‘Low-fat’, ‘lite’, ‘reduced fat’, ‘nonfat’. These are some of the labels you are surrounded with when you enter a grocery store. But are these supposedly healthier products actually better for you? These days you hear more and more voices claiming that none of the products in our grocery stores with these types of labels are in fact healthier for you to consume. Michael Pollan, author of the book Food Rules says, “The forty-year-old campaign to create low-fat and nonfat versions of traditional foods has been a failure: We’ve gotten fat on low-fat products. Why? Because removing the fat from foods doesn’t necessarily make them nonfattening. Carbohydrates can also make you fat, and many low- and nonfat foods boost the sugars to make up for the loss of flavor … You’re better off eating the real thing in moderation than bingeing on “lite” food products packed with sugars and salt.” Another New York Times best selling author, Mark Bittman, agrees with Pollan: “The low-fat craze caused millions, maybe tens of millions, of Americans actually to gain weight, because they were reaching for ‘low-fat’ but high-calorie carbs.” In another book, In Defense of Food, Pollan makes and interesting connection between the common misconception about low-fat products and a failure on part of the government and the public-health community by saying the following: “At this point you’re probably saying to yourself, Hold on just a minute. Are you really saying the whole low-fat deal was bogus? But my supermarket is still packed with low-fat this and no-cholesterol that! My doctor is still on me about my cholesterol and telling me to switch to low-fat everything. I was flabbergasted at the news too, because no one in charge – not in government, not in the public health community – has dared to come out and announce: Um, you know everything we’ve been telling you for the last thirty years about the links between dietary fat and heart disease? And fat and cancer? And fat and fat? Well, this just in: It now appears that none of it was true. We sincerely regret the error.”
It appears that the motto for right eating is “Everything in moderation.” If people followed this idea more, there would be less obesity and other food related health problems. However, in American society it seems difficult to stick to this motto. Social habits are engraved into everyone’s unconscious, and moderation is most certainly not one of the things that come to mind when thinking of these automated, ‘natural’ social habits. Pollan is right. Officials need to own up to their mistakes and start promoting the truth about products labeled as low-fat.