dangers. These include cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke and heart problems. We put on weight by consuming more energy than we expend. There is a separate debate about the relevance of food calories in diet but, basically, if you eat too much, you will get fat.
Body fat itself is mostly made from excess glucose (a sugar) in our blood and stored in our cells. It’s excess because there is more than we need for our metabolic processes. Much of that metabolism is in the background. Even if I didn’t move a muscle I would burn up about 1700 calories per day. I estimate my average total calorie requirement is on average 2600 calories per day. The balance of 900 calories required is down to physical activity. Therefore, my aim is to consume no more than 2600 calories and to ensure that I am active enough to burn them all.
The problem with a low fat diet
We can get our energy from carbohydrates, fat and protein. A low fat diet means obtaining most of our calories from carbohydrates in foods like bread, rice, pasta, starchy vegetables, cereals and of course, treats like cakes, biscuits and deserts, as well as drinks, that contain sugar. Many fruits are also rich in sugar. The body usually only converts protein into energy when it needs to; when there isn’t enough energy from carbs and fat.
For a significant number of people who follow a low fat diet, their meals don’t suppress appetite for long enough. This results in snacking and/or larger meals. It becomes a vicious circle. The result is more and more excess blood glucose and this is turned into body fat through the action of insulin.This makes you fat.
It’s also an important factor in Type 2 diabetes. Constantly high levels of blood glucose also cause a vicious circle of high insulin levels and a reaction of the body rebelling in the form of escalating insulin resistance. Eventually, the action of insulin is so impaired that high levels of glucose persist in the blood – you’ve become diabetic. Don’t get me wrong, lifestyle is important too and I am sure I wasn’t active enough when I put weight on in my 30s and 40s. But even very active people can be susceptible to insulin resistance. There does seem to be a genetic factor.
Processed foods labelled low fat are very likely to contain more sugar and starch in order to compensate for the attributes the fat originally provided. These include flavour, consistency and texture. We may not like to think of it but fatty foods are usually desirable. If you take the fat out, you may either be left with more sugar naturally, as in a higher proportion of lactose in low fat milk, or sugar and starch may be added to a food to maintain its palatability.