I am always intrigued about the latest thoughts on weight-loss, healthy food, diets and the research to find solutions for obesity. Just recently there has been a swing away from demonising the fat of old for sugars in the diet. Many experts are now recommending a high fat diet to regulate the body along with very restricted processed carbs/sugars. I have been reading a lot by ‘Always Hungry’ champion David Ludwig and have been persuaded by parts of the argument although I think there that there is more to find out. Here’s another advocate … food for thought …
The Big Fat Fix: meet the diet doctor changing the way we eat
Dr Aseem Malhotra orders a double helping of cheese. At Li Veli — an Italian bistro in Covent Garden — he picks a plate of Italian cheeses as a starter and then tucks into aubergine Parmigiana, a gratin with mozzarella and Parmesan.
This isn’t a “sod the diet” day, though. Malhotra is a cardiologist, and this is how he thinks we should all eat. He puts grass-fed butter on his vegetables, and extra-virgin olive oil on everything else. And in his new documentary, The Big Fat Fix, he sets out why fat isn’t the enemy but sugar is, and how refined carbohydrates — white bread and white pasta — are false friends, to be consumed only in moderation.
“Some people have an outdated fear of fat,” the 38-year-old says. “It’s nonsense. We’ve got better data than we had years ago when it was said fat was the problem. Full-fat, non-processed dairy is good for the heart and fat keeps you fuller for longer.”
Malhotra dismisses the current health consensus: “The focus has been on cholesterol, weight and burning calories — it’s all fatally flawed. The root cause driving heart disease and diabetes is insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone that helps control glucose levels in the blood. What drives insulin resistance is a diet that’s high in sugar and refined carbohydrates.”
In The Big Fat Fix, Malhotra travels to Pioppi in southern Italy where the residents enjoy longevity and a healthy old-age with low rates of heart disease, diabetes and dementia. Britain’s bastardisation of the Italian diet means we think it means pizza and pasta. It doesn’t. It means oily fish and lots of vegetables. Pizza is a once-a-month treatl; pasta is a starter. And in Pioppi, even a rare pudding was cooked in olive oil.
The Pioppi Protocol should be our dietary model, Malhotra says. His first advice to patients (he works at the Lister Hospital in Stevenage) is that they should eat a handful of nuts a day. Then they should cut all processed and refined sugar. They should never buy anything marked low-fat but should eat lots of veg and oily fish, which is high in Omega 3. Counting calories is out too: “It’s the quality of the calories you are eating that matters, not the number.”
The effects, he says, are dramatic: “I don’t mean weight loss — although you may lose weight as a side-effect — I mean with health. We should focus on health not weight — and the weight will correct itself.”
Even the slim should heed this advice. Many have the “illusion of protection”, Malhotra says, because they aren’t struggling to button up their jeans. “Many of my patients’ measure of success is their weight and doctors focus too much on it too. There’s no such thing as a healthy weight. Forty per cent of people with a normal BMI will still get lifestyle diseases. The biggest risk factor for them is waist circumference.”
Malhotra wasn’t always this way. He used to eat sugary cereal for breakfast. Finding himself starving at 11 am, he would reach for a KitKat. For lunch he might have pasta, while Dinner could be a curry with lots of rice. Since changing his diet, he’s lost a stone — and it’s all from around the waist.