Think a skinny latte will help you slim? Sorry ladies, it won't do that but it might just make you FATTER !

UK obesity levels are ten times higher than they were in 1972

  • Small amounts of fat leave you feeling fuller for longer
  • The key to good health and looking good is real, unprocessed food

Last week, there was  a headline in the news-papers that felt like a ray of hope. 'Skimmed milk doesn’t stop toddlers getting fat,' it read. 

Well, hallelujah. It doesn’t stop adults  getting fat either — in fact, I’d argue the opposite, that skimmed milk and other low-fat dairy produce can make you fatter. Here’s why. 

Fat tastes great for good reason: it keeps us alive and it is uniquely satiating — it makes us feel full. If I ever get given a skinny cappuccino by mistake, it not only tastes gross but it doesn’t satisfy me. 

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But it took me years to make this connection. In my late teens and early 20s, I started every day in fresh hope that I would be 'good', and being 'good' would make me slim. 

But I thought 'good' meant dutifully counting calories, avoiding fat, and trying to exist on four large apples and a box of Fruit Gums daily,  which adds up to about 700 (fat- free) calories.

Needless to say, my body craved the fat and nutrients I was so sorely lacking, and I would find myself bingeing uncontrollably and gaining weight steadily, despite my overwhelming desire to get thinner. 

Later, I became an obesity researcher — as an unsuccessful calorie counter, I had an insight into the diet- and-binge cycle that most  overweight people seem to be trapped in. I tried to understand why two-thirds of us are overweight, when all we want to be  is slim. 

My single biggest discovery was that trying to eat less makes us eat badly. Ever since scientists first estimated the calorie values of the components of food, we have understood that carbohydrate and protein provide approximately four calories per gram, while fat approximates to nine.

Calorie counters know these numbers and see fat as the  bad guy. They want the biggest bang for their buck — the most food for the  fewest calories.

But my big box of Wine Gums and its 400 empty calories were giving my body nothing that it needed — no essential fats, no protein, no vitamins, no minerals.

Any lifelong dieter will count calories, but any successful dieter will keep consuming healthy fats and concentrate on controlling carbohydrates. The biggest difference between the two types is that the successful dieter’s approach enables them to eat real food — the stuff that our bodies have evolved to consume.

Our planet has provided all the nutrients we need in the natural food around us — if we shun eggs for processed breakfast cereal, or steak for a sandwich full of additives, these calories won’t count towards health in anything like the same way.

It’s hardly surprising, therefore, to read that a study of 11,000 toddlers has found that two-year-olds who drink full-fat milk are less likely to be overweight or obese by the age of four than those on low-fat milk. 

It concluded that this might be because higher-fat milk makes children feel fuller for longer, so they eat less of other foods as a result. 

The whole-milk children are also getting the nutrients that they need, in a way that their bodies can deal with, so they’re not seeking out more food to fill the nutritional gap.

Full-fat dairy produce is a vital source of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K — particularly the first two. Dairy is a great source of calcium and phosphorus —  the minerals that work  with vitamin D for  bone health. 

The term 'fat-soluble' means that these vitamins need to be delivered in or with fat for the nutrients to be available to the body. That’s why nature puts fat-soluble vitamins in foods containing fat — how clever. 

So man removes the fat to make low-fat milk and thereby removes the nutritional delivery mechanism — how stupid!

Very few of us get enough vitamin D, which is so vital to our health. We are seeing a re-emergence of rickets in children in the 21st century, thanks to our crazy public health advice that demonises fat, cholesterol and sunshine — the three most important things our body needs to obtain vitamin D.

Removing the fat in dairy is bad enough. Sometimes that is all that manufacturers do (for example, with skimmed milk). Sometimes they do worse — they remove the nutritious fat and replace the lost taste with sugar (yoghurts are the main victims of this practice). 

Mouth-wateringly scrumptious, creamy Greek-style yoghurt containing healthy natural fats is turned into a fat-free, sweetener-laden apology for a treat and the calorie counter who eats it thinks they are being good to him or herself. They’re not.

Besides, have you read the nutritional info on a carton of milk recently? ‘Full fat’ milk is a measly 3 to 4 per cent fat. Even to an ardent calorie counter, that hardly makes it a high-fat food.
Of all the misconceptions about food that litter the media today, the one that has harmed humans the most is the idea that fat makes you fat. 

It was the Seventies demonisation of fat that directly led to  government advice to ‘base your meals on starchy foods’. Until  this point we used to think  that starchy, carb-heavy foods were fattening (our grandmothers still do). Since this change, obesity in the UK has increased from  2.7 per cent of men and women (1972) to 22.6 per cent of men and 25.8 per cent of women in 1999. Coincidence? 

And while UK obesity levels have increased almost tenfold, saturated fat intake has fallen from 51.7g per person per day (1975) to 28.1g (1999). 

The National Food Survey also informs us that we consume a quarter of the whole milk that  we used to, and consume six to seven times more reduced-fat dairy produce. 

As we have eaten more carbs and less fat we have become more obese and less healthy.
If only we could return to the real food, whole milk, meat and two veg world of little more than a generation ago, we could maybe return to their enviable figures and waist sizes.

So, whether you think of your slimmer ancestors or those tubby toddlers, the message is clear: eat real food. 

That means real dairy products — not brightly coloured, plastic-looking processed cheese but brie oozing off the plate. 

Not sugared, sweetened, artificially coloured stuff in a pot called yoghurt, but plain, natural, nutrient-rich, stand-your-spoon-up-in-it proper yoghurt. 

The real thing is more filling, more nutritious and way more delicious — and the evidence is overwhelming that we were slim when we ate it and we’re fat now we don’t.

Mine’s a full-fat, single-shot  cappuccino — with extra milk, thank you! 

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