Recently, at the 38th annual Anaheim Natural Products Expo West trade show, Dr. Robert Lustig informed participants of several dietary misconceptions1. Dr. Lustig is a professor emeritus of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco2. For years, he’s argued that sugar causes health problems unrelated to calories and focused primarily on childhood obesity and diabetes. He believes that, by focusing on real food, we can cross the disparity between diets.
Tasteaholics: You believe we approach calories from the wrong standpoint. Can you explain this?
Dr. Lustig: A calorie is a unit of physics. It’s how much energy you have to add to a gram of water to raise it one-degree centigrade. When you consume a food with fiber, for example, you actually only absorbed 75-80% of the calories you ate. The rest of it got metabolized by the bacteria in your intestine, yet you counted them as calories. So, if you consume your calories with fiber, those calories weren’t for you, they were for your bacteria. In addition, different foodstuffs are metabolized at different rates.
Tasteaholics: A recent study from Stanford University argued that low-fat and low-carb diets are equally effective. What’s your take on this?
Dr. Lustig: The important thing about that study is that the volunteers were on a healthy low-carb diet and a healthy low-fat diet. In other words, both groups had processed carbohydrates and sugar taken out of their diets, and that showed equal weight loss, whether it was low-carb or low-fat. It’s about real food. Both groups ate real food and got better, and that’s the takeaway from the study.
Tasteaholics: Where does saturated fat come into play in a healthy diet, since we’re disproving commonly accepted dietary notions?
Dr. Lustig: Saturated fat is not one item, it’s two. There are meat and dairy saturated fats, and they’re not the same. Red meat and poultry saturated fats are even-chain fatty acids, and dairy saturated fats are odd-chain fatty acids. Turns out that when you look at odd-chain fatty acids with that phospholipid signature, that is actually protective against cardiovascular diseases, but they all get lumped into this thing called saturated fat. It takes a long time to walk back on past mistakes.
Tasteaholics: So, if it takes years to re-evaluate and better determine how dietary elements affect overall health, where do food manufacturers even begin?
Dr. Lustig: Sell real food. Processed food is an experiment that failed. They are getting rich, and it’s killing us.
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