London - Low-fat food sold as good for you is often anything but because it contains more sugar, a study suggests.
It found manufacturers are making their “healthy” options more palatable by replacing fat with sugar.
Graham MacGregor, professor of cardiovascular medicine at the Wolfson Institute, said people need to reduce their consumption of both.
“The problem is, not only are we developing vascular disease but we’re getting obese and getting diabetes, and that’s due to too many calories,” he added.
“Fat is a major source of calories but so is sugar, and added sugar is an unnecessary part of our diet. It is a dangerous substance that’s making us obese.”
The study, conducted for a Channel 4 Dispatches investigation found that a “skinny” lemon and poppyseed muffin from Starbucks had 44.3g of sugar, or just over 11 teaspoons.
That is much more than the 35g in a can of Coca-Cola and the same as in a triple Belgian choc Mississippi mud muffin from the same chain.
The Starbucks “skinny” blueberry muffin contains 34.7g of sugar – 8.6 teaspoons – which is more than the 28.1g in the “classic” version of the same product.
Last week, the World Health Organisation closed a consultation on guidance recommending that no more than 10 percent of our daily calories should come from “free sugar” added by manufacturers or naturally occurring in food. This is the equivalent of 12 teaspoons.
However, even supposedly healthy fruit juices and smoothies can contain much more than this.
There is growing concern about the issue and health experts, including the British government’s chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, have suggested a “sugar tax” may be necessary to cut consumption.
A similar trend was seen in low-fat yoghurt. For example, a 150g pot of Waitrose black cherry low-fat yoghurt has 26.3g of sugar – 6.5 teaspoons – compared with 21.2g in its “lavish creamy” equivalent.
Lower-fat biscuits are another culprit. For example, Sainsbury’s “35 percent less fat” lighter ginger snaps have 4.2g of sugar per biscuit, or just over a teaspoon. That compares with 3.4g for its standard ginger snap.
The study also found people eat more when food is promoted and labelled as low fat. “People take it as a green light,” said dietician Nicole Berberian. “It is misleading.”
She added: “Low-fat foods can be good for you, but that is not always the case. Some might be giving you a lot more sugar than you think.”
Food companies are doing nothing illegal by having higher sugar levels in products described as low fat or light, as long as the details are included in nutrition panels. Statistics show that 32.3 million Britons – 61 percent of the population – are overweight. Of these, 13.25 million are clinically obese.
Terry Jones, of the Food and Drink Federation, said: “As an industry, we are committed to providing consumer choice, including lower-fat versions, and responding to demand for healthier choices.
“Products have very clear calorie labelling to allow individuals to compare and choose the right product for them.” - Daily Mail