Why low-fat diets aren’t always good for you
You may think you’re being a conscientious shopper as you reach for the low-fat products on your supermarket shelf. But rather than doing your health and body shape a favour, you could be adding to your health risks.
Israeli researchers from the University of the Negev and Soroka University Medical Centre followed 80 obese people over an 18-month period, half of them were asked to follow a low-fat diet and the others a low-carb one.
At the end of the study, the scientists discovered that those on a low-carb diet had less fat deposits around their hearts and were slimmer around the tummy, compared to than those who stuck to a low-fat eating plan.
These findings could give us a steer on what’s best for our future health, as previous research has shown that pockets of fat around the heart and abdominal organs increases your chances of developing heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and some cancers.
What does a low-carb diet consist of?
Those on a low carb diet had to cut back on carbohydrates such as pasta, bread and sugary treats. Opting instead for the Mediterranean choices of oily fish, like salmon and sardines, plenty of vegetables and nuts. Getting the eating plan that's right for your needs is vital. Clinical nutritionist at central London private clinic Twenty-five Harley Street, Stephanie Moore, recently named by Vogue UK as one of 'The Fresh Faces of Wellbeing', offers both nutritional and psychological advice to help clients with a holistic approach.
Stephanie Moore’s approach to eating
‘Foods are not all equal, comments Miss Moore. ‘Nutritional value is vital when it comes in deciding what to eat.’ She adds: ‘The quality of the food and the message the food sends to the body, to rev it up or turn it down is the important factor, hence, the effect of the calories from an avocado or piece of steak will be entirely different to the same amount of calories coming from a piece of cake or a bowl of breakfast cereal. ‘
Old style thinking ‘low-fat is good’ ignore important truths about nutrition, believes Miss Moore:
Good fats to get in your diet:
- Nuts & seeds
- Butter and other animal fats
Which diet helps you to lose weight?
In the Israeli study participants in both groups lost a similar amount of weight, but those on the low-carb diet had smaller waists – an indicator that as well as looking more trim, they had lowered their risk of developing heart disease.
What’s meant by ‘dangerous’ fat?
Doctors know that it’s not fat per say that’s dangerous for our health, but the type of fat and where it’s laid down in the body.
Pericardial fat – a small lump of fatty tissue just on the outside of the heart, is especially harmful, as is excess abdominal fat – particularly visceral fat, the kind that surrounds your organs.
The low-carb dieters showed twice as much reduction in the amount of fat associated with artery-clogging compared to the low-fat dieters, and the low-carb group also had less of the another type of fat, which signals an increase in protective good cholesterol. This suggests a low-carb diet may help people with type 2 Diabetes to manage their condition too.
How can I measure my body fat?
As we age, many of us tend to put on weight in those annoying places, around the tummy, bottom and thighs. We know this because we can no-longer squeeze into old clothes or find ourselves choosing carefully when it comes to outfits that are more flattering and hide the bulges.
But it’s impossible to measure just how much of your body is made up of fat, and what sort of fat, unless you have a body scan.
In the Israeli study, all the participants had high waist circumferences and high BMIs, but a body MRI scan was used to measure how much fat that had in different areas of their body.
How do I get an MRI scan to reveal fat?
MRIs are not generally recommended, unless you have a specific clinical need due to the very strong magnets utilised: They are contraindicated for many, including those with implanted pacemakers, certain intrauterine contraceptive devices; or any iron-based metal implants. They are also not recommended for those with epilepsy or who suffer from issues with claustrophobia.
Is there an easier way to get a body scan?
A DEXA scan, available at Twenty-five Harley Street, could be the answer. DEXA, which stands for dual energy X-ray absorptiometry. DEXA scans are safe, accurate, painless and non-invasive. Originally designed to measure bone density, they have proven to be extremely accurate for body composition. A DEXA scan is also quick and user-friendly and unlikely to trigger a bout of claustrophobia. The results reveal your Total Body Fat result compared to a UK reference population of the same age and sex as well as showing precisely where the fat distributed and the amount of fat around your trunk and around your organs (Visceral Adipose Tissue) - a risk factor for heart disease and diabetes.
The results will give you to gain an accurate picture of the distribution of fat and lean muscle around your body – and whether this is healthy or putting your health at risk.
Professor David Reid is the UK’s leading expert on DEXA (Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry), which is equipped with ‘Advanced Body Composition’ capabilities that provide an extremely accurate indication of the amount, and type of fat in the trunk of your body.
When it comes to getting into shape, we all know that it’s a battle of willpower, to eat well and exercise. Having a series of DEXA scans can keep you motivated, as it measures the fat and lean muscle you’re carrying on your trunk and legs to the nearest gram, so you can track your progress and adjust your workout and diet accordingly. It will also give you a ‘body fat ranking’, which will compare your body’s fat and lean results against an average person of the same age, sex and ethnicity. It’s time to take control.