Is Low Fat Making You Fat?

As you browse the aisles that low fat version of the product may seem like the automatic go to if you’re looking to lose body fat – right?

After all, low fat means less fat and you’re trying to lose fat. Makes sense.

The thing is, fat in food is NOT necessarily the enemy it’s been made out to be.

We all need a certain amount of fat in our diets. Fats play many essential roles including supporting the central nervous system, keeping our cell membranes fluid, carrying vitamins and protecting internal organs.

Dietary fat got a bad name from the 1970s onwards when research sponsored by the American Heart Foundation identified fat as the main culprit in a host of health issues.

However, the research set out to find this, meaning there was confirmation bias, and some research that suggested sugar was a bigger culprit in poor health was suppressed.

Cue the start of a whole industry of low fat foods.

Before I explain why low fat could be making you fat, let’s look at what our fat needs are.

We should be getting between 20 – 35% of our calories from fats. Before you reach for the deep fried mars bar though…

There are many different types of fats, and we want to ensure that the bulk of the fat’s we’re consuming are unsaturated fats. These are your Omegas – from oily fish, nuts, seeds, olives, avocados.

Alongside those we can have smaller amounts of saturated fats, which largely come from dairy and meat products.

So, aim for lots on unsaturated, and some saturated and pretty much avoid all the trans-fats.

Back to low fat food. What tends to happen when you strip the natural fats out of food is that you lose a lot of the flavour.

Guess how you can boost the flavour?

Remembers that suppressed research?

Sugar.

Often the low fat version of a product (not always) will have far higher levels of sugar than the “full fat” version.

So you’ve lost the fat, but gained a load of sugar. 

Fat triggers the hormone ghrelin – which says “I’m full.” so you’re likely to eat less.

Sugar triggers insulin. High sugar and high insulin levels are associated with fat gain, plus an insulin high is followed by a low, meaning you’re likely to want to eat again.

So the low fat version could be actually contributing to your fat gain rather than loss.

If you’re picking a natural product check the labels on the normal and low fat versions. If the low fat version has a much higher sugar content than the normal, you’ll be better of going for the normal in most cases..

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