Sugar remains a mostly misunderstood part of our diet. On the one had sugar provides vital energy for healthy body function and fuels the brain, on the other hand it often contributes to calorie excesses and weight gain. Excess sugar poses more risks to health than just weight gain though. Here we look at some of the health issues surrounding sugar and some measures that are being taken to mitigate that risk.
10 Ways Sugar Harms Your Health
Sugar is possibly the biggest cause of obesity. For years people have been told to go on low fat diets to lose weight, but in reality most people do not receive most of their energy from fat, most comes from sugar.
Sugar in excess causes many other health problems too, although the biggest health problem society is facing at the moment is the obesity crisis that is caused by an energy surplus in most people’s diets. In short, sugar makes you fat and kills.
1. Sugar Causes Blood Glucose To Spike And Plummet
Unstable blood sugar often leads to mood swings, fatigue, headaches and cravings for more sugar.
2. Sugar Increases the Risk of Obesity, Diabetes and Heart Disease
Large-scale studies have shown that the more high-glycaemic index foods a person consumes (those that quickly affect blood sugar), including foods containing sugar, the higher their risk for becoming obese and for developing diabetes and heart disease and cancer.
3. Sugar Interferes With Immune Function
Animal studies have shown that sugar suppresses immune response.
4. A High-Sugar Diet Often Results In Chromium Deficiency
If you consume a lot of sugar and other refined carbohydrates, you probably don’t get enough of the trace mineral chromium, and one of chromium’s main functions is to help regulate blood sugar. Chromium is found in a variety of animal foods, seafood and plant foods. Refining starches and other carbohydrates rob these foods of their chromium supplies so think wholegrain!
5. Sugar Accelerates Ageing
It even contributes to that tell-tale sign of ageing: sagging skin. Probably another reason ever-young celebrities like Yasmin LeBon steer clear of the sweet stuff. Some of the sugar you consume, after hitting your bloodstream, ends up attaching itself to proteins, in a process called glycation. These new molecular structures contribute to the loss of elasticity found in aging body tissues, from your skin to your organs and arteries. The more sugar circulating in your blood, the faster this damage takes hold.
6. Sugar Causes Tooth Decay
With all the other life-threatening effects of sugar, we sometimes forget the most basic damage it does. When it sits on your teeth, it creates decay more efficiently than any other food substance, and all the money in the world can’t reverse this process.
7. Sugar Can Cause Gum Disease, Which Can Lead To Heart Disease
Increasing evidence shows that chronic infections, such as those that result from periodontal problems, play a role in the development of coronary artery disease.
8. Sugar Affects Behaviour And Cognition In Children
It is believed that one trigger of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may be consumption of sugar. All high Gi foods cause a rapid rise in blood sugar levels, which causes a temporary surge of energy and at the same time, hyperactivity. Soon after this energy surge comes a dip in energy, with the end result being hypoglycaemia. This will inevitably lead to irritability, poor sleeping habits and lack of concentration.
9. Sugar Increases Stress
When we’re under stress, our stress hormone levels rise. These chemicals are the body’s fight-or-flight emergency crew, sent out to prepare the body for an attack or an escape. These chemicals are also called into action when blood sugar is low.
10. Sugar Takes The Place Of Important Nutrients
According to nutrition scientists, research has shown that people who consume the most sugar have the lowest intakes of essential nutrients –– especially vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, vitamin B-12, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium and iron. Ironically, those who consume the most sugar are children and teenagers, the individuals who need these nutrients most.
11. Soft Drinks Raise Blood Pressure
We had to add no.11 due to some new research released. The high sugar content of many fizzy soft drinks is partly responsible for raising blood pressure in some people. In fact, researchers have shown that for each can of soft drink drunk each day, blood pressure increases.
The problem is with all sugar based soft drinks, not just fizzy / carbonated drinks. The results of the study were published in the scientific journal Hypertension and the research was conducted in the USA and UK.
In addition to the raised blood pressure, those that drink a sugar based drink each day also consumed more food calories too, with an additional 400 Calories consumed every day.
The study concluded that sugar from any sources is likely to increase blood pressure and the associated risk of stroke and heart disease.
As always, the key to good health is a balanced diet with treats well moderated. There was a time when a soft drink was a weekly treat, now many people consume several every day. This trend has to be reversed if people are to start living longer and healthier lives again.
The Sugar Conspiracy – Becca Wilcox on Who Made Me Fat?
In March 2010 the BBC’s Becca Wilcox asked “Why are we so fat, and is it really all our own stupid fault?”
Becca Wilcox set out to find the real culprits behind Britain’s obesity epidemic, the secret feeders who make fat profits from ever-expanding waistlines.
