In a fascinating new book, Robert Lustig, a professor of clinical paediatrics at the University of California, expounds a whole new scientific theory.
He argues that the urge to overeat and lounge around doing nothing is not a sign of weakness. It is, he says, a hormonal issue, triggered by eating too much sugar!
Conventional wisdom and government policy still blame dietary fat for our ever-rising obesity levels (and horrific heart disease statistics).
However, Professor Lustig is part of the band of obesity specialists who question the validity of this argument.
The seminal ‘Seven Countries’ study by U.S. epidemiologist Ancel Keys in the Eighties demonised fat, triggering a massive change in food manufacture.
In an effort to make low fat food more palatable, many manufacturers raised the carbohydrate level, adding quantities of sugar to almost everything (both sweet and savoury).
For instance, a small pot of low fat yoghurt can contain as much as four teaspoons of sugar, and even wholemeal bread hides two teaspoons per loaf.
Gradually tastes and eating habits have changed, Lustig says, resulting in growing populations worldwide inadvertently hooked on easy-to-eat high sugar foods.
Professor Lustig believes the key to losing weight is to reverse leptin resistance by reducing sugar intake
Here is his action plan:
1. Have just one dessert a week
When cooking, reduce sugar in every recipe by a third, and eat dessert as a treat, once a week.
2. Fibre leads to weight loss
Fiber is now routinely stripped from foods to give a finer texture. Eating fiber slows down the digestion process. Slower digestion also gives your brain a chance to register that you are full.
3. Take 15 minutes’ exercise daily
Exercise alone cannot cause significant weight loss (unless you change your diet at the same time) but Professor Lustig says 15 minutes a day is enough to improve your insulin sensitivity (because activity helps cells become more receptive to insulin), and build muscle at the expense of fat.
Although you may not see a drop on the scales, by improving insulin sensitivity and lowering insulin levels, exercise, will improve leptin signalling.
4. Eat like your Grandma
Beware packaged food. Professor Lustig’s mantra is: ‘Don’t eat anything your grandmother wouldn’t recognise. If the food has a company logo you’ve heard of, it’s processed.’
5. Don’t eat on your feet
Eating standing up means you will be eating fast, with no time for satiety signals to kick in, says Professor Lustig.
Always include some sort of protein (chicken, pulses) in every meal (to slow the digestive process and reduce the risk of insulin spikes) and avoid any ‘food’ that is just fat, carbohydrate and sugar (such as doughnuts, milk-shakes, pastries).