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More Evidence Mainstream Media is Waking Up to the Impact of Sugar

Published on January 30, 2013,

Many readers of this site will be aware of the arguments against excessive sugar consumption. Many will also share feelings of extreme frustration that despite the weight of evidence pointing to the contrary, the medical, governmental and health authorities still treat fat consumption as public enemy number one while largely ignoring the impact of sugar. However, there are more and more signs of change. This article, called “Any defence of sugar is pure confection” and sub-titled “More and more people are challenging the food industry’s PR machine. The evidence shows that sugar, not fat, is the enemy”, recently appeared in the UK’s Guardian newspaper…

English: Macro photograph of a pile of sugar (...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The [UK] public health minister, Anna Soubry, has commented that the poor are more likely to be obese. It is well known that social status is linked to health, but her comments were also motivated by a mentality that victimises the most vulnerable. She should really be directing her criticism at the food industry. There is no doubt that an oversupply of cheap junk food fuelled by unregulated and irresponsible marketing limits our ability to make healthy choices. But there is an equally important question that merits attention: are we being given the wrong dietary advice?

A patient recently came to see me for a cardiovascular evaluation. He was particularly baffled as to why he had gained a stone in weight several months after he had followed a dietician’s instructions to lower his blood cholesterol by eating “low fat” products. How could this have happened?

This week the British Medical Journal’s front page asked: “Is sugar the real culprit in the obesity epidemic?”, a response to a study published in the same edition that concluded that cutting sugar intake led to significant weight loss. A paediatric endocrinologist, Prof Robert Lustig, has highlighted the toxic, addictive and appetite-driving properties of sugar. His 90-minute lecture has attracted worldwide attention with over 3m views on YouTube. But the dangers of sugar is not news to the scientific community. A British professor and nutritionist, John Yudkin, believed that sugar, not fat, was the biggest culprit in heart disease and in 1972 set this out in his book, Pure, White and Deadly.

Research has moved on a great deal, and recent research has revealed that saturated fat from dairy products in particular may actually be protective against heart disease and stroke. Dairy products are exemplary providers of Vitamin A and D in which many British people are deficient. Calcium and phosphorus, also found in dairy products, may be beneficial to health through blood pressure-lowering effects. Vitamin D deficiency has been strongly associated with cardiovascular death.

Highly processed foods advertised as “low fat” are often loaded with cheaply added excess sugars and preservatives. Cereals and flavoured yogurts are just a few examples. I have started to advise my patients to eat butter instead of margarine and just eat real food. But even doctors’ own dietary beliefs are strongly influenced by industry advertising. I was recently surprised to discover that there was no scientific basis to the heavily promoted claims made on behalf of a well-known sports drink that I had been taking on my daily visits to the gym – that it has performance-enhancing qualities. Instead of wasting £7,000 in the past 15 years buying a product loaded with sugar, I would have been better off drinking tap water.

There is universal scientific consensus that trans fats found in fast food and processed foods such as biscuits, crisps and frozen pizza are detrimental to health and may even increase the short-term risk of a heart attack. The British Medical Association has rightly called for a reduction of trans fats, salt and sugar in pre-prepared foods.

And as to “saturated fat” and weight gain? Prof David Haslam, chair of the National Obesity Forum, says that all calories are not created equal. “It’s extremely naive of the public and the medical profession to imagine that a calorie of bread, a calorie of meat and a calorie of alcohol are all dealt in the same way by the amazingly complex systems of the body. The assumption has been made that increased fat in the bloodstream is caused by increased saturated fat in the diet, whereas modern scientific evidence is proving that refined carbohydrates and sugar in particular are actually the culprits.”

Big tobacco was able to stall government intervention by planting doubt in relation to smoking and lung cancer for half a century and “big food” continues to deny that sugar is harmful. The academic vice president of the Royal College of Physicians, John Wass, is right to suggest that medical students should have more lectures on nutrition. But the advice doctors give when dealing with overweight patients should be based upon the best available scientific evidence, not what the food industry wants us to believe. As an isolated voice, Yudkin, who died in 1995, may have lost the battle with the sugar industry four decades ago, but big food will find it more difficult to silence his growing army of disciples whose only incentive is to expose what’s right for public health.

More at:  Any defence of sugar is pure confection

Why Calorie Counting Doesn’t Work – And Why Low Carb Is Crucial

Published on August 3, 2012,

Returning to the theme of ‘are all calories equal?’, Dietriffic has a well reasoned and researched article that concludes that just counting the calories you eat is not the right approach to weight loss and what you eat – especially restricting carbs – is crucial.