The documentary highlighting some startling facts about sugar. Firstly, although the recommended daily allowance for refined sugar is 60g, many food companies give the sugar RDA figures on their packaging as a percentage of 90g, which includes the daily unrefined sugar allowance of 30g – even if all the sugar in the product is refined! For example, a product with 30g of refined sugar will often say “33% of recommended daily allowance” even though it contains 50% of the daily allowance in refined sugar.
Becca also looked at the sugar content of her daily diet, and was shocked to see that she consumed in the region of 160g of sugar per day, and she considers her diet to be healthy. Much of this sugar is in “healthy” foods such as low fat yogurt, bread and cereals.
An even more shocking revelation in the documentary was the diet advice given by the Sugar Bureau. The Sugar Bureau provides healthy eating advice, and even distributes this information to NHS doctors. On their website they still advise us that eating low fat foods is healthy, even if they are full of sugar:
Puddings, cakes, biscuits, cereal bars and confectionery all contain carbohydrate – but choose those with a lower fat content. Some lower fat examples include: arctic roll, sorbets, fruit yoghurt, trifle, rice pudding, currant buns, jaffa cakes, fig rolls, jelly beans, jelly babies and mints. Retrieved on 2nd March 2010 - http://www.sugarnutrition.org.uk/eating_for_health.html
Note the URL of that web page – “eating for health“.
Update: 5th October 2011 – the Sugar Bureau have now removed that page.
Now, Dr. Atkins made the connection between sugar and obesity (and all the health problems associated with it) back in 1992 and published his findings in his book Dr Atkins’ New Diet Revolution (from amazon.com). However, in the 18 years since the publication of his book, his diet revolution has been criticized continuously and now abandoned by most people. For those that are quick to criticize the Atkins approach, please ensure that you have read the entire book, and understood it, before commenting below. Most people do not look beyond the 2 week induction phase, and few understand the insulin response and the metabolic disadvantage created by eating a diet high in carbohydrates (sugars) and low in fat and protein.
Watching the documentary tonight made me think – has there been a conspiracy to trivialize the work of Dr. Atkins, and to promote the interested of the Sugar Bureau in the UK and the equivalent organizations in the USA? It seems that all the scientific and medical evidence supports the view that sugar is the problem in our society. Sugar makes us fat, sugar gives us heart disease, sugar kills. But still sugar is accepted, even promoted, and foods high in fat and protein are demonized.
The evidence still suggests that if you want to lose weight then you need to reduce sugar intake and increase exercise, creating an improved metabolic balance and killing your dependence and addiction to sugar, but still we hear advice telling us to eat low fat foods. In a society where soda companies and fast food outlets sponsor international sporting events, is there any end in sight to the obesity epidemic?
Unhealthy High GI Carbs Cause Women Heart Problems
We know that high GI foods (i.e. foods high in sugar content) are one of the main causes of weight gain. A research published in the Archives of Internal Medicine has shown that women that consume a high carb diet are more likely to develop coronary heart disease. Following a low GI diet helps to reduce heart disease risk as well as to lose weight.
The study, called The EPICOR Study, followed 47,000 Italians and found that women who ate a lot of pizza, bread and rice had twice as many cases of heart disease as those that consumed a lower than average amount. Men seemed to be unaffected by the high carb diet.
What is the Glycaemic Index?
High GI foods are foods that are high on the glycaemic index. These are foods which cause blood sugar levels to rise rapidly once ingested. Even though Dr. Atkins warned against these types of food 30 years ago, the production of processed foods and refined carbohydrates continues to increase today.
“Thus, a high consumption of carbohydrates from high-glycaemic index foods, rather than the overall quantity of carbohydrates consumed, appears to influence the risk of developing coronary heart disease.”
The theory is that high-glycaemic foods may prevent the good cholesterol from acting, meaning that the bad cholesterol can do more damage.
What are the Main Problem Carbohydrates?
In the study it was determined that the main sources of the high GI carbohydrates that led to heart disease are:
- White Bread – 60.8%
- Sugar, honey or jam – 9.1%
- Pizza – 5.4% (the main problem being the white bread dough it is made from)
- Rice – 3.2%
How To Avoid Dangerous High GI Foods?
The only way for women to decrease their risk of heart disease is to eliminate the problem foods. Although GI can vary and a balanced diet helps, the only sure way to reduce risk is to stop eating the worse foods. White bread, sugar, honey and jam are the main problems. Replacing the bread with wholegrain varieties is vital. As tasty as those croissants, French sticks, ciabattas and white loaves are, they are just not healthy. They cause bloating and weight gain and increase your chances of having a heart attack.
What are the Low GI Carbs That You Can Eat?
There are many low GI foods that you can eat instead. Here were have a list of low GI foods. The great thing about low GI foods is that they also help to prevent hunger so that you feel full for longer and eat less. This is the main reason people can lose weight while eating a low GI diet.
Why You Should Not Eat White Bread or White Rice
One of the questions we are most often asked is “can I still eat white bread if I am exercising?”. The answer is always No. However, how many people ignore this advice? And why?
