According to this Daily Telegraph article, everything we thought we knew about what is or isn't good for us to eat has just been turned on its head. It is the latest in a series of reports in the UK's mainstream media picking up on an increasing number of studies published in the last 18 months that conclude not only is there no link between saturated fat and heart disease, but also the shift to low-fat foods over the last 30-40 years may actually have made us less healthy by increasing our intake of sugar and other unrefined carbohydrates, which is now being linked to an increase in diabetes, heart disease and even cancer. The studies, which include a meta-analysis of data from 72 studies involving more than 600,000 participants from 18 countries, appeared in prestigious publications such as the British Medical Journal.
The reaction of those setting dietary guidelines for the public to the latest evidence indicating that much of what they have been telling people over the last several decades was not just flawed, but potentially dangerous, has so far - predictably - been largely one of denial. There has been no change in official guidelines either in the UK, where the "traffic light" system still shows red when products contain "too much" saturated fat, or in the USA. One senior UK health adviser recently commented that although the new studies appear to show no evidence of a link between saturated fat and heart disease or indeed overall mortality, they do not prove that "too much" saturated fat is not bad for you. In other words, it remains guilty until proven innocent (which I'm not sure is even possible, even water can kill if taken in excess.)
The resistance of public officials to new evidence, together with the overly sensational way the media tend to report food related stories, leaves the general public more confused than ever. All the more reason for supermarkets to step up to the plate, so to speak, with the relevant dietary information at the point of sale. This means teaching customer-facing staff the basics of food in order to help customers cut through the fog of conflicting information. This will improve the quality of life for all concerned - staff, customers, shareholders and eventually tax payers (due to lower healthcare costs thanks to better prevention). It's not nearly as difficult as you may think. Why not give it a try?
Ps - the paragraph in the Telegraph article cited above on not cooking with olive oil is inaccurate. As readers of my previous blogs will already know, extra virgin olive oil is good for salads but should be avoided for high temperature cooking such as frying due to its low smoke point, which means it breaks down into potentially carcinogenic by-products. However, other olive oils which have been extracted by methods other than cold pressing, are relatively safe - albeit lower in healthy anti-oxidants as a result of the processing.