Healthy Body

Are the low-fat foods you’re eating actually healthy?

During  the 1980’s the boom in ‘low-fat’ products became somewhat of a craze. Nutritionists urged people to eat less saturated fat and choose low fat products over full fat. The message was, this would help improve people’s health, especially their heart health and also lead to weight loss. The result? People just got fatter.

In America, by 2001 one-third of the population was deemed overweight. Even in Ireland in recent research led by Trinity College, four out of five people over the age of 50 are either overweight or obese. How could this be, when people were consuming foods lower in fat?

Products that are originally high in fats are altered, which gives them less of a fat content but in most cases the same calorific content if not more.  This becomes possible because ‘low-fat’ foods are loaded with sugar to replace the flavours lost when fat is reduced. A 150g Yeo Valley Family Farm 0% fat vanilla yoghurt has 20.9g of sugar in it, that is five teaspoons of sugar.

What seems to be the general consensus at the minute, spurred on by Dr. Robert Lustig – a pediatric neuroendocrinologist and people like David Gillespie and Sarah Wilson, who have written books on the topic, is that sugar is a lot more fattening than fat.

According to Lustig, sugar is not only fattening but it is poison; it drives fat storage and causes the release of chemicals that makes the brain think it is hungry. Sugar is up to eight times more addictive.

Gillespie maintains that there is part of the human brain that can tell when you are full; however, our bodies cannot detect fructose. All table sugar is half glucose and have fructose.

Therefore, when fructose enters our bodies in a carton of low-fat yoghurt or in cheese, it goes undetected. Further than this fructose cannot be digested by our bodies either and it is straight away stored in our fat tissue, adding to our weight levels.

It is interesting to note that the rise of obesity levels within Ireland correlates with the import in sugar. In the 1900’s when sugar was a luxury and not every home was stocked with it, obesity was not a problem in Ireland; families would have a fry every morning for breakfast and the idea of low-fat milk did not exist.

However, with the rise of the imports of sugar this began to change and as the twentieth century wore on the obesity problem became bigger. This echoes globally as in the US from 1970 to 2000 there has been a 25% increase in added sugars.

So all those times when after our morning jog we have gone to the press and reached for a low –fat yoghurt, or low-fat chocolate milk, we have actually been adding more sugar to our bodies, which is stored as fat, crazily addictive and makes us hungrier.