To understand why you crave food and why you put on fat it is important to understand why you want to keep eating the wrong things. White bread is for all intents and purposes 100% sugar. Sugar is what makes us fat. White rice is not as bad as white bread (which is a processed food) but it is far worse than brown rice.
Our brains require sugar for energy, so naturally we crave sugar. However, our brains have not caught up with the modern World and do not realise that there is always ample sugar available so we do not need to overindulge. When we overindulge all that extra sugar is stored as fat.
So we prefer the taste of white bread because it provides an instant sugar rush to the brain. What is not used is stored as fat.
There is nothing good about white bread. Whole wheat / brown bread is better, although even this is still relatively high in sugar compared to healthy vegetables.
To lose weight it is important to reduce sugar intake. Remember that all carbohydrates are converted into sugar, with no exceptions. Sugar makes you fat. So the only way to lose weight is to eat a low GI diet, so learn the Glycemic Index.
Eating Bread Is Linked To Increased Cancer Risk
Latest cancer research, as reported by the BBC, reveals once again that a balanced diet is essential for good long-term health. Italian researchers have discovered that people who tend to consume more bread than average are at a greater risk of developing cancer of the kidney.
The Italian study examined data from more than 2,300 people. The results shown that increased pasta and rice could consumption could also moderately raise the risk of developing cancer. Some foods such as vegetables and poultry seem to reduce the risk of developing cancer.
This study will come as a concern for Italians especially because of their lover for pasta and bread. Although many Italians follow a more “Mediterranean diet” with fresh, in season fruits and vegetables and lean meats and dairy, they also consume a lot of bread and pasta.
However, Cancer Research UK said it was the first time such a claim had been made and warned people not to be alarmed. More research should be carried out to test the results further.
One of the problems today is that many people “fill up” on bread, and very often white bread made from refined flour. It has been known for many years that making bread a large part of carbohydrate intake can lead to weight problems and constitutes poor diet due to its limited nutritional benefits. But now research reveals that it has the potential to cause, or at least increase the likelihood, of cancer forming.
The research report also suggested that the increased risk was due to the high glycaemic index of bread:
“High GI foods raise blood sugar levels dramatically which is thought could feed the growth of tumours in some way”
When foods which are high GI are consumed and digested blood sugar levels rise rapidly (blood glucose). This causes a sudden increase in insulin which leads to sugars being taken up from the blood into fat storage. When people consume many high GI foods their blood sugar levels are constantly rising and falling and the pancreas has to work hard to produce insulin to remove the sugar from the blood.
When blood sugar levels remain high for a prolonged period damage can occur to blood vessels (microvascular and macromolecular damage), which is a common problem for people who are suffering from diabetes. However, until now there has not been any indication that short periods of raised blood sugar may cause any health problems.
Further research is definitely needed and the research methods used in the Italian study. Ed Yong, of Cancer Research, criticised the methods used in the study saying that it used an unscientific method of collecting the data. The study required people to recall what they had eaten over a long period so is prone to a lot of error. Hopefully more conclusive proof will be announced in the next few years.
White Rice Causes Diabetes – Brown Rice Protects
It is official, what we have been said about white rice in the past is now scientifically proven, that it raises the risk of developing diabetes. The latest research published in the Archives of Internal Medicine suggests that eating brown rice instead of white rice can cut the risk of developing diabetes by 33%.
White rice has a high GI and therefore causes a sudden rise in blood sugar when eaten and this is one of the key triggers for the development of type 2 diabetes.
The study looked at 200,000 Americans. The results showed that people who ate 5 or more servings (150g or 5.3 ounces) each week were 17% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who only ate white rice very rarely (less than once per month).
Eating brown rice actually had the opposite effect though. The research suggests that a diet high in brown rice can help to prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes. Eating just 2 portions of brown rice per week resulted in a reduction in diabetes of 11%.
Replacing white rice completely led to greater reduction in diabetes risk. Replacement foods include brown rice, wholemeal bread, rolled oats and pasta. This simple change in diet results in a 33% reduction in diabetes risk.
Dieticians suggest that at least half of our carbohydrate intake should come from whole grains to help cut cases of type 2 diabetes. However, in American and the UK approximately 70% of all rice consumed is white rice. Advice on how to lose belly fat also suggests that wholegrain diet is consumed to aid weight loss.
A healthy and well balanced diet that is high in fibre with fresh fruits and vegetables, low in salt, sugar and saturated fat helps to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Remaining active is also essential. Following a weight loss program is a good way to start losing weight and reducing the risk of developing serious illness. Take control of your diet and exercise once again.
Sugar Warning Over Breakfast Cereals
Healthy food campaigners have issued a new warning over the unhealthy levels of sugar in breakfast cereal. Some brands of breakfast cereals provide more sugar in a bowl of cereal than in a similar sized portion of cake or ice cream. Some of the worse performing brands included Kellogg’s Crunch Nut Cornflakes and Coco Pops. Even Special K that for years has been promoted as a healthy breakfast cereal contains more sugar than some cakes according to the research carried out by mySupermarket Limited.
