Is fat really the bad guy?

Greetings everybody,

We are about mid way through the exam season for many students! Keep on going everyone you are doing great. For those of you who have academia behind you... hope you have had a great week. On the 23rd May 2016 the very foundations of healthy dieting were blown apart in light of a new report. The report published by the National Obesity Forum and Public Health Collaboration has damned the current 'low fat and high carb diets', calling for people to carry out a 'high fat and low carb diet' instead. Where has this change come from? Is this the next biggest diet that we should follow? With diets being plentiful in developed countries such as the UK and more in the pipeline it is important to identify the ones that will give us the results that we want. Especially in time for summer so we are going to look a little more into the study published. 
Image Source
The TV programme aired on Channel 4 'You Are What You Eat' hosted by Gillian McKeith, are just one of many driving forces behind making fat dieting enemy number 1. The report highlights the widespread availability of low fat options for almost every food product, yet obesity is still on the rise in the UK. According to the report "low fat diets [are] failing to address growing obesity in the UK". As a cause of the continued demonisation of fats in the media it has brought about catastrophic consequences for public health. 
This report challenges the public to question the dietary path of eliminating fats. For the blog I picked out a few points in the report and some online articles commenting on this report that I found interesting.  
Return to the Wholefoods! 

Image Source
What are whole foods? Well by definition these include food that have received little process and are free from preservatives and additives! This means that food carrying the words 'low fat' or 'lite' should be actively avoided due to the intense levels of processing in their production. Instead, we should increase the consumption of healthy fatty foods such as avocados, fatty fish, nuts and high quality dairy products. 
Quit counting your calories!

For those individuals out there braving the 5:2 diet and totally conquering it then you know that this would be impossible for you guys. The 5:2 diet is a fasting diet, whereby 2 days a week you commit to eating a maximum total amount of 500 calories. The remaining 5 is for you to go crazy... well eat the recommended calorie intake. Calorie counting is essential for the maintenance of such a diet, does this mean that fasting diets should be kicked to the curb? Surprisingly this statement does not come back with a lot of evidence as to why we should stop looking at calories... So 5:2 dieters continue on! 
Eating fat does not make you fat: 

I agree to a certain extent that the demonisation of fats has gone a bit out of control. Some of the vitamins essential for healthy growth were found to be fat soluble, without the presence of fats in our diet these vitamins would not be absorbed. According to the report, saturated fats (biscuits, cake and butter) play no part in the onset of heart disease.  
An interesting claim. I decided to brush up on my knowledge on the link between fats, cholesterol levels and heart disease. First of studies looking into the link between saturated fats increasing an individuals risk to heart disease, have good evidence supporting the link. Of course, our bodies are always so complicated, factors such as being overweight, smoking, high intake of salt and low levels of physical activity are key contributory factors also. 
Fats are often broken down and converted into cholesterol. Now, cholesterol can be carried in one of two ways. 
  1. Low density Lipoprotein: These proteins lead to the formation of fatty deposits that clog up blood vessels.
  2. High density Lipoprotein: These proteins carry excess cholesterol found in the the blood and tissue towards the liver where it is properly deposited. 
Interestingly, unsaturated fats are termed as 'good fats' as they lower LDL levels whilst maintaining suitable levels of HDL. The report groups fish, avocados, nuts, seeds and even olive oil together highlighting the fact, they all contain saturated fats. At first this may seem like a win for the 'eat more saturated fats' party, however, all above food items are considered good fats because of their  low levels of saturated fats and high levels of unsaturated fats- something the report failed to mention. 

Image Source

With members of the Public Health Collaboration claiming that the modern diet has been the biggest mistake in modern medical history! What are critics saying in relation to the report? 
It all comes down to the true validity of the report. All of the nutrition guidelines that surround us are from a lot of evidence based scientific studies. Such evidence is lacking in the report to support a majority of its claims. In the absence of supporting evidence or scientific studies, what does this make the report? Well the chief nutritionist at Public Health England (one of the companies criticised in the report) classed it as an opinion piece! He further stomped on the allegations thrown at the company from the report about how all their publications are bias and not in the interest of the public. The chief nutritionist made it very clear in a public response that all publications regarding public health incorporate knowledge from a large range of independent experts alongside the use of thousands of scientific papers, to ensure as little bias as possible.
The Medical Director of the British Heart Foundation agrees with the chief nutritionists claim that the report appears to be full of opinions and ideas. The lack of adequate literature on the report meant that even "the UK's largest heart research charity [cannot] take it seriously". 
Another argument also comes from members of the public, whereby the nutritional guidelines is not where the growing obesity problem originated. This increasing number could be down to human nature, of us not following the guidelines or starting a diet and relapsing quite often. Guilty of that last one myself to be honest (but aren't we all to some degree).
Where does this leave us?
Diets such as the 5:2 diet have had some amazing results and that is based on calorie counting. Low fat and high carbohydrates vs high fat and low carbohydrates. Diet choices are never ending. However the one thing the majority share is redefining the balance of nutrients required by us- the do eats and don't eats that come with almost every diet. Looking through some of the scientific literature relating nutrients to health and weight loss, its actually amazing at how little we know about such relationships between us and food. Perhaps it is time to stop the 'one diet fits all' approach. As a species we are extremely complex, and this level of complexity should not be taken for granted, perhaps we all need to find a diet that suits us instead of the other way round.
That was it for today guys! And yes today was all about dieting but don't take it life too seriously and listen to the following message....

Over and out 

No comments

It's all about breathtaking and blockbusting science here on BioBunch. If you have an idea on what should be featured on the blog, leave a comment below... or just leave one to say hi!
Looking forward to hearing from you and enjoy the blog

Back to Top