XL Nation

I found this label in a jacket I bought recently. It’s about as good a summary of the obesity crisis as any.  Americans spend less on food as a percentage of income (less than 5%) than any other nation. So it’s no surprise that they lead in the world obesity stakes. Lizi has just returned from a trip to New York and Washington and she tells me that obese Americans now seem to be in the majority and it was particularly upsetting to see so many obese children.  So the piece in The Daily Mail today highlighting work from The Boston Children’s Hospital on the effectiveness of various diets is particularly timely: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2165414/Popular-low-fat-diets-help-weight-bad-body-claims-study.html. It summarises work that’s been going on over the last 10 years comparing low fat, low carbohydrate and low glycaemic diets and comes down heavily on the side of low glycaemic.

This is music to our ears here at Lizi’s because it’s exactly the message that we have been putting over since we founded the Good Carb Food Company in 2003.  But it has been an uphill struggle in the face of the “low fat” mantra that comes from government agencies, both in the US and over here.

Officialdom has backed low fat diets for two main reasons. Firstly, there was a lot of research done in the 50’s and 60’s that showed high-fat, and particularly high saturated fat diets, led to increased heart disease. Even some of this research is now being questioned because no distinction was made between saturated fat and man-made trans-fats.  Man-made trans-fats are now are now so heavily implicated in heart disease that they should be banned from the human diet. Many countries have taken that step and in others like the UK they are effectively being eliminated by public pressure.  The other reason for favouring low fat diets is the simple fact that weight for weight fat contains twice as many calories as protein or carbohydrate.  So it was not unreasonable to believe that if you reduce the fat content of your diet you’d reduce your calorie intake.

But life is not that simple. Whilst no one other than a charlatan would suggest that weight gain is anything other than imbalance between calories in and calories out, as The Boston Children’s Hospital report claims, not all calories are equal. What they mean by this is that certain diets come with hidden health dangers. In a nutshell – low carb diets increase the chances of heart disease and low fat diets increase the chances of diabetes. The low glycaemic diet avoids these two extremes. There is another even more powerful reason to prefer low glycaemic diets and that is they help you eat less by keeping you feeling fuller for longer.

So is this the answer to the Obesity Crisis?  The answer, sadly, is no. Why people overeat in affluent societies is a much more complicated question. The psychological drivers to over consume are very strong. Avoiding the pangs of hunger, the pleasure of feeling full, the satiation of desire, the lightening of mood, the addiction to the blood sugar rush, all these things have been imprinted on our genetic code from our remote beginnings.  To eat was to survive. How ill they serve us now in our modern societies awash with food that has never been so cheap. Choosing to eat in a low glycaemic way will not solve this conundrum, but of all the diets that claim to be the answer, it’s the one most likely to help.

 

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