Sugar Content of Various Breakfast Cereals
All of these sugar contents are based on the information on the nutrition label and are per 40g serving, so if you eat more than 40g you need to calculate how much sugar you are really eating.
- Kellogg’s Coco Pops – 14.8g (per 40g serving)
- Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut Cornflakes – 13.6g
- Kellogg’s Coco Rocks – 12.8g
- Weetabix Minis Chocolate Crisp – 11.3g
- Vienetta ice cream cake 11g per slice
- Scoop of vanilla ice cream – 10g
- Nestle Cheerios – 8.6g
- Jam doughnut – 8.6g
- Kellogg’s Special K – 6.8g
- Nestle Shreddies – 6.2g
- McVities chocolate cake – 5.4g per slice
- Kellogg’s Rice Krispies – 4g
- Kellogg’s Cornflakes – 3.2g
Shockingly a jam donut contains less sugar than Weetabix Minis Chocolate Crisp or Crunchy Nut Cornflakes.
Cereals are certainly the easy option at breakfast time. No cooking is required, they can be eaten immediately, are available all year round, and easy for children to prepare a bowl for themselves. They are the most convenient breakfast available, with the exception of eating plain fruit.
Some cereals can be healthy, such as a good quality muesli (although dried fruit is high in fructose).
In response to this report a spokeswoman for Kellogg’s said: “Breakfast cereals are low in fat, low calorie and are a good source of vitamins, minerals, and fibre. They are also the primary source of some nutrients such as iron for children in the UK.”
Although as we know, the idea that “low fat” is healthy is wearing thin. Cereals will always be low fat as they are primarily vegetable. However, sugar is possibly even less healthy than saturated fat.
This research is similar to the findings of Becca Wilcox who revealed the dangers of sugar in the BBC documentary The Sugar Conspiracy. Dr. Atkins warned us about the dangers of sugar 40 years ago. Why is nobody listening?
Kellogg’s Reduce Sugar and Increase Vitamin D Content of Their Breakfast Cereals
In August 2010 Kellogg’s announced that they were making some changes to their breakfast cereals. For many years people have considered breakfast cereals to be the healthy option as they contain almost no fat. However, the real problem is sugar. Breakfast cereals contain refined carbohydrates and often corn glucose.
Kellogg’s have announced that for Coco Pops, which is one of the most popular cereals aimed at children, sugar content will fall from 35% to 29.75%. This is actually a very small reduction and means that the cereals will still contain twice as much sugar as recommended by the government’s Food Standards Agency.
“The Kellogg Company UK today is announcing significant enhancements to its Kellogg’s Coco Pops cereals including a reduction in sugar, the addition of vitamin D and the launch of Coco Pops Choc N’ Roll cereal, with nutrition credentials that pass the stringent Food Standards Agency’s nutrient profile.” Source: Kelloggs.co.uk
Sugar is possibly as bad for your health as saturated fat. Shocking, but true.
Sugar is also the biggest cause of weight gain. Sugar, and many of the foods that it is derived from, has no nutritional value. It is just pure energy that if not used is converted to fat. Processed foods, junk foods and fast food all contain huge amounts of sugar. Why? Because sugar is a relatively cheap energy source. People want to feel satisfied when they eat, and it is much cheaper to add sugar to food than meat or dairy.
Hopefully this move from Kellogg’s will set a precedent and more food companies will start to reduce the sugar content of their products. Cereals are still the most convenient meal at breakfast for rushed parents to prepare for their children and toast or bread do not fare much better than cereals when it comes to sugar content. Ideally you should start to day with some protein – eggs are ideal – and some fresh fruits, such as grapefruit, apples. pears, grapes, kiwi, oranges and prunes, which are all low GI.
Kellogg’s also announced a new product to their range, Coco Pops Choc N’ Roll. The Choc N’ Roll product is a chocolate cereal that has less salt, less sugar, less saturated fat, more fibre and wholegrains than the traditional Coco Pops. It is a healthier version for more health concious parents.
A bowl of fresh fruit with a dollop of natural yogurt is a great start to the day, much healthier than breakfast cereals and should keep you feeling fuller for longer. Add a boiled egg or two and you have a well balanced, healthy breakfast that will help you lose weight and build muscle, if you are exercising.
Low Carb Beers To Help You Lose Weight
OK, in an ideal world we will all stop drinking beer to lose weight. But this is just not a workable solution. If you want to lose weight you need to reduce calories and cut sugar, but at the same time you need some pleasure in life, and for a lot of guys and gals, that pleasure comes from drinking beer.
Now we have mentioned before that beer, when drunk sensibly, is actually a good post workout hydration drink. So a few glasses does no harm. In fact over the years some studies have shown that people who have a beer a day live longer. Maybe the added exercise of walking to a bar helps?
