Fat v Sugar on TV

There was an interesting programme on TV last night. One of the Horizon documentaries, the one-hour BBC2 programme contrasted the ‘fat is evil ‘ and the ‘sugar is evil’ schools of body-fat loss. It did this by taking two identical twins – same genetic makeup – and putting one on a zero sugar diet, and the other on a zero fat diet, both for a month. The two brothers were mildly overweight at the start, so they both had some body fat they wanted to lose.

At the end of the month, both guys had lost weight, but they had become substantially less healthy in doing so. Levels of triglycerides, LDL cholesterol and pancreas and liver function were causes for concern, as was the news that one had blood sugar levels that made him pre-diabetic (and that was actually the fat-eating guy).

I have a couple of concerns on the programme:

Firstly, they didn’t address protein at all. Without doubt the fat-eating guy would have consumed substantially more protein than the sugar-eating guy. So the effect of this protein difference on their systems wasn’t considered – the sugar guy didn’t just miss out on his fats, he also missed out on the protein with his diet. As protein is, of course, one of the three macronutrients – alongside fat and carbs (ie: sugar) – this was a huge factor to ignore.

Secondly, the two brothers didn’t do any resistance or weight training in the entire month – and yet they were surprised at the end that they both had lost muscle mass from their bodies. In fact, the only exercise shown was a single cycle ride, and even though this included hills, this was not a significant muscle-building activity.

Moving away from these concerns, I was happier with their conclusions. These were that body-fat reduction isn’t as simple as cutting out one of these nutrients from the diet – there’s a whole lot more going on. Key recommendations they made are (1) eat less of everything – basically, consume fewer calories overall; within this, (2) make especially big reductions in BOTH sugar and saturated fats – but not to zero; (3) eat natural produce – nothing processed; and (4) exercise more.

These four recommendations have been some of the principles of my approach which helped me lose six stone of fat, healthily, over the course of a few years since turning 50. I would add two more to give my own full recipe for success – the things they missed out on the programme – (5) within the reduced overall calories, ensure that the protein levels are kept up – replace some (not all) of the calories that have been displaced from sat fat and sugar reduction by more protein, and (6) the phrase ‘more exercise’ isn’t enough on its own – there needs to be a properly structured plan of both cardiovascular work and progressive resistance training.

Put those six principles together, and I believe you have the key to success. To put it brutally, I have the body to show that this approach worked for me. They got four out of six of those principles on the programme, which is better than most TV programmes manage!

As a post-script, on programmes such as this you will usually see leading anti-sugar researcher from California, Dr Robert Lustig and he was indeed there on this one. I have a good measure of support for his views, but I feel that if he has the right answers, how come he is so, err, portly? He’s always seen in overly-large suits (clever optical trick, and one I used to use) which I suspect conceals a trouser size of maybe 38 inches – or 36 on a good day. If he knows all the right answers, how come he isn’t as lean as a rake then?

Have a healthy, fit, fun and low-sugar, low-sat fat weekend!