One thing that is probably certain, is that being fat, has very little to do with eating “fat”. I know this almost sounds like heresy and has put me into the list of freaks and weirdos camped on the fringes of the “establishment”.
But despite the fact that both the medical fraternity and so called health gurus, continually pick on fat and promote low-fat, high-carbohydrate eating as a healthy lifestyle, the science really doesn’t back this point of view up very well.
So what is the evidence you demand ? And why are we all getting fatter ? Before I go any further, the answer is very simple.
We eat too many calories PERIOD !
Both carbohydrates and fats contain calories and your weight status is described by a very simple mathematical formula.
Calories in must equal calories out.
Get it wrong either way and you end up putting on or losing weight.
Calories are probably not created equal but it is a good place to start. Fats pack a punch i.e. by weight they have more calories than anything else, physiologically they are not actually flipping the “store fat” programme as well as carbohydrates. Bashing fats and embracing carbohydrates is a little bit biased and physiologically naive.
If you haven’t moved off the page yet …… dismissing me as loonie tunes then give me an opportunity to show you some astounding graphs courtesy of a group of Chinese researchers.
The study appeared in BMC Public Health 2010, 10:746, titled B-vitamin consumption and the prevelance of diabetes and obesity among US adults : population based ecological study. Hit the link if you want to “see” if for yourself, it is a free one (open access).
The Chinese study
Let me first explain what they did. They did a study which looks at what “everyone” in the USA is eating i.e. not at one particular individual and looked at how “fat” the average American is. The official name for this type of study is an ecological study. Scientifically it isn’t the best kind of study to do because “Mr Average” is a bit of a mythical character. Despite these limitations, ecological studies can point out interesting relationships, which is exactly what this study did.
NOTE : This ecological study links light at night to the growing incidence of breast cancer.
The grain connection to obesity
The grain connection to obesity is the first relationship that appears in the study. You don’t even need to be too scientific to see it, but if you are a little graph phobic, I will walk you through the important graphs.
Look at the first graph. The little green triangles show how much meat (i.e. fat) the average American is eating and the blue dots how fat (obese) the average American is. Meat (fat) consumption has gone down, significantly – you can see this by the fact that the green line has gotten progressively lower. The graph shows that the anti-fat campaign has changed the way people eat, but sadly obesity (the blue line) has gone up and up.
As a kid, my Mom wouldn’t let me eat sweets, because she believed sweets made you fat. So let’s look at the consumption of sugar and the average American again. This time the sugar is depicted with little black stars. Sugar consumption certainly has increased but not really in proportion to obesity, so once more this doesn’t really look like it explains the phenomenon well.
This leaves us with the last of the graphs for today. The consumption of grains by the average American. The white circles represent grain consumption and the blue dots obesity. This graph is really weird – it seems to be telling two stories. The first thing it shows is actually a long time ago people ate a lot more grains than they do today, but the amount of grain people ate decreased until the 1970s and then it started to climb. The increase in grain consumption marked the beginning of the “anti-fat” message which has seen people replace meat with grain. The funny thing is, that the climb in grain consumption starting in the 1970s also corresponded with the climb in obesity.
So if we believe this graph, it would suggest that grains are actually what is causing the obesity problem. “Fat” and sugar really don’t seem to be “THE PROBLEM”.
But grains were not always causing obesity. Something happened in the 1970s which created the problem. The Chinese researchers suggest the something was food fortification – adding vitamins and things to grains to make them “better”.B vitamin consumption and the prevelence of diabetes and obesity among the US adults : Population based ecological study. BMC Public Health (2010) 10:746. S. Zhou, D Li, Y. Zhou, W. Sun, Q. Liu.
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