Anyway, to help keep the pounds off this holiday season, here are some low cal beer options.
Low Carb Beers – Low in Sugar and Calories
Low Sugar / Carb Beers
- Coors Light - This is a nice beer that is becoming a popular choice, famous for using Pure Rocky Mountain Spring Water.
- Corona Light - A slightly higher sugar level in this beer, but a tasty cerveja from Mexico.
- Amstel Light - Higher sugar levels from the famous Dutch brewery that give this a fuller taste, but go easy still.
Super Low Sugar / Carb Beers
Sugar levels are around half of the ones listed above. Some people find that taste is sacrificed a little more though. Take your pick.
- Miller Lite - Possibly the most popular at the moment, good old Miller Lite really is low in carbs.
- Aspen Edge - This is another of the very low sugar / low carb beers. This is also brewed by Coors. Just under 100 calories per bottle too. Not a bad taste.
- Rock Green Light - This beer is one of the lowest carb beers on the market from the Rolling Rock brewers.
- Michelob Ultra - Ultra low sugar beer with a great taste.
Remember, although these beers are lower in sugar than many others, they still pack around 100 calories per bottle, so a few bottles a day and you will be consuming an additional 9000 calories in a month, and a big night could see you guzzling down 1000 calories in one session. So it is not zero calorie, just lower than the traditional brands.
The Big Fat Truth About Low Fat Foods on the BBC
There was a documentary on the BBC this evening called The Big Fat Truth About Low Fat Foods which examined the diet food industry and looked at what goes into low fat foods, and asks if it is healthy.
For the documentary model and television presenter Zoe Salmon went on a 30 day “low fat” diet as an experiment. She simply has to eat low fat food for 1 month, anything can be eaten so long as it is labelled low fat or reduced fat and is processed.
Started out not knowing if the diet will result in weight loss or gain. As most people go on low fat diets to lose weight, the assumption was that she would also lose weight. Zoe showed concern about health of a diet high in processed foods.
Her current diet is simple, uncontrolled but without much processed food or junk food. She enjoys eating fresh fruits and always cooks for herself. She dines out a lot in nice restaurants but never opts of small meals – always meats, vegetables and desserts. She even enjoys weekly pizza parties with friends and drinks alcohol when socializing.
The “Low Fat Diet” had no fruit and vceg in the diet. She noticed several problems while on the diet.
The first problem was that all the food she ate was bland so she wanted to snack more and was constantly looking for satisfaction elsewhere. The low fat foods just were not pleasing her taste buds and there was never a message sent to the brain to say “I am now content”.
The documentary took a look at specific low fat diets too, including the Special k diet. They talked to people who stayed on diet for 7 years, eating 2 Special K meals a day. A problem highlighted with a Special K diet is high in sugar and low fiber and this leads to increased bowel disease risk and cancer risk.
Zoe soon noticed that she started eating more as low fat was not filling her up. She had low fat cereal bars for breakfast, but one bar was never enough. She also noticed that they sugar content of the so called healthy fruit drinks was higher than the sugar content of many carbonated soft drinks that she drank.
The healthy vitamin water that she was given to drink had 23 g of sugar in each bottle, a massive amount of sugar for a health drink.
Diet Coke is most the popular diet drink in the UK. The documentary looked at some people who drink 2 liters a day. This is really unhealthy as too many sweeteners, caffeine is bad for health, excess citric acid causes tooth decay, phosphoric acid leads to poorer bone health, and the aspartane sweetener, which is 200 times sweeteer than sugar, has been linked to brain tumors and in some studies, although the research is no conclusive at present.
Also studies have shown that drinking low calorie drinks results in you eating more food. One nutrition researcher, Catherine Appleton, did an experiment on rugby players. She provided one rugby team with a sugar based soft drink and another team with a low calorie drink, and then let them lose on a buffet. They had to record everything they ate.
The result was that the players that drank low sugar drinks ate 142 calorie more – they simply craved more food – the drink left them wanting to eat. The body expects energy after drinking a low calorie drink but does not get energy so hunger comes back sooner.
Week 1 Health Problems
After 1 week on a low fat diet Zoe Salmon felt lathargic, down, bloated, and her stomach felt fat even before she had dinner. She described herself as feeling “sluggish, tired, quite sick, cold coming on, sore throat, cannot think straight”.
Alice Sykes, a Harley Street nutritionist said that they lack of fat was affecting her brain. We need dietary fat to make brain work, fats are actually needed for many functions in the body.
So what replaced the fat?
Next the documentary asked the question, what replaced the fat in the low fat processed meal?
The answer is Methyl cellulose, which is a thickener, extender and stabiliser. Some foods contain 3 types of cellulose. Methyl cellulose is very similar to wall paper paste. It is sticky and not very healthy.
