Eating fat does not make you fat?!

“Eating fat does not make you fat,” argues a new report by the National Obesity Forum (NOF) and the Public Health Collaboration, as they demanded a major overhaul of official dietary guidelines.”

Sounds confusing? It is. And potentially dangerous as it will lead to no-one knowing what to actually eat. Or people eating a high fat diet and thinking that they will not end up overweight. Which is utter madness! Fat is high in calories, making it much easier to gain weight when eating a high fat diet. The report specifically recommends eating more saturated fats saying these will help with obesity and type 2 diabetes. However there is a proven link between saturated fat and heart disease, so we want people to eat less saturated fat and replace it with unsaturated fats instead. This reduces the risk of heart disease. 

The report is based on the message that the long standing advice of eating a low fat diet is wrong. However looking at the report, it was actually not based on the best evidence and a lot of it is opinion rather than fact. When you look at the studies they included and (64 studies) there are some that are very much in the grey area and have limitations that are not taken into account. Not all research is good research and it needs to be interpreted carefully looking at the methodology and the limitations. This was not a comprehensive review of the evidence either so some studies have been left out.

The report states that eating a low fat diet has led to an increase in eating low fat junk food, refined carbohydrates and polyunsaturated vegetables oils. However I’m not sure what low fat junk food is? Current recommendations are that 1/3 of your energy comes from carbohydrates, preferably wholegrains, not refined ones or “junk food”. Wholegrains and carbs such as rice, quinoa, potaotes, sweet potatoes, wholegrain cereals, brown pasta and bread all fill you up for less calories, provide fibre, B vitamins and are the body’s preferred energy source. 

It is about the overall balance of calories that will make you put on weight. Fat is a lot more energy dense and so it can be difficult to have a high fat diet and not put weight on. At the end of the day fat has more calories than carbohydrates. The body also finds it easier to store excess fat as fat, it has to covert carbohydrate into fat to then store it. All that takes energy and effort. 

Another odd feature of the report is the part on activity. Apparently “regular physical activity will not help with weight loss”. Ummm what? I agree that we don’t want people exercising off their dietary intake, but we do know that exercises helps with weight loss. Fact. A lot of research suggests that exercise is actually the key to weight loss more so than diet. I say we need a combination of the 2 and a look at the whole lifestyle too. Lets not forget that you can over-eat still on a good diet and gain weight eating an excess of healthy foods.

Apparently snacking is bad for us and eating 6 times a day will not result in weight loss. Well that can be true, but surely that depends on what you are snacking on and what your diet as a whole looks like? Everyone is individual and no one diet will suit every person. So this kind of statement makes no sense. 

So what should we be eating?

The Mediterranean Diet:

  1. Wholegrains – base your meals on starchy carbohydrates and include them at each meal.
  2. Eat plenty of fruit and veggies (7-9 portions), pulses and legumes.
  3. Reduce your red meat intake, eat more fish, poultry, pulses, legumes, nuts and seeds.
  4. Swap saturated fats (butter, lard, white fat on meat) for monounsaturated fats: olive oil, rapeseed oil, avocado.
  5. Reduce processed foods, junk food and ready meals. Cook more meals from scratch using fresh ingredients.
  6. Include dairy foods in your diet regularly.
  7. Keep salt to a minimum, add herbs and spices to your meals instead.
  8. Drink red wine in moderation.

See more on the Mediterranean Diet here.

Common sense needs to prevail here. Think about what is in the food you put into your body. Get back to cooking more meals from fresh, whole foods. Reduce the processed foods and naturally the composition of your diet will become healthier. There is no need to avoid food groups (unless you have an actual allergy/intolerance) just stick to the “all things in moderation rule”. There is no one diet that fits all but in general if you aim for 1/3 carbohydrate, 1/3 fruit and veggies and 1/3 protein/dairy you will be getting things somewhere close to the right proportions. 

If you want a general planner to follow with recipes then you can download mine here and here. 


Good articles to read:

expert reaction to new report on diet as published by the National Obesity Forum



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