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Starchy Foods: Friend or Foe?
Starchy Foods and the Obesity Epidemic

Starchy foods are responsible for the widening of our waistbands according to a new book by Hannah Sutter. Take a look at her insight into how starch rich food is causing us to pile on the pounds.

Starchy Foods: Friend or Foe?

By WLR's Jenny Fletcher

A new book released this month promises to reveal the truth behind Britain’s obesity epidemic revealing that starch, not fat, is the cause of our expanding waistlines. Big Fat Lies: Is Your Government Making You Fat? By Hannah Sutter asks us to rethink government advice and banish starch, not fat, from our diet if we want to see the last of those excess pounds.

The argument in Big Fat Lies is based on the idea that whilst Britain is following government advice to eat less, move more and limit our saturated fat intake, we are still gaining weight and ploughing head first into an obesity epidemic. And why is this asks Sutter? Her answer: because government guidelines are wrong and have never been proven in clinical trials.

Sutter says: ‘While we’ve been brain washed into thinking that fat is the killer we must avoid and food manufacturers bring out more and more profitable “low-fat” versions of foods, starch has been quietly adding on the pounds, while we are being told that it’s good for us.’

The Problem With Starch

According to the book, advice from the Food Standards Agency to ‘try to include at least one starchy food with each of your main meals’ is outdated in the modern world where lounging in front of the computer is far more common than going out into the fields to forage for our food. We no longer need starchy foods for high energy fuel.

Starchy foods convert to glucose quickly and prompt the release of insulin into the body. Insulin then triggers the storage of excess glucose into fat. If we produce too much insulin, by eating too many starchy foods, our bodies go into fat storage mode. If we continue, as per government advice, to eat starchy foods such as bread, cereals, rice, pasta and potatoes in every meal, we will over-produce insulin resulting in weight gain.

Starch Vs Fat

Hannah Sutter argues that the government’s weight gain culprit, saturated fat, is, in fact, innocent. Government directives that high-calorie saturated-fats are responsible for our widened waists are, according to Sutter, unfounded.

‘When studies have been done with high saturated fat levels combined with low levels of starch and sugar, the subjects not only lost weight faster than the low-calorie, low-fat option but – perhaps more interestingly – the cholesterol profile of the subjects on the high-fat diet was better.’

The book’s final attack on the eat less, move more message is that exercise will not significantly benefit weight loss. Whilst Sutter accepts that it keeps us fit and healthy, evidence given at the European Obesity Conference in 2006 and a study carried out by the World Health Organisation suggests that exercise has little impact on weight loss.

Sutter concludes that ‘the government’s advice to eat a starch-rich, low-fat diet and to exercise more is based on inconclusive science, while the evidence we see all around us is that we are getting fatter following this advice.’

To get the low-down on Hannah Sutter’s argument look out for the full article by dietitian Juliette Kellow BSc RD, coming soon.

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