So Is Fat Free Better For Me?
Over the past 20 years, reducing fat ingestion has been the predominant focus of weight-loss diets and for the treatment of obesity. As a result it has been taught to us that the best way to reduce weight and avoid becoming obese is to avoid eating fat, leading to many of us falling in to the trap of buying ‘fat-free’ or ‘low-fat’ foods to avoid weight gain. However, clinical studies have shown that reducing fat intake only produces modest weight loss, with weight regain often occurring.
Adhering to the typical advice of reducing fat-intake may therefore not be conducive to significant weight loss. Why? Because fat-intake is primarily replaced with eating larger quantities of sugary, simple carbohydrates (e.g. bread, pasta, rice, etc), of which have minimal fat content but increases blood sugar levels and thus secretion of insulin from the pancreas.
What’s The Crack With Insulin Then?
Insulin is the primary hormone in stimulating fat storage, to allow the body to use the increased blood sugar as the primary source of fuel. Therefore, during such ’low-fat’ diets, the increased carbohydrate intake may increase the amount of fat that is regularly stored throughout the day. Furthermore, as we store more fat our energy requirements and appetite increase, resulting in the need to eat more. This then can result in a vicious cycle of eating more carbohydrate, causing insulin levels to remain elevated longer than nature may have intended, meaning that the periods in which fat is stored is extended and the period through which we burn fat is shortened. Consequently, this can limit any potential significant weight or fat loss expected to occur during ‘low-fat’ diets.
How much each gram of available carbohydrate in a food raises a person’s blood glucose level following consumption of the food, relative to consumption of pure glucose, is assessed through the glycaemic index. Glucose has a glycaemic index of 100. Foods with a higher glycaemic index have greater sugar levels and thus cause a greater increase in insulin levels and can cause greater fat storage.
From the above table it is plain to see how much of our most popular and favourite foods, despite being low in fat, have a high glycaemic index and may induce greater fat storage. For example, baked potatoes are considered healthy, but there is little attention and regard for the effects of the high glycaemic index and facilitation of fat storage they can cause. Rather, eating food identified as having a lower glycaemic index may therefore help to limit fat storage throughout the day. Furthermore, it has been shown in a study by Bouche et al (2000) that a 5-week diet of eating low GI foods produced 500g more abdominal fat loss compared to an equal energy diet consisting of high GI foods.
However, we are not saying that foods with a high glycaemic index are forbidden; as whole foods with a high glycaemic index can play an important role in maintaining a healthy, balanced diet. Rather, we stress that you take into account the potential role that certain foods can have in terms of fat storage, which may hinder fat loss, and use the glycaemic index as a tool to help find potentially healthier and better alternatives which may better facilitate fat loss.
By Kristian Lindsay