Duck Feathers in Bread
Another shocking discovery was that food manufacturers put L-Cysteine, also known as E920, in bread to replace natural fats. L-Cysteine is made from duck feathers in the UK, and in China it is extracted from human hair. Suddenly “low fat” food does not seem such a sensible option.
Week 2 Health Assessment
By week 2 Zoes bowels were no longer regular and she felt very sluggish. Her nutritionist recognized that there was almost no insoluble fiber in her diet as a result of only eating processed foods.
To find out more they visited Dr. Jeff pearson from Newcastle University. He analyses the digestion of food with some clever apparatus the mimic the human digestive tract.
He started by advising that Zoe was only getting 8 to 10g of fiber each day, although the recommended daily allowance of fiver is 24 g. This does not help digestion and can lead to bowel problems.
They examined a ready meal next. What was most surprising us that the meat in the ready meal broken down very quickly. The processing meant that the body did not need to work to digest it, so it passes through very quickly, which is one reason for increased appetite on a processed food diet.
Generally all low fat foods digest very quickly. This means that glucose is released into the blood quickly, and the theory is that these sudden glucose swings leads to late onset type 2 diabetes.
Low Fat Makes You Greedy and Lazy
Into the third week Zoe noticed that she was becoming greedier. “I turned greedy”. She found that she needed to eat much more often to manage her hunger, which meant she was taking in more calories.
Lethargy Caused By Processed Low Fat Foods
Zoe spoke to the Australian actor Sam Clark (best known as Ringo Brown in TV soap opera Neighbours) at an event. He had been touring on the road for many months and living off microwave meals. He too said that he was feeling very tired and really missed fresh food. The processed foods simply make you lethargic, and being lethargic means that you do not want to exercise. This often causes weight gain.
High Salt Content in Processed Salads
Zoe decided to grab a salad from a “health food” takeaway. The producers allowed this as it was packaged and also claimed to be low in fat. However, even though this was very tasty, it was not healthy. It was very high in salt.
Research has shown that 1 in 10 ready made salads have more salt in them than a Bigmac. You can find 8g salt in some salads which is about 50% than the total daily recommendation for salt consumption.
Usually Zoe eats lots of salads, but many of these are freshly made and therefore contain lower salt. Ready made salads have preservatives to keep the leaves from going off too soon.
The Salt Health Risk
Salt leads to increased blood pressure, strokes and heart disease. Around 75% salt we eat comes from processed food. Processed food needs salt and stabilizers to increase its shelf life.
Conclusion of the Low Fat Diet
Zoe’s one month on the Low Fat Diet did have one positive effect, it improved her B vitamin and antioxidant levels, both of which were noted as being a little too low. However, that was the only positive.
Zoe said that the one month on a low fat diet had been a struggle, a real battle, and she was very pleased when it was over. The lack of control over what goes into your body was Zoe’s greatest problem. She spent her life cooking healthy meals so always knew what she was eating. With processed foods it was always unknown.
When her nutritionist asked what surprised her most about the diet, she said that it was that processed food just does not taste nice. She is used to the wide range of flavors of fruits, steamed vegetables, meats and other foods that are still close to their natural state.
Did She Lose Weight on the Low Fat Diet?
The biggest question came last, and question everyone wanted to know the answer to. Did Zoe Salmon lose weight while on a one month low fat diet? No, she gained weight. In one month she gained 3 pounds while on a low fat diet. Low far diets just do not work and are not healthy.
This documentary was produced and directed by Ceri Aston for the BBC.
BBC Resources on Weight Loss
- You can catch this documentary on BBC iPlayer: The Big Fat Truth about Low Fat Foods
- Currently the BBC have a page for this documentary: www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00yrvhg
- BBC Diet (Nutrition) pages: www.bbc.co.uk/search/diet
Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Austen Lennon
Kick Your Soda Habit to Fight the Fat
A new campaign has been kicked off in New York to promote healthy eating in an attempt to tackle the growing obesity crisis. It is estimated that 15 billion gallons of the soda is drunk in America each year which massively contributes to the obesity problem. The new campaign is designed to shock with the aim of making people realize that they are essentially poisoning their bodies with sugar and fat and slowly killing themselves.
“We really wanted to make a statement and grab people’s attention,” said Cathy Nonas, director of the city health department’s Physical Activity and Nutrition Programs.
In recent years a lot of new laws have been passed to encourage healthier eating. For example, the Mayor of New York has already forced coffee shops, restaurants and fast-food outlets to display calorie information on menus, he also contracted fruit vendors to work in poor neighborhoods and has given incentives for small stores to sell fresh fruit and vegetables.
People are consuming about 300 calories more each day than they did 30 years ago. Soda accounts for a large part of that increase. The average glass of soda contains 17 teaspoons of sugar. Many people would not be overweight if they just stopped drinking soda. America invented cola drinks and made a fortune but now it is paying a much higher price.
