Your modern low-fat commercially produced food isn't just low calorie, it's tasty to boot! Weight Watchers chocolate mousses are my personal favourite. They really hit the spot, fulfil my sweet cravings and they're low fat, too. Their low calorie and saturated fat levels mean they weigh in at just 1.5 points.
But, according to Australian professor Kerin O'Dea, of St Vincent's Institute in Sydney, everything isn't quite as healthy (or non-addictive) as it might seem. In 2008 she cautioned that food manufacturers are using increased amounts of fructose - a cheap, sugary corn syrup - to enhance flavour of 'diet foods'. High levels of fructose can be found in:
- Breakfast cereals
- Low-fat yoghurts
- Cereal bars
- Low-fat peanut butter
- Salad dressings
Prof O'Dea warns: "The argument that obesity is driven by high fat intakes has led to a proliferation of low-fat processed foods... but many of the low-fat products, especially the `99 per cent fat free', are loaded with sugars and kilojoules."
Prof. O'Dea explained that reducing the level of a fat in a product has a direct effect on the levels of carbohydrate or protein. These would need to compensate by increasing.
Fructose appears under many names on food labels. These include:
- corn syrup
- hydrolysed corn starch
Researchers at Rockefeller University and the University of California at Berkeley found that people on weight maintenance diets which were low-fat but high-sugar had an increased production of saturated fat (1996).
"Our study suggests that low-fat diets designed to maintain - not lose-weight could be a hazard for people who also eat lots of simple carbohydrates, mostly sugars," says Lisa Cooper Hudgins, M.D., assistant professor in the Laboratory of Human Behavior and Metabolism at Rockefeller. "Current public health recommendations suggest that people should reduce fat in their diets and increase their carbohydrates. However, too great a reduction in fats and too much of an increase in simple carbohydrates may prompt the body to make the sugar into saturated fats, which could harm the heart and blood vessels."