Fat and Sugar Always Blamed Together in the Media

Lots of media about obesity on CNN this past month. Probably due to the CDC stats that came out earlier and the release of a new HBO documentary on obesity. However, they never really seem to explore carbohydrates as the issue. Just checkout some of the headline in todays CNN video:

 

“Americans struggle with weight. Lose up to 10lbs in a year by cutting 100 calories a day”

10 lbs in a year by just cutting out 100 calories! Wow what a statement! So are you telling the audience that they will lose the same amount of weight whether its cut from 100 calories of carbs or fat despite things such as individual genetics and the insulin-fat storage response from carbs?

 

“Link Between Weight and Disease. Obesity contributes to heart disease and cancer”

Obesity contributes to heart disease and cancer. This headline makes it sound like obesity causes heart disease and cancer. But is it really the obesity that is “contributing” to these things or the consumption of things like excess sugar/carbs (if you believe in the carbohydrate hypothesis) or even consumption of fat (if you believe in the traditional low-fat advice). Obesity is not the problem. For you healthcare practitioners out there, remember that 20% of patients with metabolic syndrome are not obese!

 

“America’s Obesity Problem. 68% of adults are overweight or obese.”

This headline is dramatized off the heezy. Combining both overweight and obese categories into one large percentage? C’mon! While its less controversial to use BMI to calculate their definition of “obese” the BMI standards of being “overweight” are very suspect especially when applied to people who workout.

At the same time, CNN is also touting changes that California has made in battling obesity by fighting junk food in schools. Check out some of these statements:

“High school students in California are eating fewer calories and less added sugar and fat during the school day than students from other states.”

Seems like anytime you way to blame sugar, you have to also blame the fat as well.

“If teenagers consume 158 fewer calories on average, while maintaining healthy levels of physical activity, it could go a long way toward preventing excess weight gain…”

Again, touting the “calories is a calorie” dogma. We need to ask what sources are the calories coming from.

“Limiting calories from junk food could potentially help a student shed about 7.5 pounds over the school year…”

Agreed, but what is it about most junk food that can bring about these effects? Could it be the sugar (for candy bars) and starchy carbs (for chips and etc)?

Quote by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in the article: “Just because students cannot purchase high-fat, high-sugar candies does not automatically mean they’re eating a spinach salad in its place. If we really want to improve the quality of students’ diet, we need to promote fruits, vegetables, whole grains and other healthy alternatives that appeal to students.”

Whole grains to replace high-fat high sugar candies? That sounds like it could work…so if TheFatNurse replaces a kid’s snickers bar with these whole grain snacks instead:

Healthy cause it says WHOLE GRAIN!

C’mon those are not good alternatives.

The Bottom Line: The media continues to push a message of low fat and blaming fat consumption as a contributor to obesity. If you believe in the carbohydrate hypothesis then this message will not solve the obesity issue. However, blaming sugar may seem like the media is doing a right thing, but the message of replacing the sugar with whole grains needs to be clarified better (as seen in the cereals above). Additionally, there is also a tendency to blame fat whenever sugar is blamed as well. Until the media starts questioning the “a calorie is a calorie” dogma then these sorts of generalizations will continue.

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How Much Longer Can We Expect To Live By Cutting Out the Saturated Fat?

Interesting tidbit I found in Good Calories Bad Calories from page 65:

“Between 1987 and 1994, independent research groups from Harvard Medical School, the University of California, San Francisco, and McGill University in Montreal addressed the question of how much longer we might expect to live if no more than 30 per cent of our calories came from fat, and no more than 10 percent from saturated fat, as recommended by the various government agencies…

“The Harvard study, led by William Taylor, concluded that men with a high risk of heart disease, such as smokers with high blood pressure, might gain one extra year of life by shunning saturated fat. Healthy nonsmokers, however, might expect to gain only three days to three months …

“The UCSF study, led by Warren Browner, was initiated and funded by the Surgeon General’s Office. This study concluded that cutting fat consumption in America would delay 42,000 deaths each year, but the average life expectancy would increase by only three to four months. To be precise, a man who might otherwise die at 65 could expect to live an extra month if he avoided saturated fat for his entire adult life. If he lived to be 90, he could expect an extra four months. The McGill study, published in 1994, concluded that reducing saturated fat in the diet would result in an average life expectancy of four days to two months.”

“Michael McGinnis, the deputy secretary for health, then wrote to JAMA trying to prevent publication of Browner’s article, or at least to convince the editors to run an accompanying editorial that would explain why BRowner’s analysis should not be considered relevant to the benefits of eating less fat.”

Now if these studies are true (and to be honest I haven’t gone through them personally), they were not the only ones at the time down playing the dangers of saturated fat. However, the fact that the McGovern report chose to test a low fat hypothesis without conclusive evidence as recommendations for the US people…and only for the government to try and silence research that downplayed their own recommendations decades later….sounds fishy. More importantly, the rage I feel for denying myself bacon and eggs for breakfast all these years cannot be understated!