According to the latest US government statistics, 32.2% of American adults and 17.1% of children are clinically obese.
The Pouring on the Pounds campaign is set to run for just 3 months on the New York subway. If successful it could spread across America.
How Much Sugar is in Your Soda?
Image source: NYC Health
Why You Should Try A Reduced Carbohydrate Diet
Not so long ago the low carb diet was all the rage. Atkins and other plans such as the Zone and South Beach said that limiting bad carbs (often all carbs during the initial induction phase of the diets) was a good way to lose weight. This trend followed the more traditional low fat / high fiber diets. However, studies have now proved that neither system is actually best.
Studies do suggest that low carb diets are more effective at reducing weight in the short term, but this could be down to the fact that it is so often such a major change in eating habits that people find it easier to stick to the plan. It is more of a psychological diet tool than a physical one.
However, the recent report from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition did not focus on the role of fats and proteins in helping to reduce hunger and manage food cravings, or the fact that many people are addicted to sugar and eliminating sugar for 2 weeks can cure the addiction and stabilize blood sugar levels, which also stop sugar cravings.
Ultimately any diet is about reducing the calories consumed until you reach your ideal weight, and then maintaining that weight with a calorie controlled diet. Exercise is essential too, as this helps us to maintain our ideal weight by ensuring that the food we eat is burnt off.
The main advantage of going on a diet rather than just cutting back on calories though is the psychological one. If you change your eating habits then you are more likely to stick to the plan. It is too easy to sneak in snacks or the odd slice of bread / biscuit when you are attempting to control calories without any guidance.
Low carb diets are certainly not as popular as they once were, and even with the increased popularity of the Dukan diet the low carbohydrate approach is still considered to be an unhealthy option.
However, low carbohydrate diets do have several benefits over other systems, such as calorie controlled diets. These are the main advantages of a low carb approach to eating.
- High carbohydrate diets lead to reduction of fat burning, and therefore weight gain.
- High carbohydrate diets cause blood sugar spikes and dips, resulting in hunger pangs, binge eating, and weight gain.
- High carbohydrate diets require less metabolic energy, and therefore more weight gain.
- Very Low carbohydrate diets increase lipolysis, and burn fat.
- Fat requires more metabolic energy, therefore less energy is converted back into fat.
- Low carbohydrate diets control insulin levels, and reduce blood sugar imbalances, and control appetite. You feel less hungry.
- It is not natural to eat as much sugar as we do.
- Fats and proteins are vital to good health, are natural in foods, and eaten with green salads, actually help to prevent weight gain.
A Note About Popular Diet Systems
It is important to make clear that with most popular diet systems, there is much more to them that is commonly known. For example, few people realise that the Atkins Nutritional Approach consists of four stages; Induction, Ongoing Weight Loss, Pre-Maintenance, and Maintenance.
It is only during the induction stage that carbohydrates are severely restricted. This is to ensure that you move from a sugar burning metabolism to a fat burning one. After some weight is lost, but not before the target weight is reached, you move into “ongoing weight loss”, where more carbohydrate foods can be consumed.
The idea is to find a balance, so that you consume maximum carbs while still losing weight. Consumption of healthy salads is highly recommended under Atkins, and this means that many people actually eat healthier than normal! Also, Exercise is a fundamental part of the Atkins approach.
Atkins always used to say that “Exercise is not an Option”, simply meaning that it is compulsory if you wish to maintain a healthy weight, and good general health, in the long-term. The Motley Health Fitness and Weight Loss Plan actually puts exercise first, before diet even begins.
Why Does It Not Work For Some People?
Those that speak out against the low carbohydrate diets will often cite examples of where the diet did not work. There are several reasons why the diet may not lead to desired weight loss:
- The dieter cheated – they consumed something not on the list of allowed foods. Under the Atkins diet, there is a list of foods which can be eaten during induction. Everything not on the list is not allowed. But many people still drink fruit juice, carrots, processed meats, offal, caffeine, beer etc. All of these can lead to insulin responses, preventing weight loss
- Medication. There are many medications which unfortunately prevent weight loss. Many female contraceptives hinder weight loss. In fact, anything that results in hormonal changes can prevent weight loss. Women really do have a tougher time losing weight than men. They also have less muscle, and muscle demands more energy.
- Some people give up too soon. In most people, carbohydrates will be depleted within two days, but some people may take a little longer. And these are likely to be frustrated with zero results, and grab a sandwich, or smoothie, and then go back to the diet. But each time this occurs, they are setting themselves back by another two days.
- Some people ignore the advice to exercise. Exercise is essential, even it is just walking for 20 minutes a day. People that are very overweight find it hard to exercise, but those that are very overweight can lose weight very quickly once lipolysis starts, and even gentle to moderate walking will lead to fast results.
Why the emphasis on Atkins?
