Monday, 13 April 2015

Fat Versus Sugar

Both of these bad boys (sugar and fat) have a bum rap, so it’s not surprising that the BBC Horizon show took it on to compare and contrast them. They found two identical-twin doctors and for a month, put the lads on contrasting diets. While one doc only got to eat sugary and high-carb foods, the other spent his month chowing down on all the meat, fat, and dairy products he wanted. While it made for a moderately-entertaining program, there were some unexpected surprises in the results.
The Diet Docs: Chris & Alexander van Tulleken
 The two docs were tested before, during, and after the month, and here’s a brief summary of some of the things they found. 

--The doc on the high-sugar/carb diet performed better than his high-fat-diet brother during the month on all activities requiring intense concentration or physical exertion. Whether playing to win an intense stock-market simulation game or pedalling their bikes uphill, the sugar-diet doc cruised while the fat-diet doc struggled.
--The doc on the sugar/carb diet was happier and more upbeat than his high-fat-food brother.
--Neither diet had any effect on cholesterol levels.
--While the sugar-diet doc lost a little weight over the month, the fat-diet doc lost a whopping 4 kilos (9 pounds). The bad news is that half of that was muscle-loss.

I don’t think it was quite a fair comparison, however, because the sugar/carb doc got to include fruit and vegetables in his diet, while his high-fat brother did not. Not only are fruits and vegetables nutritional powerhouses (too long on a no-fruit/veg diet could have left Fat Food Doc with scurvy, for example), they provide fiber necessary for proper gut and bowel function. So I think it would have been a more meaningful contest if Fat Food Doc had been allowed at least some salad greens.

The program went on to talk about some of the actual scientific studies done on the fat vs. sugar diet issue. One study involved rats. They found that rats fed sugary diets, like rats fed fatty diets, did not overeat or gain weight. However, offer the rats cheesecake or ice cream, where high levels of fat and sugar are combined in a tasty way, and they turned into rodent blimps in no time.

While I can’t seem to find a link to the whole doco on the net, this write-up about the experiment by twin-doc Alexander van Tulleken (the fat-diet Doc) is interesting. 

Fortunately, managing our diets for optimum health isn’t an either/or proposition. Some fats are essential for good health; nutritional power foods like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are essential for good health; and a moderate intake of a whole variety of foods coupled with daily exercise may sound like old, boring advice but it still stands up as a sound strategy. Just remember to go easy on the cheesecake. 

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