No doubt you’ve heard the expression, “A calorie is a calorie,” meaning the calories we get from carbs, fat and protein are equal in terms of their effect on our weight.

Perhaps you think all that matters is the total number of calories you take in each day, regardless of whether the majority comes from one macronutrient more than the other.

In fact, many people emphasize that weight management is a simple game of math. Maintaining your weight, therefore, is merely about consuming the same number of calories your body burns each day.

But, while this is true in part, research suggests there’s a lot more to it than that.

Calories Are Not All Equal

Firstly, it might help to define the term ‘calorie.’

A calorie is a unit of food energy. Basically, the energy that fuels the body; much like petrol or gas fuels a car. Fat provides 9 calories per gram. Carbohydrates and proteins provide 4 calories per gram.

While it may seem simple to conclude that all you need to do is take in fewer calories than you expend, if you want to lose weight, research suggests the body may processes these macronutrients differently. So, perhaps a calories is not a calorie after all.

This gives us an indication as to why weight loss is not so simple, and suggests why so many struggle with losing weight long-term.

Calorie Counting Has Limited Use

If you are only concerned with counting calories, it won’t tell you much about the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients in your diet. Let me give you an example:

A bar of chocolate has roughly 251 calories. 6-8 brazil nuts and 5-6 almonds have around 250 calories.

These two snacks contain similar amounts of calories, but they will certainly not have the same effect on your body. The chocolate bar is pretty much all carbs in the form of refined sugar. But, the nuts contain healthy fats and protein, as well as vitamins and fibre.  It’s obvious which is the better option.

As we shall see, calorie counting alone tells you absolutely nothing about how your body will react to a certain food.

The Research: Protein vs Carbs vs Fats

Research indicates the calories from proteins, carbohydrates and fats may not be treated the same by the body, therefore challenging the idea that a calorie is a calorie.

1. Dietary Effect On Muscle Mass

A recent 2012 study, found that when you overeat on a low protein (higher carb) diet, you store fat around your organs (e.g. liver, kidneys and pancreas). However, when a high protein diet is eaten, it adds muscle and increases resting metabolism.

The researchers concluded:

Among persons living in a controlled setting, calories alone account for the increase in fat; protein affected energy expenditure and storage of lean body mass, but not body fat storage.

Interestingly, the low protein group (5% protein) lost 1.5 pounds of muscle, and gained 7.5 pounds of fat. The high protein group (25% protein) gained 6.3 pounds of muscle mass.

This study suggests that some calories may make you store fat, while others help you build muscle.

Avoid ‘Free’ Fructose

Calories from drinks appear to be particularly problematic.

One study specifically singled out fructose, concluding that in overweight and obese adults, it increases intra-abdominal fat, promotes abnormal lipids, decreases insulin sensitivity, and increases DNL (de novo lipogenesis).

Another 2012 study in young people, found that the ‘free’ fructose in high fructose corn syrup, led to increased belly fat, inflammation, blood pressure, blood sugar and pre-diabetes.

2. Dietary Effect On Satiety

We know that protein foods make us feel more satisfied. The result of this is a reduced appetite, which has the potential to make us eat less, if we listen to our body’s hunger signals.

One study found that when subjects increased their protein intake to 30 percent, they ate 441 calories less each day, and experienced greater feelings of satiety.

In fact, they lost almost 11 pounds on average, including more than 8 pounds of body fat.

3. Dietary Effect On Wellness

A very good comparison of the different effects certain diets have on the body, is Ancel Keys’ semi-starvation experiment versus John Yudkin’s low carb study.

The big difference between these two studies was the carbohydrate and fatintake; they were basically the reverse of each another. Yet, as Dr Eades puts it in his article on Tim Ferriss’ blog:

Both studies provided between 1500 and 1600 kcal per day, but with huge differences in outcome.

In the Key’s semi-starvation study (high-carb, low-fat) the subjects starved and obsessed on food constantly. In the Yudkin study (low-carb, high-fat), the subjects, who had no restriction on the amount of food they ate, volitionally consumed the same number of calories that the semi-starvation group did, yet reported that they had “an increases feeling of well-being.”

Instead of lethargy and depression reported by the Keys subjects on their low-fat, high-carb 1570 calories, those on the same number of low-carb, high-fat calories experienced “decreased lassitude.*”

* state of physical or mental weariness; lack of energy.

So, despite that fact that the diets were almost identical in calorie intake, the results were vastly different, with the higher fat, lower carb diet showing a much more favorable outcome on overall wellness.

More at: Why Calorie Counting Doesn’t Work

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