Why the emphasis on the Atkins diet plan? Firstly, Dr. Atkins was the first to popularise the low-carb diet. He developed this nutritional approach after studying both cardiology and internal medicine (i.e. digestion etc.), and after seeing many patients overweight.
He was aware of studies carried out in the 1960′s that showed that high protein diets aided weight loss, and he prescribed these diets to his overweight patients.
Many of his patients had tried and failed on low-fat diets, and had dangerously high cholesterol levels. For almost of all of his patients, the high protein approach led to not only weight loss, but a reduction in bad cholesterol, increase in good cholesterol, and reduction in other factors that have been shown to increase heart disease, stroke and cancer risk.
So, in short, there are decades of empirical evidence that show that low carbohydrate diets work, and are good for you.
Finally, please ensure that you seek medical advice from a professional if you plan a low carbohydrate diet. For people on medication a low carbohydrate diet may not be advisable. If you are already suffering from diabetes, then it is also not advisable. Speak to your GP / doctor / health advisor first.
Warning: Low-carb Weight Loss Diets May Increase Risk of Heart Attack
It is important to do all things in moderation. Do not attempt to eliminate carbs completely. Research published in August 2009 that suggests that low carb diets may actually contribute to the clogging of arteries, and increase the risk of developing heart disease, stroke and having a heart attack.
The research was carried out by Harvard Medical School after they heard reports that there had been cases of increased heart attacks amongst people adopting a low-carb diet. It seems the Dr. Atkins may have been wrong. He prescribed low carb diets to many of his obese patients, and reported that there was no increase in heart attack risk. However, he did also mention that the long term risks of being morbidly obese were greater than the possibility of a short term increase in heart disease risk.
One criticism of the low carb diet is that it would increase cholesterol levels. Dr. Atkins always stated that this was not so. The research by Harvard does agree with this. Low-carb diets do not raise cholesterol levels, but there they do increase the build-up of fatty plaque deposits in the arteries, and this can cause both heart attacks and strokes.
Lead researcher Anthony Rosenzweig was on a low-carb diet when he started the study, however he has since stopped, and returned to eating a more balanced diet. Incidentally, previous studies have shown that over the course of a year, low carb diets do not perform any better than other types of dieting.
“Our research suggests that, at least in animals, these diets could be having adverse cardiovascular effects. It appears that a moderate and balanced diet, coupled with regular exercise, is probably best for most people.” Anthony Rosenzweig, Harvard.
Professional Opinions from the Medical Community
“We know that foods such as red meat and dairy products, which are high in protein, also contain high levels of saturated fat. These fats then cause the build up in the arteries.” Joanne Murphy, Stroke Association
“Low-carb, high-protein diets are not considered as healthy as eating a balanced diet, which is good for health because we get the different nutrients our body needs by eating from the different food groups every day.” Ellen Mason, British Heart Foundation
“This research helps to back up the basic message that our diet should contain more starchy carbohydrate, not less. For long-term health at least one-third of what we eat should be bread, rice, potatoes, pasta or other starchy food.” Prof. Alan Maryon-Davis, UK Faculty of Public Health
So the general consensus is that a healthy well balanced diet should be followed, rather than a high protein / low carb one.
It’s Time to Give Sugar The Boot
Now that you know the negative impacts refined sugar can have on your body and mind, you’ll want to be more careful about the foods you choose. And the first step is getting educated about where sugar lurks. Believe it or not, a food needn’t even taste all that sweet for it to be loaded with sugar.
The best way to lower total sugar intake is to eat a low to medium GI diet, with the emphasis on nutritious fruits and vegetables. This diet improves health and helps you lose weight.
Sugar is added to food because it is a cheap energy source. Food manufacturers have profit margins to consider and sugar is now mass produced in huge mega farms across the world. The easiest ways to reduce your sugar intake are to:
- Stop buying processed food
- Stop eating junk food
- Stop drinking soda and fruit juice
- Follow a low GI diet plan
When it comes to convenience and packaged foods, let the ingredients label be your guide, and be aware that just because something boasts that it is low in carbs or a ‘diet’ food, doesn’t mean it is free of sugar. Take care of your diet and your health, and give sugar the boot!
Arch Intern Med. 2010;170(7):640-647. Abstract.
“Sugar-Sweetened Beverage, Sugar Intake of Individuals, and Their Blood Pressure -
International Study of Macro/Micronutrients and Blood Pressure” by Ian J. Brown; Jeremiah Stamler; Linda Van Horn; Claire E. Robertson; Queenie Chan; Alan R. Dyer; Chiang-Ching Huang; Beatriz L. Rodriguez; Liancheng Zhao; Martha L. Daviglus; Hirotsugu Ueshima; Paul Elliott; for the International Study of Macro/Micronutrients and Blood Pressure Research Group. Hypertension. 2011, Published online before print February 28, 2011, doi: 10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.110
Eating bread ‘raises cancer risk’ retrieved on Friday, 20 October 2006