Monday, July 13, 2015

The rabid"Fatophobia"-Consequences of past practices now being felt!

There has been a frenetic pace in the criticism of fats present in the diet during the last 3 decades, attributing practically every ailments at the doors of this food component present in all foods in varying quantities. The food industry world over has been castigated for manufacturing high fat containing and tasty foods that attract the consumers and dietary guidelines have been telling the consumers to shun foods rich in fat. It is true that fats, especially saturated versions, that too present in animal derived foods do cause obesity, diabetes, heart disease etc when consumed in excessive quantities though precise data were never generated as to how much is too much! American consumers and their counterparts in many affluent countries were told that fat consumption through the daily foods should not be more than 30% of the total calorie needs of the body. This did create a perception all around that fat is a "dirty" component in a healthy food to be shunned as much as possible. Even a school going child "knows" fat rich foods are not good for health! What are the consequences of such a great fat phobia? They are there to see in a country like the US where industry started pandering to this trend developing thousands of products with the so called "low fat" claims! 

How far we have been right in taking the fat phobia to such great heights? It now emerges that such commonly perceived beliefs were highly misplaced as reflected by the failure of such low fat foods to prevent the increase of obesity and other related diseases in these countries during the last 3 decades. It now emerges that the recommendation to cap fat calories at 30% of total calories was wrong and in stead of reducing the incidence of obesity, such a policy created the opposite effect! Why? Because the place of fat in the diet was taken over by carbohydrates which seem to have contributed to health afflictions. Of course the emphasis on unsaturated fats and plant derived fats was correct as they are relatively less harmful compared to saturated fats. Even blaming carbohydrates may not be wholly justified becauser the quality of carbohydrates consumed makes a big difference in deciding the healthiness of a diet. Food technology may have some thing to do with decreasing the carbohydrate quality progressively during the last 5 decades by developing newer technologies to "refine" food which effectively means removing healthy components during the processing.  

Fortunately a spate of recent research studies have been able to establish the futility of focusing too much on low-fat foods. Many recent scientific observations do confirm the above reality. Studies using large randomized trials involving thousands of subjects between 2006 and 2013 brought out the stark reality that a low-fat diet had no significant benefits in ameliorating incidences of heart disease, cerebral stroke, diabetes or cancer risks. In contrast a high-fat, Mediterranean-style diet rich in nuts or extra-virgin olive oil providing more than 40 percent of calories in total fat was able to significantly reduced cardiovascular disease, diabetes and long-term weight gain. There are also other similar studies which have shown that high-fat diets can have same effect or better than, low-fat diets for short-term weight loss. The types of foods, rather than fat content, relate to long-term weight gain. It is not proper to rule out completely the perception that high-fat diets are not healthy  or low-fat diets are less harmful. A universal principle that should be borne in mind is that too much focus on a particular food component in the diets can be misleading and food has to be viewed in a holistic way. Focus on total fat or other abstract numbers printed on the labels of packed foods will have to be replaced with right emphasis on eating more minimally processed fruits, nuts, vegetables, beans, fish, yogurt, vegetable oils and whole grains in stead of highly refined white grain flours, white potatoes, added sugars in what ever form and processed meats. 

Quantity of food eaten must be related to what we eat: As commonly believed cutting calories in the diet without improving food quality cannot be expected to cause long-term weight loss. It is this belated realization that has prompted health and food experts to modify the dietary guidelines, after singing the "song of 30% calories cap" for decades for consideration by the government without any upper limit on total fat. In addition, reduced-fat foods were specifically not recommended for obesity prevention. Instead, they want to encourage consumption according to healthful food-based diet patterns. The limit on total fat is an outdated concept, an obstacle to sensible change that promotes harmful low-fat foods, undermines efforts to limit refined grains and added sugars, and discourages the food industry from developing products higher in healthy fats. Fortunately, the people behind the Dietary Guidelines understand that but whether policy makers and the food industry take notice of this sane advice remains to be seen.

This discussion cannot be complete unless a mention is made about the life styles followed by the people to day,  especially with respect to their sedentary way of living with practically no exercise or any physical activity. The right way to lead a healthy life is to eat a balanced diet with adequate nutrition derived from whole grains, fruits, vegetables etc as mentioned above and do enough physical activity in any format that will burn the calories and achieve a dynamic metabolic activity in the body that can ensure sound health and mind.


1 comment:

Rajesh Kumar said...

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