The Fat Spat!

Well, what a few days we have had in the world of nutrition. I’m sure you are all more than aware of the ongoing debate that has re-emerged regarding the suitability of filling your diet full of fat. 

The report by the National Obesity Forum that advised people to eat more fat in order to cut obesity and type 2 diabetes went on to describe the promotion of low-fat food as having “disastrous health consequences”. And yesterday we saw Public Health England respond by calling the advice irresponsible and linking it to potential fatalities. Simply put, this was somewhat of a dramatic spat in the ongoing carbs vs. fats debate.

That debate is something that I have spoken about before, twice (which you can read here and here), so this clearly isn’t something new. But what is different is seeing major national organisations coming down on one side or the other. Discussion of the debate has become normal. Describing fat as a “friend” though is something that you might not hear an awful lot of.

So why is the National Obesity Forum so against low-fat? It’s because they don’t believe that low-fat tells the whole story. People still demand flavour in their food and that often comes from the fat that is in it and if the fat goes then we often see it getting replaced with sugar. What’s more, they attribute high levels to obesity to wide range of other factors that include, over-snacking, an over-consumption of starchy foods and an affinity towards industrial vegetable oils.

Even without this report it is quite obvious that attitudes to fat have been changing. We understand the differences between trans, saturated and unsaturated fats and we thought we knew the relative merits of each. Reports like these get us all in two minds though. One minute you hear that you need to dramatically reduce the amount of fat that you eat and then you are told to increase it again!

The real winner of this conflict was common sense. Everybody got obsessed with talking about fats and carbs, while completely dismissing calories. Of course, all three are linked. Carbohydrates contain 4 calories per 1g and fat contains 9. So if you eat the same amount in fats as carbs, your calorie intake will be over twice as much.

Like I say though, common sense was the real winner. Calories in vs. calories out is always the logical place to start. If you are putting on weight it is because the in side of that battle is winning. So you have two choices if you want to start losing weight: reduce the calories in or increase calories out. Cutting out fats will reduce calories at a faster rate. You will be losing over twice as many calories for every gram of fat dropped as compared with carbs.

You need to think about where your diet is in the first place. If you can afford to drop some fat, especially if you are eating any trans fats or a lot of saturated fats, then you are going to help yourself to lose weight. But the chances are, in terms of actual grams, you will be eating far more carbs than you are fats. And if you are starting off with more, you can probably afford to lose more.

The publicity that these spats generate can often just lead to irrelevant statistics being thrown from one side to the other. The important thing for us as people who train is to see past all of that and get down to the facts that really matter.


Ollie Lawrence
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