On-line advert depicts the fattening effects of carbohydrate

I came across a video today (posted below). It’s an Associated Press news report regarding an anti-soft-drink/soda video made by the New York City Department of Health. It portrays a man drinking the contents of a soda-can. Except that the contents aren’t the fizzy, sugary liquid one is anticipating, but what looks likes globs of fat.

I like this video a lot, because what it does is help cement in people’s minds the fact that sugar can be fattening. This is an important message because it’s true, and also because there’s still a tendency for individuals to associate body fatness with fatty foods. However, as you can see here, the evidence suggests that fat is not inherently fattening. And perhaps most importantly of all, eating a low-fat diet is likely to do very little to quell the burgeoning obesity epidemic.

As you can read here, there are good, sound biochemical reasons to believe that a key player in the development of excess fat in the body is the hormone insulin ” which is secreted most plentifully in response to the ingestion of carbohydrate. Sugar (particularly the refined variety) has the potential to cause problems here, particularly if the sugar is drunk (rather than eaten). One reason for this is the fact that a lot of sugar can be downed very quickly in when it’s in liquid form. Plus, those who drink sugar may not compensate by consuming less of other foods.

So, to my mind, anything that can help individuals to associate refined sugar with fatness is going to be a good thing. However, as many of you will know, it’s not necessarily just sugar that can cause us to pile on the pounds. Sugar is the building block of starch, and the truth is that many starchy staples such as bread, pasta, rice, potato and breakfast cereals can disrupt blood sugar and insulin levels in a way reminiscent of sugar, particularly when such foods are eaten in quantity. In other words, starchy carbs can most certainly be fattening, even though they may contain little or no fat.

And it’s not just the fact that these foods tend to induce fat-making processes in the body, but also the fact that they can induce low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia) that can trigger hunger. And even if they don’t to this, they tend not to be particularly satisfying foods anyway. Now, I know conventional recommendations are for us to base our diet on starchy staples, but such a diet tends to encourage overeating. Simple as that.

I think it’s unlikely that we’re going to see adverts of people shaking globules of fat out of their ‘healthy’ breakfast cereal box or opening a bag of bread to find it contains a fatty mess any time soon. However, I’m hoping it isn’t going to be too long now before there is widespread acknowledgment of the fattening potential starchy carbs have.

Those of you keen not to see your weight soar over the festive season would do well, in my opinion, to keep your diet as ‘primal’ as possible. Perhaps have your fill of meat, fish, eggs, vegetables (other than the potato) and nuts, and eat regularly enough so that you’re unlikely to be tempted much by starches and sweets. Last year I was away for almost a month, and spent most of the month surrounded by lots of quite unhealthy food. I applied the ‘primal’ strategy, but most certainly was no angel. I returned home precisely the same weight I was when I left. I think that was the first time Christmas and New Year was not accompanied by a spike in my weight.

3 Responses to On-line advert depicts the fattening effects of carbohydrate

  1. Beth 19 December 2009 at 12:49 am #

    I’m a primal fan myself, so have weaned myself off of most starches (certainly all grains and sugar). And I certainly agree that starches and a standard Western diet don’t seem to mix. But it’s curious (to me anyways) that some cultures seem to do fine on high starch.

  2. Jackie Bushell 20 December 2009 at 1:36 am #

    In my reading (sorry can’t remember where) I’ve seen very plausible arguments that the varieties of starches eg rice eaten in the non-Western cultures are quite different from ours, with a much lower GI.

  3. Chris 22 December 2009 at 4:27 pm #

    The video is a step in the direction and may come to the attention of the people it intends to reach and influence. So all credit to Cathy Nonas and her colleagues at the NYC Dept. of Health for addressing sugar sweetened beverage consumption as a potential route to obesity. For certain, sodas contribute caloric density but little in the way of nutrient diversity, and you don’t become overweight without consuming an excess of calories.
    But the content of the video is a bit simplistic and it is interesting how the corporate counter propaganda machine kicks in via the reported response from the American Beverage Assoc.which trots out the low-fat commercially expedient propaganda. I do not hold hope that obesity issues will be resolved unless health depts or regulators are prepared to wade in much deeper. The dumbing down propaganda approach just adds to opportunity for counter propaganda and mass confusion.

    Personally, I’d like to see more open debate upon an inflammation hypothesis. It’s a broad notion that physiological, regulatory, and metabolic function can be slowly and progressively moved ‘off axis’ by modern dietary and lifestyle trends and factors. The result is progressive degradation of physiological function and progression down a pathway of increasing metabolic dysfunction. Inflammation is the functional explanation for the process. In response to the unfamiliar or the unwanted cells and tissues go on the defensive, becoming inflamed, to prevent unwanted biochemical interaction; but some satisfactory and essential interaction is also denied. Cell expression and function is degraded and in time chronic conditions emerge. Potential pro-inflammatory agents could be seen as ‘stressors’, and there may be several candidates.

    Elevated levels of insulin can be pro-inflammatory which puts high carbohydrate habits, especially ones of high aggregate GL under the spotlight. And eicosanoid imbalance, arising from over-consumption of vegetable oils, is also cited as being pro-inflammatory. Raised GL and increased vegetable oil production are two striking contarsts between past and present. These look like prime suspects to me.
    I would expect reduced levels of physical activity to be another potential ‘stressor’. Fructose and alcohol would be in my sights as additional potential stressors due to placing increasing workload upon the liver, and via Johns discussion upon Vitamin D is the expectancy that declining Vitamin D3 levels may deserve a place in the cast.
    So if the direction to be gleaned from the above might be to decrease ones consumption of sugar and refined cabohydrates, increase consumption of fresh vegetables and fruits, reverse the shift to consumption of ployunsaturated fats from vegetable oils and to use instead some monosaturated olive oil, season oneself to prudent solar exposure, prepare more of ones own food sooner that buy it ready prepared then might that be closer to the Mediterranean ideal and might our health prospects improve?

    The clip is a great example as to how the absence of consensus of a satisfactorily robust and plural model just creates opportunities for the information and misinformation to go around in circles.

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