The Failure of Low-Fat

How a bunch of rich, fat politicians getting sick started a horrible dieting trend.

 

Low fat started out as a good idea back in the 70’s and 80’s to lower heart attacks (heart disease in general) which at the time seemed to be caused by eating a lot of fat.  A lot of attention was drawn to this by politicians increasingly dying from various heart diseases. The recommendations came from government healthy eating guides. The logic was simple the less fat people ate the healthier they will be. The food industry went nuts (but not using nuts of course, they have fat) creating whole new classes of products and variations on existing products that were fat-free, low fat and cholesterol free. So the mantra was less fat, more carbs.

 

Something interesting that happened at the same time was that people became fatter with obesity and diabetes starting to rise at an alarming rate. So the objective of healthier living through low fat actually had the opposite effect of increasing obesity which increases the risk of, wait for it, heart disease.

What happened?

 

One part is what replaced fat within the diet – carbs. The recommendations said the increase in carbs should come from whole wheat, fruits and veg. That didn’t happen, fat was replaced with sugar, refined white flour and starches (lots of corn starch amongst others). People tried whole wheat but the techniques for commercial baking at the time made them really dense and nowhere near as light as white bread. Whole wheat bread was usually 40 to 60% in whole wheat flour and extra sugar was added to get the flavour closer to people’s taste for white bread. Another odd thing was how Canada regulates whole wheat. In Canada you can remove up to 5% of the wheat kernel and still call it whole wheat. What is usually removed is much of the germ and some of the bran – the whole wheat part (the only other part is the endosperm which makes white flour) so the label “Whole Wheat” in Canada is a joke. If you want 100% whole wheat in your diet in the ingredients look for “Whole Grain Whole Wheat Flour”. low fat, failure, unhealthy diet, weight lossThe other is that at the time getting year round fresh fruit and veg was difficult and as now can be expensive. Most of the time is was canned veg which tasted really weird to say the least and canned fruit was usually packed in syrup which was more carbs which you already had tons of in your diet. Frozen veg was getting better due to technological advancements, but you could still thaw a veg that didn’t keep its form and was a slimy mess. Thus for much of the year people’s diets were supplemented with additional fruit and veg with a lot of added sugar and salt and in addition more processed grain was consumed. But this was considered okay because you reduced your fat.

At Least We Learned Something

With the benefit of hindsight we can now see how ineffective low fat diets were. In the 1960’s fat was about 45% of the diet and dropped to 33% in the late 1990’s, but obesity went up dramatically in that time period, so at a population level less fat in the diet had no effect on losing weight. For lowering weight more focused studies lasting more than one year found no link between less fat in the diet and weight loss. A long term 8 year study assigned women to a low fat diet or a control of them eating their usual meals. Women in the 2 groups did not lose nor gain weight any differently. Finally looking at the original objective of making people more healthy through a low fat diet, large scale long term studies found no link between the amount of fat and any important health outcome including cancer, heart disease and weight gain. So, cutting fat to make people healthy did not work.

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Going Forward

So, can we break out the rib steak, bacon & eggs every day and smother everything with butter? Not quite, the general fat reduction didn’t work but we did learn a great deal about fats and how they are necessary in our diets. What we found out was fats come in 3 general varieties – the ugly, the bad and the good and which you eat has a big effect on your health.

To find out more on which fats are ugly, bad and good see our upcoming article ‘Fats – The Ugly, The Bad and The Good’.

 

Lakelands

Lakelands Diet Delivery, weight loss, healthy meals, nutritionAt Lakelands we take care of minimizing the ugly and bad fats and crank up the good fats in our meals to give you what you need and spoil you with great taste. We don’t use added sugar and our red seal chef makes all your meals fresh so no processed meals at all. See our menus to see how you can eat healthy types and amounts of fat while enjoying great taste. Signup and try out what healthy meals can taste like when done right.

Why Weight Loss is Not Easy- PART 2

Knowing the impact of the foods you eat is very important. In part 2 we will look at food quality and food preparation in relation to weight loss. Go back to part 1 to read the mechanism of weight loss, goal setting, diet types and why portioning is a universal diet practice that works.

Food Quality

It used to be thought that a calorie is a calorie and it didn’t matter if you ate 400 calories from a greasy spoon or fresh from the market. The most popular weight loss program in the world was based on the idea a calorie is a calorie and during your meetings it was okay to say you ate junk food as long as the calories were low. It seems to just be common sense that a healthy food is better for you but society can mess with that.

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I stopped by a heritage site operating grist mill and they had this beaten up wooden box system for sorting the flour as it came off the stone. There were at least 8 chambers, with the top ones being rough whole wheat and the bottom being very fine white flour. In its day the white highly processed flour was expensive and mostly for the rich and the chefs of the day came up with very delicious recipes which we have culturally passed down as high quality meals and desserts. But we now know these rich foods are not good for you at all (actually most people wouldn’t find it tasted good any more, our tastes have changed too much).

Studies have shown for a while that quality (low vs high) is very important and we need to not just rely on calories in determining what foods are good for weight loss. The difference is pretty straight forward. Low quality is higher processed things like snack food, chips, white sugar, fried meats, foods high in fat, highly refined grains. High quality is unrefined and minimally processed things like whole fruits and veg, whole grains, healthy fats (for example a good olive oil) and healthy protein (less processed).

Why Weight Loss is Not Easy- PART 2

Very large and very long studies have shown which foods are associated with weight gain and weight loss. Weight gain is associated with potato chips, potatoes, sugar-sweetened beverages, and both processed and unprocessed red meats. Weight loss is associated with vegetables, whole grains, fruits, nuts, and yogurt. The biggest problem for most people is that what was once considered healthy ‘Red meat and potatoes’ is now shown to hurt them if they continue to eat them in same volume. How many restaurants have some comfort classic like a steak and baked potato, people like it and culturally we are not moving away from that anytime soon. So moderation is definitely needed, a little once in awhile is fine – every day, not so much.

Food Preparation

How much your body has to process a food makes a big difference in the calories that end up being available in your system. An interesting study looked at the simple act of chewing but in an extreme fashion. Without cooking anything the amount of chewing a 2000 calorie diet of some meat and tubers left whole (ripped apart by biting) was looked at. Raw meat was impossible to swallow no matter how much chewing happened because you could not get the size small enough with human teeth. Tubers and roots were possible but with a massive amount of chewing, about 11 hour’s worth. They then cut the meat into small pieces and pounded the roots and tubers into a paste people then needed 20% less time to chew the raw food, so the energy of just chewing is reduced each time you process food making more net calories available. Extending that into today’s diet we don’t need to chew much at all for highly processed meals which makes close to all the calories from the food available.

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What happens in digestion is also highly influenced by processing – specifically cooking. Raw starches in things like wheat and potatoes are tightly packed sugar molecules. Eaten raw your stomach enzymes can’t access all of the sugar molecules and large amounts pass through your system undigested so the calories are not accessible. Cooking loosens them and then the sugar molecules can be digested and those calories accessible. So you can see here how the more cooked and processed the more the calories from a meal are available as energy in your body. But this is not how nutrition facts works where you get a calorie count that is the same for raw, moderately processed and heavily processed products which we just saw are not the same at all.

Why Weight Loss is Not Easy- PART 2

Lakelands

Our plans are much more than weight loss, we have incorporated the best science to deliver to our customers the healthiest meals prepared to a very high standard and excellent taste. Our meals will help people be healthy and attain their goals through a solid understanding of the most effective diets, strict portion control, high quality ingredients and properly prepared meals. Please see our menus where we put theory into delicious practice.