We are faced with a global epidemic of weight gain and the UK government is committed to reducing this trend. But are their guidelines correct? Many weight loss experts around the world believe they are not. The following article written by Patrick Holford, one of the UK’s leading nutritionists, explains some of the myths and suggests that sugar, caffeine and carbohydrates are the main culprits for the increase in both obesity and diabetes. The solution, according to Patrick, is a low glycemic load (GL) diet.
Fat isn’t the culprit
All over the world we are facing a global epidemic of weight gain. In Britain 67% of men and 57% of women are overweight. Once obese your risk of diabetes goes up 77 times. Up goes your cholesterol. Up goes your risk of heart disease and many other health problems to boot – from breast and prostate cancer to arthritis and polycystic ovaries. But it’s not fat that’s the culprit – it’s sugar, caffeine and a high glycemic load diet.
“I’m reading my daughter’s high school health textbook and it’s like a religion: ‘Everyone should follow a low-fat diet’ and ‘Saturated fats kill you,’ and that’s just wrong, plain wrong. I think that what we’re soon going to find is that no-one’s going to be defending the low-fat diet anymore.” These are the words of Dr Iris Shai of Ben Gurion University in Israel, an expert in weight management, and director of a recent research trial published in the New England Journal of Medicine, one of many that clearly show that a low GL diet is more effective than a low calorie, low fat diet.
The GL revolution
Leading weight loss researchers around the world are waking up to the GL revolution. In Norway, diabetes expert Dr Fedon Lindberg, author of the Greek Doctors Diet, also recommends a low GL diet along very similar lines. Not only do his patients also lose significant amounts of weight, they also lose their diabetes. He recently published a case of an insulin injecting type 2 diabetic woman who lost 88lbs, now has a stable blood sugar and no longer needs any medication, including insulin.
The obesity strategy
The plain truth is that most of us are digging our own graves with a knife and fork by eating too many carbohydrates. And if you follow government guidelines, that’s not about to change. Despite all this evidence in favour of low GL eating, the UK’s Food Standards Agency are running a campaign to get people eating more starchy foods – bread, rice, potatoes and pasta. Standard dietetic advice, quoting from the Manual of Dietetic Practice , is to encourage ‘a 50% increase in the consumption of potatoes and bread’, – and the UK Government’s £372 million strategy for tackling obesity emphasises cutting calories and fat, and doesn’t even mention the word ‘glycemic load’ once! There’s a fat chance that this out-dated way of thinking is going to do anything to reverse the obesity epidemic.
Is coffee fuelling the epidemic?
The combination of caffeine plus carbs is really bad news. Britain’s most popular pick-me-up, a coffee and a croissant, may be fuelling an epidemic of weight gain and diabetes, according to new research at Canada’s University of Guelph. Participants were given a carbohydrate snack, such as a croissant, muffin or toast, together with either a decaf or coffee. Those having the coffee/carb combo had triple the increase in blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity, the hormone that controls blood sugar levels, was almost halved. High blood glucose levels and poor insulin function are a recipe for weight gain and increased diabetes risk because the excess blood glucose is dumped into storage as fat. This confirms our own research at the Institute for Optimum Nutrition, when we surveyed 34,000 people and found that the two foods that most predict fatigue and stress are caffeinated drinks and sugary foods. Every day Britons drink 70 million cups of coffee – roughly two each per adult. Many get caught in the sugar, nicotine, caffeine trap, thinking this combination is good for energy. But our research suggests that this combination feeds increasing fatigue, anxiety and weight gain.
The solution – a low GL diet
seeds; or fish with brown rice, and loads of vegetables since these are low GL. Here are five examples of low GL foods.
Strawberries, raspberries and blueberries have the lowest GL rating of all fruits. Combined with natural, low-fat yoghurt or with oat flakes they make a perfect low GL breakfast.
2. Nairns Rough Oat Cakes Nairns rough oat cakes have the lowest GLs of all breads and any other oatcakes tested. They are delicious with hummous, cottage cheese or peanut butter or have two scrambled eggs with five oatcakes for breakfast. They are also great as snacks on their own, with plenty of fibre to make you feel fuller for longer.
Olives are not only great for you, they’re great for your waist. Best of all are olives in brine, rather than oil. However, both are good for you – just drain off the oil. So eat them till the cows come home in pubs or restaurants to help take the edge off your appetite, or have as snacks or add to home made dishes.
Xylitol is a natural sugar extracted from plants that tastes just like regular sugar but has half the calories. It’s very high in plums, which is why they have a low GL. Nine teaspoons of xylitol has the same effect on raising your blood sugar as one teaspoon of sugar or honey. So, switching from sugar or honey to xylitol in drinks and on cereals makes a massive difference.
Tomatoes are a dieter’s best friend in all shapes and sizes. A pint of tomato juice has the same blood sugar effect as half a glass of a sugared drink. Fresh tomatoes, tomato soups and tomato sauces are all great for your waist, provided you choose the ones without added sugar. Most tomato ketchup is full of sugar. Try Whole Earth’s tomato sauce instead.