The Low Fat Boast

There’s an advert on the radio at the moment for a well known baked beans company that has the boast at the end: “Naturally high in protein, naturally high in fibre, naturally low in fat”. Or something to that effect. I could take exception to them claiming they are high in protein (6g per 100g – this isn’t high. When you consider that to be considered ‘low fat’ in a supermarket foods must have 5% or less fat. So, beans, by this definition are just above low level protein) – but I won’t.

It wasn’t their protein claims that bristled me (until now). It’s the fact that having naturally low fat (which they do at 2g per 100g) is some kind of positive. It’s not. It is just a statement of fact, but one used by the marketeers to make a food product more appealing (and consequently a society more obese and ill). There is nothing wrong with foods naturally low in fat. Tuna for example is very low fat and it’s great. You wouldn’t do very well eating only tuna though. You need fatty foods in your diet to keep it balanced. This is why this advert annoyed me. By claiming that baked beans are a great choice because they are low in fat sends out entirely the wrong message. Not only are they saying beans are good, but they are also implying that high fat foods are bad.

I don’t want to bore the pants off everyone by writing a full post on why exactly fat is good for you – there are plenty of other writers who have done a far better job than I ever could. If you are interested in the role of fat in your body then I think these links are a good place to start: Taking the Fear Out of Fats, The Skinny on Fats, Definitive Guide to Fats and Healthy high Fat. There’s a lot of reading there, but I would highly recommend them all.

I want to touch on one role of fat in this post. Fat as a source of vitamins. 4 vitamins (A, D, E and K) are fat soluble. That means that fat is required to deliver the vitamins to the body, and to aid digestion and absorption. Vitamins A, D, E and K are vital to our health. Vitamin A helps us maintain our immune system, our vision and skin. Vitamin D works with calcium to maintain healthy bones and teeth. Vitamin D is also absorbed from sunlight, but if the weather carries on like it has been, we’ll all soon forget what the sun was. Vitamin E helps to protect cell membranes, and vitamin K  is essential for blood clotting and maintaining strong bones.

By using the low fat claim as a marketing tool through the implication of good health, it seems to me that they are also suggesting missing out on four vitamins would be healthy. Every day that someone claims a food is good for you because it is low fat, they are reinforcing beliefs in the public that will ultimately stop them getting 4 vitamins. And this is what annoys me. Food companies should have an obligation to not put out misinformation. By using every attribute of their food products as a marketing angle they are muddying the waters and making it harder and harder for the general public to stay at a healthy weight and illness free. They should quite frankly, be ashamed.

All I can suggest to you is to stay informed of the latest research and science and to give yourself the best chance of filtering out the many spurious claims you will encounter every day. Good luck and thanks for reading.


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