Sugar and fat are the playoff teams in the World Cup of food wars.
It makes sense that rich foods such as creamy avocados or butter-drenched salmon would contribute to weight gain. Similarly, stacking up on sweet treats such as sugary cereals and carb-heavy bagels cannot be too great for your waistline, either.
However, scientists are increasingly examining what is actually happening inside our bodies when we indulge in a large amount of either sugar or fat on a regular basis.
In many parts of the world, people rarely eat these two ingredients alone. Take the doughnuts as an example. When the fresh carb-laden dough is deep-filled in oil, you will get a classic combination of sugar and fat. Rich in flavor, and a powerful mouthfeel, which is tough to pass up.
Nevertheless, an increasing body of evidence is starting to suggest that when eaten in isolation, fat does not contribute to weight gain. On the other side, numerous studies indicate that sugar alone is importantly packing on pounds.
Aaron Carroll, a professor of pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine, in his recent book “The Bad Food Bible: How and Why to Eat Sinfully” said that fat consumption does not cause weight gain. On the contrary, it might actually help us lose a few pounds.
This actually means that foods such as buttery avocados, rich salmon, as well as savory nuts should probably have a place in our diet. If we banned them during the low-fat dieting craze of the 1990s, it is time to bring them back.
The proof is in the pudding
Which ingredient has the responsibility for the most frequent share of negative health outcomes? To nail it down we could compare people that have eaten low-fat or low-carb diets.
Studies suggest that cutting back on fats can make you lose weight. However, there will be no other health benefits. A reduced risk of disease for example.
On the other hand, the proof that connects sugar with weight gain is in the pudding. Quite literally said.
For a large recent review of some studies, published in the journal The Lancet, scientists have compared more than 135,000 people in about 18 countries on both low-fat and low-carb diets. Those that were on low-fat diets had a greater possibility to die from any cause. They were also at a greater risk of death from heart attacks, as well as heart disease. On the contrary, the people on the low-carb diet had a notably lower risk of both of these outcomes.
The authors who created the paper concluded that the results from the study were so strong that we have to reconsider the dietary guidelines.
The conclusion makes even more sense when we look at what occurs when people are trying to trim the fat from their diets. Generally, they just end up swapping rich or creamy ingredients filled with sugar and carbs.
What actually occurs when we trim the fat?
During an eight-year trial, involving about 50,000 women, the scientist put about half on a low-fat diet. Not just did the low-fat dieters not lose much weight, if any at all, they also did not see a decrease in the risk of breast cancer, colorectal cancer, as well as heart disease.
Let us examine what occurs with the rest of our diet when we suddenly try to eat only low-fat foods.
Sugar and carbs are dominant in most ready-to-eat items that belong to the low-fat category. Take any common cereal, granola bar, as well as yogurt and check the nutrition label. They are all high in sugar and carbs despite the fact that they are low in fat.
Both those ingredients help you get more weight. One review of 50 studies on diet and weight gain, published in the journal Food and Nutrition Research, found that, on average, the more refined grains someone ate, the more weight they gained over the study period.
Therefore, while the low-fat products are all marked as weight loss tools, the truth is that these products may contribute a lot more to weight gain than a fat-rich product!
Our message here is that fat is a critical dietary ingredient, and sugar, although is omnipresent in many foods from everyday life, is not a critical ingredient in our diet. That means that while it takes more work to curb your sugar intake, the available evidence suggests that it is a more worthwhile fight than trimming the fat.