Fat v Sugar – which is the worst kind of TV?

Some of you may have seen the SBS program pitting sugar against fat and looking at the health and weight effects. With their study of one plus one, we couldn’t draw any serious conclusions. Their main thrust was that fat and sugar presented together is something we really love and will overeat to pile on the pounds. But I have problem with the way fat is presented.

People equate fat with dairy and meat, two foods which are not produced in a particularly healthy way these days. Instead of choosing a variety of healthy oils and fats such as olive oil, nut oils such as macadamia, avocado and coconut oil they chose adulterated highly processed foods. So what does that prove?

In the program, they pair up two identical twins, one of whom eats a high sugar diet and the other of which eats high fat. Both end up much the same weight. Well I’m not surprised. Both sugar and unhealthy fats are inflammatory and inflammation induces weight gain whatever the source.

What’s more the high fat diet was not allowed any fruit and very little vegetables. Hardly a scientific study then. I would like to see what results they would get if the high fat twin had eaten healthy oils and the same access to fruit and vegetables.

And this highlights the problem I have with these programs. They present something that’s entertaining and visually alluring. The boys are easy on the eye, but it’s not research and it’s not science. Too many variables were changed.

Not all fats are the same

Why does no-one talk about the quality of macronutrients with regard to oils? We all understand that complex carbs are lower GI, so why don’t we distinguish between types of fats and oils? Saturated v unsaturated has been shown to be not relevant so we need some other marker of distinguishing healthy fats from unhealthy fats. We know that processing with chemicals and heat changes oils and increases transfats. So in these ‘infotainment’ mock studies they should know enough to tell the difference. I saw the nutritionist plate out cheeses and meat, hamburgers etc without any reference to transfat, processing or organic sources. Maybe she doesn’t know enough to tell the difference.

What’s worse is that serious research also makes the same mistake. Many studies are carried out on rats and mice as they have a rapid life cycle so you can see effects relatively quickly. Many companies produce standardized rat and mouse chow made from processed sources such as preserved pork fat and genetically engineered soybean.  Most of the chow ingredients come in a dried form and there is no reference to organic or GM sources.

So can we rely on the results? Who knows but I would like to hear form any scientist who might have the same concerns about relying on these studies to make claims about the health of humans. The more noise we make, the more researchers might sit up and take notice.

In the meantime we will just have to sit back and watch the ‘fluff’ that is health documentaries these days…