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Media Release

August 17 2009

Do low fat foods make you fat?

The low fat option sometimes means more calories than you thinkA free public lecture at UniSA this week will investigate whether the low fat food market is one of the drivers of the obesity epidemic.

Director of UniSA’s Sansom Institute for Health Research, Professor Kerin O’Dea, says low fat foods often have more calories than their unsweetened full fat versions.

“If the fat is reduced or removed, a sweetener is very frequently added, normally sucrose, to make it taste better,” she said.

“But more calories from sucrose are often added than calories from fat are removed. So in trying to take the low fat option, people are often unwittingly consuming more calories than they think.”

Prof O’Dea said another sugar, fructose (a component of sucrose), is also a problem in modern diets. Apple juice, for example, contains around 65 per cent fructose.

“When we consume fructose, it seems to bypass the body’s satiety systems – so facilitates over-eating,” she said.

“When we consume fats or glucose, chemical signals tell us when we’ve had enough. But with fructose, we often consume over and above what we need and we just don’t recognise it.”

Prof O’Dea said the key to a healthy lifestyle could well lie with our great grandparents. She quotes the American author of “In Defence of Food”, Michael Pollan: “Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognise”.

“What is meant by that is that our grandparents ate basic foods – meat, eggs, milk, cheese, fruit and vegetables. More and more of what is available on supermarket shelves today is highly processed and may have little relationship to the fresh food images which are often used to promote them,” she said.

‘Do low fat foods make you fat?’ is the sixth topic to be tackled in UniSA’s Gift of Knowledge public lecture series featuring some of UniSA’s brightest researchers.

Event details: ‘Do low fat foods make you fat?’, Gift of Knowledge lectures series, Wednesday 19 August, 6.30pm to 7.30pm, Mutual Community Lecture Theatre, Basil Hetzel Building, City East Campus. Register www.unisa.edu.au/giftofknowledge



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