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The Danger of the low fat diet

An article was published last week  (12.06.12) in the Times by Mike Pattenden, it discussed the merits of following a low-fat diet.

Apparently we haven't always been obsessed with low fat, no fat dietary regimes, one of the first diet plans published was done so by a gentleman called Wiiliam Banting. After years of being unable to lose weight his surgeon suggested that he cut out carbohydrates, Banting subsequently lost 35 pounds and published a pamphlet to give others advice.  He listed the foods to avoid as bread, butter, milk, sugar, beer and potatoes, these he stated contained starch and saccharine which tended to encourage the body to create fat.

This advice lasted for nearly a century, then in the 1950's with Coronary heart disease on the rise doctors sought an explanation and isolated fat as the primary cause.  In 1977, US Congress went so far as to adopt a mantra of low fat diet and prescribed it to the nation, it is an ideal which is still being supported by government on both sides of the Atlantic.  In more than 40 years the US and Britain have been united in their advocacy of low fat diets and yet obesity levels have risen dramaticly in both countries in that time.  In 2010 NHS figures show that 24% of Brits are obese, the projected figures for diabetes, cancer and heart disease are constantly being revised upwards and are in danger of crippling the NHS.  So was the guidance on low fat diets misguided?

Jacob Yerushalmy, a statistician at the University of California in Berkeley and Herman Hilleboe a New York state Commissioner of Health looked at and questioned the original research upon which the low fat diet was based.  They discovered that the original study included statistics from countries where the high consumption of fat correlated with the rising incidence of heart disease but had dismissed any evidence which undermined or was in opposition to the fat/heart disease link and theory.  So the original research was misleading and biased.

New studies are demonstrating a strong link between carbohydrate consumption and diseases such as Diabetes and Coronary heart disease and yet government's will not step forward and warn of the danger of carbohydrates, they still try and advocate diets low in fats and relatively high in carbohydrates.  Pasta is often portrayed as a healthy food and people who wish to have a healthy, fitness related lifestyle and aim to lose weight will eat loads of pasta and drink fruit juice, which is loaded with sugar.

High protein, high fat diets are nothing new, they have been the diets of choice for celebrities for some years, the most famous being the Atkins diet but there is also the South Beach Diet and more recently the Dukan Diet.  Dietitians and authorities the world over criticize such diets as being bad for your health, A Swedish study blamed a surge in cholesterol levels in the country since 2007 on the nations interest in low carb diets.  The British Dietetic Association declared that the Dukan Diet was the worst celebrity diet and a prominent French Nutritionist claimed that it could lead to Heart disease and Breast cancer.
Yet the Scientific evidence against excessive carbohydrate consumption appears to be repeatedly cast aside.  David Haslam of the Obesity Forum explains the danger of such a diet: "After a carbohydrate heavy meal, the glucose (sugar) in your bloodstream rises rapidly, so your Pancreas pumps out insulin.  Insulin's job is to take the glucose out of the bloodstream and convert it to glycogen which can then be stored in the liver and the muscle's.  But these storage areas are limited so any excess glucose in the bloodstream gets stored as fat.  When your blood glucose level's return to normal, after about 90 minutes your insulin level's remain high, as a result it will continue to stack glucose away as fat, this causes your blood sugar level's to drop below normal and you feel hungry again".  So you go in search of a snack to fill the gap.  In carbohydrate heavy diet's the body can eventually become insulin resistant leading to diabetes.

Ketogenic (high protein, high fat, low carb) diet's work by reducing the Carbohydrate consumption, this encourages the body to burn more fat instead of glucose.  There are a growing number of studies to back up the concept that the Ketogenic diets prompt rapid weight loss without danger.  One of the most significant is a 2005 study by Professor Guenther Boden at Temple University, Philadelphia.  the study was the first time anyone had measured input and output under strict conditions, Boden took a dozen diabetic subjects and placed them on a low carb diet allowing only 20g of carbs a day, but encouraged them to consume as much protein as they wanted.  They dropped 1000 calories intake a day.  The subjects desire to overeat went and they lost weight.

Essentially nutrition can be simple and it doesn't include the consumption of large amounts of carbohydrate's as depicted by the Food Standard's Agencies 'eat well' plate. Over eating on Carbohydrate's will lead to being overweight which in turn increase's your chances of developing Diabetes, Coronary Heart Disease and some Cancers.  Adopting a low carbohydrate diet will help you lose weight and improve your health.

15 Comments to The Danger of the low fat diet:

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