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Bite Fat-free products are not as innocent as they look, writes Bronwyn McNulty. It may be healthier to embrace the bacon. came to the same conclusions as Gillespie. Cronau, author of The Fat Revolution: Why Butter and Real Fats Actually Make Us Slim, says fats are the only substance that stimulate production of our fullness hormone cholecystokinin (CCK), which is why we can eat plenty of sugary food and still not feel satisfied. “But if we eat a meal with healthy fats like butter, coconut oil and animal fat, we feel full and stop eating.”

up on bacon sandwiches, either. It’s the total diet that is important for cardiovascular health, she says, including the type of carbohydrates we eat. “We have lots of good evidence from traditional Mediterranean diets that a moderate fat intake is good for you. The nutritional science tells us that fats that are natural components of nuts, of free-ranging grazing animals, that are in fruit and

“Eating saturated animal fat is one of the best things you can do for your body” is the somewhat controversial message. Jennie Brand-Miller, professor of human nutrition at the University of Sydney and director of the Glycaemic Index Foundation, says the landscape is changing when it comes to fat consumption. “We have learnt that we probably overdid the carbohydrate message – we were trying hard to limit total fat and saturated fat. We thought fat-free was good, but it wasn’t at all.” But Brand-Miller is not advocating we load

vegetables – foods that come in nature’s packaging – are good.” By 2009, Brand-Miller says, studies had found that if you replaced saturated fat in the diet with polyunsaturated fat, it reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease. But replacing saturated fat with carbohydrates seemed to correspond to a small increase in the risk of cardiovascular disease. “Further studies showed that high-GI carbs

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[potatoes, white bread, white rice] were the worst offenders, markedly increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease,” she says. “But when you replace high-GI carbs with low-GI carbs – pasta, basmati rice, grainy bread, legumes, dairy sources, fruit – you see a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.” She is wary of dietary advice that comes from people without a scientific background. “It’s really easy to misinterpret what the science says,” she explains. “It’s like anything – if you just scrape the surface, you can get the wrong impression.” Professor Michael Cowley, the director of the Monash Obesity and Diabetes Institute (MODI), agrees that it’s a mistake to believe it’s healthy to remove fat from food and replace it with sugar. But he disagrees with the notion that saturated fats are good and polyunsaturated fats are bad. “I think most dietitians would argue that unsaturated fats are better for you than saturated fats,” says Cowley. “Ultimately, it’s calories that matter. If you eat a lot of sugar you’ll bring in a lot of calories, and if you eat a lot of fat, you will bring in a lot of calories.” •

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f you’re the type of person who delights in the occasional dollop of cream, a smear of butter or a piece of pork crackling, it may be time to drop the guilt. A backlash against low-fat diets and the array of “fat-free” products (which are often full of sugar) that line supermarket shelves is steadily gaining momentum here and overseas. “Eating saturated animal fat is one of the best things you can do for your body” is the somewhat controversial message from Esther Blum, an American nutritionist and author of the recently released book The Eat, Drink and Be Gorgeous Project. Blum says there are many reasons we should all eat more of this substance that dietitians, doctors and health authorities have been warning us off for decades. “Saturated fat maintains proper hormonal balance, protects our brains and vital organs, and helps us burn fat,” Blum says. “In the 1920s, Americans ate a high-fat diet rich in meat, butter and whole milk, and had the lowest levels of coronary artery disease [CAD] reported. The introduction of processed foods and TV dinners has shown a consistent, linear rise in rates of CAD since the 1950s.” In fact, say the pro-fat crusaders, it’s the things with which we have replaced saturated fat in our diet – sugar and vegetable oils – that are a big part of the problem. Australian David Gillespie, a former corporate lawyer and author of the 2008 anti-sugar book Sweet Poison – which draws a connection between sugar consumption and rates of obesity and disease – has written a new book, Big Fat Lies: How the Diet Industry Is Making You Sick, Fat & Poor. It was while researching Sweet Poison, which he did because of his own struggle with excess weight, that Gillespie kept coming across references to “how all was not right when it came to the information we are given about fats”. “The standard nutrition advice is that we should eat less animal fat, and most of us have taken that advice with gusto,” Gillespie says. “That message drives much of the ‘healthy eating’ labelling we see every day: ‘light’, ‘low-fat’ and ‘fat-free’.” The trouble with this, he says, is that there is little evidence to support the claims about fat. “It really is a mythology more than actual science,” he says. “It’s becoming increasingly clear that the things we use to replace dietary animal fat – usually sugar and seed oils – are likely to be the real cause not just of heart disease but also of type 2 diabetes, cancers and obesity.” Most “high-quality observational studies” have found no connection between saturated fat consumption and heart-attack risk, he says. Christine Cronau is another layperson who started researching health and nutrition as part of her own struggle with weight, and she

Sunday Life featuring Christine Cronau  

Sunday Life featuring Christine Cronau

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