The beginning of a new year is a popular time for focusing attention on diets and weight loss. Everywhere you look – magazines, TV, Internet, there is talk about different diets, detox regimes and the latest wonder products.
If you are considering taking action, then choosing the right diet or detox regime is key, as many low fat diets could actually make you fatter.
Since the 1970s we have been told to cut our fat intake. It seemed to make sense: if we eat less fat, then we store less fat. At the same time theories were being developed that equated high saturated fat intake with high cholesterol and heart disease. The message was simple, and still pervades today.
However this is simply not true. Despite changes in our national fat consumption trends, such as switching to vegetable oils and avoiding saturated fat, we are still piling on the pounds and obesity rates in adults and children are still on the rise.
According to the International Federation of the Red Cross, there are now more obese people (1.5 billion) than hungry people (925 million). The figures for diabetes are equally arresting: 5 per cent of the world’s population now have the disease. In 1980 the figure was 2.5 per cent. Little wonder the Secretary-General of the UN recently said that the biggest threat to the world, developed and developing, is not from communicable diseases such as HIV or malaria but the non-communicable: obesity, heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s and of course diabetes. The death rate from those conditions alone is 35 million each year.
It is the fat content of food which tends to satisfy us or make a food taste really good. Low fat ready meals, snack foods and drinks contain much higher levels of sugar to compensate for their bland taste. Much of the time, this sugar is either sucrose or high fructose corn syrup, both of which contain about 50% fructose. When we have a high intake of sugar the liver has to manage it and if we do not instantly need to use all of this sugar then it gets converted to fat.
The intake of carbohydrates raises blood sugar levels, which then raise insulin levels, which then increase fat storage, but sugars and other refined carbohydrates will do it much quicker than more complex carbohydrates. Not only do we have ‘low fat’ foods with high amounts of sugar but we also find carbohydrates used to bulk out foods like sausages and breakfast cereals.
When faced with an overdose of sugar the body’s cells will shut themselves off and so starts the process of insulin resistance. This in turn promotes chronic metabolic disease, including diabetes and heart disease.
High levels of hidden sugars can be found in a number of foods and drinks, including fruit juice – especially cranberry juice – and flavoured water drinks, take away meals, ready meals, low fat desserts, snacks and treats, yoghurt, crisps and much more. A low-fat yoghurt may, for example, contain 7% more sugar than the full fat version.
In addition, many fruit farms now focus on growing varieties of fruit that have higher levels of sugar. It seems our sweet tooth is becoming increasingly persistent: the more sugar we eat, the more sweetness we need to satisfy the craving.
Are you aware of the hidden sugars in your diet?