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Sugar vs Fat - how accurate was the Horizon programme?

Posted on January 30, 2014 by Ruth Buttigieg | 0 comments

With the debate on fat vs sugar gaining momentum, this issue was tackled yesterday by the BBC Two science programme Horizon. Here is our CEO Hannah's response to the programme.


As ever if we rely on BBC for sensible science we are heading up a blind alley. The first challenge on this programme is that we were told that this was a comparison between a  high fat diet compared to a high sugar diet.  The high fat diet shown on the TV was not ketogenic. This meant that the comparison was deeply misleading. To truely use fats as energy without damaging muscle mass you need to be ketogenic and it is almost impossible to be ketogenic on a high dairy diet.  Xand was given unlimited diary by the Dietician Amanda Ursell.  This is no surprise as Ms Ursell  has no expertise in low carb high protein ketogenic diets.

So the starting point was not only wrong but misleading. We were not comparing two bodies being fuelled by different energy sources as Xand was not being properly fuelled by ketones and at the same time, which is critical on a low carb ketogenic diet, you need to keep protein levels high to avoid muscle burn as you become keto adaptive.  This was not being done either.

This fundamental error continued throughout the programme and of course was highlighted in the cycling test. It has been shown many times in clinical trials that for a body, to become ketoadaptive, (ie to perform as well on fats as sugar) it takes 6 weeks and in certain exercise such as sprint – carbs will always be more effective.  Xand had not become ketoadaptive in exercise and therefore was immediately at a disadvantage and of course on sprint exercise , such as up Box Hill, glucose will work faster.  Also the external expert was fundamentally wrong when they said you cannot burn body fat for energy.  Of course this happens when you are in ketosis and my top athletes use fat burn to deliver top results.

As with the rest of the programme most of the tests were simply silly and designed for entertainment which in itself is fine until our presenters attacked Dr Robert Lustig for not having robust science on his side. Frankly putting aside whether we consider the work published by Dr Lustig is strong it will be a lot better than this naff ,poorly constructed and deeply misleading study for the BBC.

Finally the icing on the cake for me was Dr Susan Jebb who was asked to comment as an expert. Using her calm and very assured manner she tells  the audience that her studies have shown that no extreme diet makes any difference and that we should simply eat a little less and do more. Let us be clear at this point, Dr Susan Jebb has never carried out a proper study into a ketogenic diet.  Please also note that this same lady was blaming saturated fats for heart disease in recent years (having not read the science properly). Secondly I have yet to find any published peer reviewed  clinical trial that shows exercise has any influence on serious weight loss. Further there has never been a peer reviewed published clinical trial that shows that eating a bit less will have any real impact on serious weight loss and considering our actual government collected stats, we, as a nation, eat less today and do more exercise today than we did 10 years ago but we are fatter than ever.

What is more frustrating is that eating a spoonful of sugar was deemed impossible to consume at once. Whilst consuming an actual spoonful of sugar at one time may be so, consuming a fizzy drink such as large soft drink, contains 75.9g of sugar. And even if you go for a healthy drink such a smoothie, these contain 34.3g of sugar. A simple spoonful of sugar is 14g.

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