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article / 22 Sep 2017

Fat-free or sugar-free? The verdict

The Sydney Morning Herald

The Sydney Morning Herald

Back in the last century, there was a big turf war in nutrition about the cause of the increasing incidence of obesity and cardiovascular disease. In the UK there was Dr John Yudkin, the author of Pure, White and Deadly – how sugar is killing us and what we can do to stop it. In the US there was Ancel Keys who, on the basis of some dubious research, was pushing the line that fat, and in particular cholesterol and saturated fat, was the cause of heart attacks.

In the end, Keys won out – a decision that had little to do with scientific research and lots to do with money, politics and power.

So Western nations embarked on a prolonged experiment of low-fat eating. Margarine replaced butter, we ate lean meat with all the fat trimmed off, and the food industry responded to the call by producing a vast array of low-fat products.

The problem with removing the fat from foods was that much of the flavour went with it, so the fat was replaced by additives to improve the taste. And the number one additive? Sugar. Except it wasn't always called sugar on the list of ingredients. At last count, there were almost 100 alternative names for sugars used by the food industry.

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