The Lancet is one of the most widely read medical journals in the world. So when they published an article recently that appeared to endorse fats over carbohydrates to promote a healthy and longer life, a lot of people sat up and took notice. The idea that fats are actually good for us, and that sugar is the true enemy, is an idea that has pervaded the “clean eating” community in recent years, has been mentioned in regular newspapers and magazines, and is espoused by notable figures like Dave Aspery and Tim Ferris, as the best way to superior physical and mental results. It can all get a little bit confusing though…it seems like there is a new superfood, or new “public enemy number one” every week, if tabloids and the media in general are to be believed without question.
My outlook on diet and health probably falls into the frequently advocated “80:20” rule (although I definitely don’t call it a rule in my head, and most certainly bend it when there’s craic to be had), however with the added caveat of “if it’s not going to make me feel better or healthier, I sure as hell want to enjoy it”. What I mean by this, is that if I’m going to have sugar, I’ll eat my favourite chocolate/cake/dessert, but not waste it by eating a cereal bar (most of which contain 70% + sugar, and do not even begin to compare to a bar of Dairymilk). If I eat a whole load of cr*p, I feel like a whole load of cr*p – so I categorically want to enjoy any sh*ite that makes me feel bad. Fats vs sugar was a concept that interested me from the start (I’ve been following Dave Asprey for years now), and I’ve recently experimented with bulletproof coffee, and made a conscious effort to up my fat intake – mainly just out of curiosity, but also because I am weirdly obsessed with any food/exercise/technique that promises more efficiency and mental clarity or productivity (honestly, I can be fun too, I promise).
So is the jury still out, or has fat conquered sugar once and for all?
The current dietary guidelines, that recommend a low-fat diet and relatively high carbohydrate intake, are mainly based on findings studying European and North American populations. This data is contradicted by many other studies that have been carried out to date, including the most recent Lancet publication. This latest article clearly shows an association between a high carb and low fat diet, and increased incidence of stroke, cardiovascular disease and general mortality – basically the opposite of the original studies completed in the 1950’s. Higher fat consumption, even saturated fat, appears to improve health. So it would seem science is increasingly moving to the fat side.
I always like to try things myself, rather than just blindly following the crowd (even if they are scientists with robust studies to back them up). I haven’t fully adopted The Bulletproof Diet and certainly haven’t gone tee-total on grains and sugar, but I have noticed increased mental focus and a more balanced mood – particularly mid-afternoon, since introducing more fats and fishtails etc recommend in Head Strong: The Bulletproof Plan to Activate Untapped Brain Energy to Work Smarter and Think Faster-in Just Two Weeks. I have noticed my stomach feeling less bloated, and my skin has improved. Obviously you can over do pretty much anything, and my diet has never been particularly high in animal products (simply because I don’t like them) so it’s probably a more moderate increase in saturated fat than most people would create following the same guidelines. Definitely, taking fat off the “naughty step” and consciously increasing my intake of it has been enjoyable (very important, if anything is too be sustainable!), I’ve noticed the above benefits – and I don’t feel like my favourite crème brûlée is quite so dangerous anymore.
Different things work for different people, and particular lifestyles etc, but I have found this change in mindset really works for me. Someone with significant health issues should clearly discuss any major changes in diet with their doctor – and if you feel awful after making any changes, this may not be for you (light bulb moment). What’s your take on fat vs sugar? I’d love to hear from you if you’ve tried bulletproof coffee, MCT oil or anything else.