The Dangers and Misguidance of the FDA Food Label
A food label touting a diet product can mean two things; low in sugar or low in fat. If you have been following my blog you may already know that low fat and low sugar are only half truths and half health measures at best. Foods high in the right fats are wonderfully nutritious, foods with substitute sugars are terribly inflammatory to the body. There is more to what meets the eye, especially when it comes to food labels. There really ought to be a better education effort surrounding food labels. The food industry has done a fantastic job of confusing us and misguiding our health efforts to sell more poor quality products. Lets briefly discuss these two diet food categories: Fats and Carbs (sugars).
Low Sugar or Sugar-Free
This will likely mean sweetened with a low or zero calorie sugar substitute. Many of these options like splenda (Sucralose, aspartame) are chemical compounds that can not be used as fuel in the body, hence the zero calorie. The unnatural shape of the chemical compound does not stick or stack like regular sugar, causing it to act more like a free radical bumping into things causing damage. This theory is why chemical compounds like splenda are linked to cancer. Sadly there is little to no research that supports these claims, yet cancer and disease continue to rise in our country. Other options for sugar substitutes are sugar alcohols like the ones used in mouth wash (xylotol, Sorbitol, Erythratol). These are naturally occurring compounds but they typically cause the same GI upset and inflammation in the gut.
Does sugar free sweetened drinks work for weight loss? Yes, adopting a low sugar diet is very effective for metabolic syndrome and weight loss. People with diabetes can enjoy a diet soda with out a violent sugar surge and crash. People who are avoiding the high calorie content of sugar sweetened drinks can have a sugar substitute sweetened drink with out the extra calories. There is always a catch though isn’t there? Consuming these products does potentially increase your risk of GI inflammation and cancer. If you want to know more about how sugar affects our bodies and causes our bodies to store fat, check out my recent blog post about Metabolic Syndrome. Metabolic Syndrome is the combination of non-communicable diseases (High blood pressure, High cholesterol, Obesity, Diabetes) that are directly caused by too much sugar intake. This combination of diseases is called “co-morbidities” because having more than on of these diseases at a time has a compounding effect that increases a person’s risk of dying.
Low fat products are a scam. I don’t mean foods that are naturally low in fat, I mean products that have been modified to be low fat. By now I do hope that you understand that healthy fat intake from plant based sources like avocado, nuts, olives and coconut are all health promoting and do not contribute to metabolic syndromes like obesity. Fat takes a little longer to process, so the slow release of energy into the system does not cause spikes in blood sugar. Plant-based fats also do not contribute to high cholesterol levels! On the contrary, American Heart Association recognizes high HDL levels (plant based fats and fish oil ) as negative correlations to heart disease and stroke. That means eating more high fat foods from plant sources actually lowers your risk of high cholesterol and heart disease.
Low fat foods tend to be full of hidden added sugars. Chances are that most of the low packaged foods are modifications of full fat, saturated fat animal products like yogurts, creams and milks. It would be a good idea to only have those foods in moderation anyways. Don’t take my word for it, check out your labels, compare the low fat products with the regular package and see the sugar rise.
“Consumers are choosing low-fat and light options believing them to be a healthier choice, but our research has found that in many cases they’re just not living up to their healthy image. Our advice to consumers is to read the nutritional labels carefully.”
– Richard Lloyd, Executive Director of Which?
Huffington Post: on the hidden ingredients in low-fat foods