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Tonight: Fat: The Healthy Option?

Catherine Tyldesley reports on Fat: The Healthy Option? - ITV at 7:30pm on Thursday 14th September Photo: ITV/Tonight

It was once joked that the UK is the ‘fat man of Europe’. As a nation, obesity affects 1 in 4 people in the UK. Levels have trebled in the last 30 years and it’s estimated that could double again. By 2050, half of us could be obese.

Not to take that laying down, people are in a near constant battle of the bulge with nearly two thirds of us on a diet most of the time. The common enemy? Fat. It clogs your arteries and sticks to your hips.

But is it time we started changing our thinking? Could fat be more friend than foe?

But is it time we started changing our thinking? Could fat be more friend than foe?

One day coconut oil is said to be a miracle food, the next day it’s just another fat. Sometimes we’re told butter is better, the next day the message is to eat low-fat spread. And should we really be having avocados with practically every meal?

We’re also told that all fats are not created equal. Fish oil is a good fat, essential to our health, and saturated fats - which we’ve traditionally been told to avoid - are more complicated when they appear in dairy foods.

Catherine Tyldesley is joined by dietitian Nichola Ludlam-Raine in Fat: The Healthy Option? Credit: ITV/Tonight

Professor Ian Givens from the University of Reading told Tonight:

“I think there was a belief amongst some that dairy consumption makes you fat and in fact the evidence on that is quite interesting because the evidence suggests that it doesn’t and in fact in some cases it can actually enhance weight loss.

“Some dairy foods that have been fermented in some way like yogurt or cheese they actually indicate a reduced risk of type two diabetes. indeed some of the studies show a reduced risk of stroke, particularly associated with cheese and milk.”

– Professor Ian Givens, University of Reading

Reading University’s Centre for Dairy Research have found a way to reduce the unhealthy saturated fat in milk, while still retaining its goodness.

By adding a good fat: rapeseed oil, to the cow’s diet, they’ve been able to reduce the proportion of saturated fat in their milk - from 70% of total fat, to 50%.

Reading University’s Centre for Dairy Research have found a way to reduce the unhealthy saturated fat in milk Credit: ITV/Tonight

Professor Chris Reynolds told Tonight:

“If we can reduce the amount of saturated fatty acids that are in the milk that the cows produce then those saturated fatty acids never enter the food chain. So globally we can have a major reduction in the amount of saturated fat that people are consuming worldwide.”

– Professor Chris Reynolds, University of Reading

While at Imperial College London, Dr Tony Goldstone has found that no matter how hard we try, there are some foods we just can’t resist. His study found that brains light up when participants saw foods with a specific mix of fat, salt and sugar.

How much do you know about what is in the food you eat? Catherine Tyldesley reports. Credit: ITV/Tonight

Dieting makes cravings worse.

“ People get accused of just being weak willed and I think that is very unfair because when we try and diet and lose weight there are changes in our bodies that signal to our brains hang on a sec, you haven’t eaten. We want you to get back up to a weight because we don't know where the food is going to come from.”

– Dr Tony Goldstone, Imperial College London
Fat: The Healthy Option? with Catherine Tyldesley is on ITV at 7:30pm on Thursday 14th September Credit: ITV/Tonight

Dr Goldstone is using his findings to develop a hormone which will stop those intense cravings, making it easier to lose weight.

With all the confusion about what to eat and what to avoid, can fat ever be healthy for us?

The healthy fat is the fat found in natural foods, like oily fish, eggs and avocado with a little bit of dairy thrown in.

And beware of food containing fat, sugar and salt- particularly too much saturated fat - which can cause weight gain and can also lead to heart disease.

See more at 7:30pm on Thursday 14th September on ITV as Catherine Tyldesley reports on Fat: The Healthy Option?

Let us know your thoughts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using #ITVTonight

Useful links:

NHS Eatwell Guide

NHS Fat - The Facts

Imperial University Obesity Study

Tower Hamlets Food For Health - advice for takeaway owners

British Dietetic Association - Fat Factsheet

National Osteoporosis Society