Friday, 1 August 2014

Change4life or Change4fat?

The Change4life campaign has always got my goat. At first it was the way that they embraced partnerships from companies like Nestle who gaily abused the crusade for their own sugary profits ( Now it’s  their unquestioning support of the war on fat that winds me up.

I don’t mind so much that their whole message is pro-“healthy-balanced-diet”, after all there is not that much wrong with the diet that they recommend if that is indeed what you end up eating – the trouble is for a growing  percentage of people it is clearly not; and the patronising & blinkered NHS advice is not helping to change anything as far as I can see.

This is the mouthpiece of the NHS, the voice we rely on to TELL US THE TRUTH about our health.

People make such a song and dance about whole milk. But milk is not a high fat product, and whole milk is more nutritious than semi, the Daily Mail are good on health issues:

The low-fat message has become so pervasive. It is hard to get a coffee these days with full-fat milk in, despite the fact many of us think that it tastes so much better - Starbucks don't sell whole milk..  In a world where personal choice is everything we must clearly all have received the wisdom that fat is bad!

Anyway, what really gets my goat is the simplistic nonsense that change4life are peddling about fat being the root of all evil.  Here is some typical content from with some red appendages from me.

Where does the fat we eat go?
Ever wondered where the fat in foods goes? Here's more about what it does in our bodies....

Get ready to learn something…..

1. Brain
When arteries get clogged up this can stop blood getting to the right parts of our brain and can cause strokes.

This statement is true but it does not mention the word fat, so what is it doing here on a web page about fat?  Dietary fat does not ‘clog up’ arteries. This is misleading. No marks. Please try harder!

2. Heart
Arteries carry blood around our bodies. Over time, too much saturated fat can clog up our arteries and restrict the blood supply to our heart which can cause chest pain (angina) and if completely blocked heart attacks.

No it can’t.  Firstly, you would probably die long before your arteries were completely blocked. Heart attacks and stroke happen when arterial plaques break off and block up somewhere important like the heart or brain.  Secondly saturated fat is no worse than any other fat in this context (
Atherosclerosis (the blocking of arteries) is caused by inflammation, and the role of fats (or rather cholesterol) in the inflammation process has recently been discovered to be improved by a high fat diet (  Sorry NHS, this 'clogging-up' message is out of date and wrong. No marks! 

3. Pancreas
Eating too much fat can make us put on weight. Being overweight or obese can stop our pancreas from producing enough insulin and cause type 2 diabetes.

Poor quality again. Eating too much of anything can make us put on weight. Eating fat does not make us put on more weight when compared to eating a similar amount of carbohydrate. Yes there are slightly more calories in a gram of fat but in practice eating fat normally helps us lose weight as we feel full sooner and end up eating less than we tend to on a carbohydrate-based diet.  The second sentence is correct but not correctly implied by the first, so 3 out of 10 for trying!

4. Bowel
Being overweight increases our risk of getting bowel cancer - but a diet high in fibre and low in saturated fat keeps our bowel healthy and reduces the risk.

This may be true, but the jury is currently out on this one. It is quite possible that the problem here lies with processed meat, rather than saturated fat per se. A 2011 meta analysis showed no link between dietary fat intake and bowel cancer ( Besides, who said that you should stop eating all fibre?  There is plenty in the veg that you should be eating anyway; just don’t feel that you have to go as far as All Bran (or even cardboard) to get your daily fix. No more that 5 marks out of 10; please try harder.

5. Body
If we eat too much fat we store the fat in our bodies which can lead us to put on weight.

Don't be silly; exactly the same is true of carbohydrates! I might as well say that if we ate too many donuts we would store the excess glucose as fat in our bodies which can lead us to put on weight! We all know this but the statement is simply not relevant unless you put it in some context which change4life have not done.
0 out of 10.

Total marks 8 out of 50. 10%, D-.  Not good enough!

So, a whole lot of spurious advice and misinformation. And this is what the NHS believes we should all know about fat.

Now when you consider that change4life is a top programme in implementing Government policy. then I would say we have a big fat problem on our hands.

Now let me show you where the fat that I eat goes. And let’s be clear about this, I eat a lot of fat, but then I burn more energy than most with my running and cycling.

Now this diagram is slightly complicated but if you see my smiley red face it is there because the fat that I eat is being oxidized for energy. If I was also eating more than a small amount of carbs it might be stored as triglycerides in fat cells, but I am not, so it is not (or not much of it).

Like many LCHF dieters my triglicerides (the amount of actual fat being transported about my body looking for a nice home) are very low. So I can control my weight by eating more or less fat, depending on how much energy I am using.

On the left-hand side of the diagram (crossed out as I don't eat very much of them) is what we should be learning about carbohydrates. If we don’t burn them now we will store them as fat - we really can’t store very much as glycogen. This is the obesity epidemic at work.  And protein? Eat more than you can quickly turn into new things (like muscles) and the excess will be stored as fat. 

Unsurprisingly we see than anything we don't use we store as fat. But there is nothing special here about dkietary fat, is there? So why do we make out that fat is the devil's food? 

Read the article and you will also see how saturated fat is not making my cholesterol levels dangerous; in fact it is making them safer. My post at explains this key point in detail.

So given the choice of carbs that can do nothing but help you move or make you fat, or fats that are highly nutritious and can make you more healthy, I have chosen fats.

Come on NHS, it's time to change4fat!

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