You may have noticed Change 4 Life's latest media drive on the TV or social media recently. This latest effort is urging us to remove sugary foods from our diet and is softening this blow by asking us to swap such sugars for 'healthier' alternatives. Now I am all for people cutting out cereals, cakes, biscuits, coke, sweets etc. etc. There is no doubting that these foods contribute to obesity, diabetes and other metabolic issues as well as affecting the harder to attribute stuff such as performance at work. I was therefore pleasantly surprised by the latest Change 4 Life headline. However, when reading into their advice in full, I discovered their suggested swaps and immediately wanted to throw my phone at them.
There is a full table available on their website but some of the main examples were swapping cereal for porridge, cake for wholemeal toast and yoghurt for fruit. Can anyone see the problem?
What Change 4 Life have failed to realise is that carbohydrate, whether in cake or toast form will both break down into glucose when digested. This glucose then has the same effect on spiking insulin and triggering lipogenesis in both instances. Your pancreas doesn't differentiate between cake and toast. All that changes between these two options is the speed of digestion and what other nutrients (or antinutrients in the case of super wholegrains) come down the pipe with the sugar.
At this point the dieticians will be waving their hands and shouting about the glycaemic index of the food. The theory being that 'more complex carbs release their energy more slowly keeping you fuller for longer'. Whilst such a slogan may be great for selling cereal it doesn't actually help us an awful lot when trying to control our weight. As anyone with a basic working knowledge of biology will tell you, insulin is produced in response to glucose. When we release said glucose slowly we are effectively bathing our cells in insulin, creating the conditions for fat accumulation.
So what are we to do then? Our sugary snacks are killing us and the wholegrain alternatives aren't much better. Enter fat metabolism. By limiting carbs through the day we can use fat as a primary fuel source which has huge benefits in terms of weight management, limiting hunger and improving cognitive performance.
So lets look at some sensible sugar swaps based on this. Out go the 11am biscuits and the 3pm Starbucks, instead try the following options:
- Beef Jerky/Biltong
- Deli meat (Chorizo, salami, prosciutto etc.)
- Decaff coffee with thick cream
- Boiled eggs
- Tinned/Sachet fish
- Coconoil capsules
- Keto baking (google some ideas)
- Low carb leftovers (e.g. roast chicken pieces)
There are plenty more options, I've used all the above and rotate through to give variety. After adopting a low carb routine through the day you'll soon find that you don't actually need snacks as your hunger will all but disappear. The above are a useful crutch to get you to that point and serve a purpose when you may be forced to miss a meal through travel or work scheduling.
If you have any other suggestions then please share in the comments below.
Rant over for this evening. Well apart from this last little bit. The observant among you may have noticed that Change 4 Life have lauded this latest campaign as hugely successful. They cited 'research' to show the amount of swaps being performed by the public (school children particularly) and went on to discuss the excellent health outcomes associated. The problem is that they didn't actually measure any health outcomes. They only measured the amount of people completing their suggested swaps. This is known as measuring false outcomes and is a classic tactic amongst big pharma and food industry. It's a clever trick as they rely on ingrained dogma where people assume that wholegrains are healthy so they make the jump that if people are eating more of them then this will have benefits. Cite some poorly controlled, epidemiological data alongside and it's job done, you've created the impression of science whilst minimising the risk of your intervention being shown up.
An actual study assessing the success of the program would consider the amount of swaps being completed but, crucially, it would then go on to look at whether this lead to changes in body composition, school performance and other important metrics. Unfortunately such research is costly and also likely to prove that such misguided public health campaigns are a waste of time and money.
As ever I appreciate your comments so comment, tweet or email your thoughts on this piece to me.