Fat Chance is Robert Lustig overview on nutrition and the pandemic of sugar-related diseases we are currently experiencing in the West.
- Avoid glucose
- Don’t drink fruit juices
- Shop with awareness (learn to use food labels and to avoid processed food)
Fat Chance promotes a grass root movement to change the current regulations and guidelines, which is a part that I will skip in this summary.
A Calorie is Not a Calorie
We have been brainwashed with the idea that “a calorie is a calorie”, says Robert Lustig. Government and government agencies sadly also contribute to this misunderstanding.
But it’s simply not true. Not all calories are the same.
He says that a calorie burned is a calorie burned.
But a calorie eaten is not a calorie eaten. The quality of what we eat, or where does that calorie comes from, determines both our overall health and how much we eat.
Latinos and African Americans in the US have a higher rate of obesity, which for Lustig happens because of they are economically disadvantaged.
There is also a different level at which BMI starts being deleterious: for Caucasian it’s at around 30, African Americans 35 and Asians 25.
These are just some examples to make the point that races also influence metabolic syndromes.
Types of Body Fat
Not all fat in our body is bad. Subcutaneous fat correlates with longevity.
The only bad fat that is always bad is visceral (or abdominal) fat. It’s the fat around our bellies but also in our muscles and liver.
Low Carb Diet Results
Robert Lustig says that since the low carb diet became popular we learned the following :
- Carbohydrate restriction improves glucose control
- They are at least as effective in weight loss as low fat diets
- Switching carbs for fat is beneficial for heart disease
- The benefits go beyond weight loss
Fructose the Toxin
Fat Chance makes the case that all the successful diet have one thing in common: they restrict the amount of sugar.
Sugar is composed of half fructose and half glucose. Fructose is what makes it sweet, and that’s what’s addictive and what we crave.
The author makes the point that sugar has the same negative effects of alcohol on our bodies minus the high intoxication effects.
Fiber: The Antidote
Fiber is half the antidote to the obesity pandemic.
Most of the processed we eat today though, including refined carbs to make pasta and white bread, are stripped of fiber.
One of the reasons the food industry strips fiber away is to make food lasts longer. Which is one of the reasons why you should stay away from food with unnaturally long shelf lives.
Exercising is Great But Doesn’t Lose Weight
The author says that exercising is more important than diet and works at many different levels, except one: losing weight.
Physical activity accounts indeed the smallest factor in energy expenditure going from 5% of the couch potato to 35% of the biggest gym rats.
However, it goes a long way towards mitigating the negative effects of obesity.
Exercise also helps in building muscle though, which do consume energy.
Food Labels are Misleading
Food labels list total sugars. But what we need to know about is added sugar, and there’s no way to find out from the labels.
To judge what’s a good food, look at how long it takes to go stale.
Normal bread only lasts about two days. Longer than that’s it’s processed.
Avoid Fats + Carb
It’s fats plus carbs that provides metabolic problems, and sugar does just that.
Reading Food Labels
- If it’s liquid it should have 5 calories or less
- If it’s solid it should have 3 grams of fiber or more
- If “partially hydrogenated” appears in the label, it’s bad trans fat to lengthen shelf life
- If sugar is in the top 3 ingredients it’s a dessert
Calorie for calorie 100% orange juice is worse than soda.
People who skip breakfast end up eating more during the day. Skipping breakfast is also more likely to make you less focused during the day.
Lots of Medical Jargon
Fat Chance is not always an easy book to understand.
At times it feels Fat Chance focuses a bit too much on fructose. What about all the other forms of sugar?
Reviews all diets
I love that the author goes through all the current diets listing pros and cons. It also s
Focus on Holistic Changes
The author understand the addictive power of foods and makes the point that willpower and information are not enough to change our eating habits.
This is very much true and it’s why I really like the Bright Line Eating approach which addresses the neuro-addictions of food to lose weight.
Fat Chance is a very good book on nutrition and taught me a couple of new things, including not to skip breakfast and to stay away from fruit juices, which are far more harmful than I previously thought.