Sugar Vs Fat: An opportunity missed…

BBC  Horizon Documentary: Sugar vs Fat: An opportunity missed. The documentary broadcast on BBC2 at 9pm on Wednesday 29th Jan 2014 and can be viewed here. This featured an experiment with two identical twins, where one consumed a diet of high fat and the other high sugar. To summarise the outcome, neither was particularly healthy. However the main conclusion drawn from the documentary was that sugar and fat combined together are particularly bad. Generally speaking, high amounts of sugar and fat are found together only in processed foods. They tend not to be found together in nature. However interesting the documentary was, there are several things wrong with it. There was no real differentiation between the type of fats that were included in the high fat diet. There was a fixation on saturated fat, and how this causes problems. This, in my opinion, is why we have so many diet products (see blog post: Just Eat Real Food). There was no measure of the quality of the foods being eaten, i.e. the high fat diet contained takeaway burgers, sausages etc. Vegetable oil content was not mentioned, trans fat content was not discussed (although it was noted how bad trans fats are).

This was an opportunity missed and was an unrealistic situation. In my view, this put more bad publicity in the direction of fat, which has been a contributing factor in landing us in our current obesity epidemic.

There were no vegetables allowed on the high fat diet. These are an important part of the human diet and therefore if you look at the experiment critically you could argue the negative issues were not simply due to fat but the absence of proper nutrition in the form of varied vegetables.

Fat in an individuals diet must be viewed in context; if someone has a high fat intake in an otherwise poor diet then it will be detrimental to his or her health.

It must also be remembered that this was an experiment on two people and not a large-scale study (this was noted in the documentary).

There was a point where calories were discussed, comparing the same number of calories for their different breakfast types. This is another flawed argument, as not all calories are the same (this will be discussed further in a future post).

Ultimately the main message was beneficial, don’t eat processed food. This would have been a more useful experiment if it was to compare a diet of natural whole foods against one of processed foods. The fixation with specific macronutrients in food is distracting from the real issue. Food is more than its individual nutrients and should be looked at as such.

Food quality is the issue, in my opinion.

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