It has been rumored that sugar is the culprit for the average weight gain in the western world and not fat. And I have been doing my fair bit of research on this. Why? You might ask. Well, trying to loose weight, I feel it is important that I focus on what is fact and what is yet another guess (as there has been a fair bit of that when it comes to weight gain).
Why is it that researchers are now so focused on sugar being the culprit? The reason is because of statistics. Statistics show a direct correlation between amount of people with type 2 diabetes, having high blood pressure and obesity with the increasing amount of sugar consumption.
It used to be that fat was the culprit. Now it is sugar. Why is this? The history is long and complex but I will try and shorten it for you.
In the 1050’s when we had a bit more time on our hands and did not have to deal with a world war, we noticed that there was an increase in deaths related to heart diseases compared to just 50 years earlier. Scientists of course curious (that is their job after all) started investigating and found that fatty arteries were the culprit and a man, Ancel Keys, in particular fought for the idea that there was a correlation between fats and heart diseases. His research has been scrutinized A LOT and I am not going into this debate as that is a post on its own, so I will stick to facts and what is still usable and that is in particular his influence on the “Anti-fats” campaign. It is true that there is a correlation between eating high amounts of fats that then clings to our arteries and heart disease but where it goes wrong is the relevance on weight gain and loss. For some reason scientists made a direct correlation between fat intake and weight gain but luckily we have gotten wiser.
So why is Sugar now the focus? The reason is related to Ancel Keys history. When doctors found out the impact that fats had on the heart and its related diseases, they started recommending a low fat diet. Ideal would have been to then increase the protein amount in foods but that was not that easy and it was expensive, so they recommended higher carb diets instead to make sure people were eating enough calories.
So why is the higher carb diet part of the story? Two reasons. Sugar is a carb and it is cheap and carbs converts itself into sugar (which then eventually becomes fats if we eat too much). The food industry started seeing a surge in the need for a “low fat” foods and sugar was the easiest replacement. It tasted good and it increased the flavors and was a great way to replace fats.
Interestingly, the increase in sugar in our diets now showed a correlation between obesity since the end of the 1950’s. Interesting, huh?
So this is where the research has ended. Sugar is now the bad guy. However, one thing, I believe is missing in all of this data is the industrialization of our western world. We move A LOT less than our ancestors and one thing we are build to do is to move. Us standing up and our long legs are due to the need to move around.
My opinion is, there is nothing wrong with sugar, there is nothing wrong with fats. All in moderation and simply make sure to exercise enough to keep your body healthy and strong. Fats does not cause obesity and truth be told, sugar does not cause obesity. Obesity is simple math. If you eat more than you burn off, you will gain weight. It is that simple.
New, very interesting, research is starting to establish the importance of full fat products and studies and science are showing something interesting. Studies are showing that people that eat and drink full fat dairy products tends to weigh less and even lose more weight than those that eat low fat or non fat dairy. Scientists have found a couple of possible and very likely reasons for this. 1. Full fats makes us feel full longer and 2. they have found acids in the full fat dairy products, similar to probiotics, that you can’t find in low or non fat products that are improving your bacteria in your intestines which in turn curbs your sugar cravings. These two facts is what has kept the research group that ate full fat dairy products stay thinner and even lose weight. They ate less and had a lower craving for sugars.
This in particular, I have found interesting and I feel there is enough research behind it already (thousands of people have been in these studies around the world) so I am willing to test it out on myself. I have started changing my milk from skim to whole, yogurts from low/non fat to full and my cottage cheese from non to full fat (not that my yogurts or cottage cheeses are high in fats even if they are “full fat” products). I will keep you posted on any changes I might experience.
When it comes to food and diets. Stay vigilant and do your research it is worth your while.