Myths About Class and Obesity

Myth: Working class children are fed a poor diet, packed with sugar and fat, and are consequently obese and unhealthy. Middle class children eat more healthily.

There are obese children in all social classes, but who tops the list?

Middle-class children are more likely to be obese than those from poor families, researchers revealed today.

The findings undermine the long-held belief that childhood weight problems are most common among economically-deprived communities, scientists said.

But surely middle class parents read cookery books and make much healthier meals, instead of relying on ready meals and junk food?

Researchers from NHS Tees and Newcastle University decided to compare the nutritional content of the meals. In December 2010, they chose the top five recipe books, including 30-Minute Meals and Ministry of Food by Jamie Oliver, Baking Made Easy by Lorraine Pascale, Nigella Lawson’s Kitchen and River Cottage Everyday by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

They compared the nutritional content of 100 recipes randomly selected from the books with 100 own-brand ready meals from Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury’s.

And the findings?

Meals based on television chef recipes were less healthy than ready meals. Significantly fewer were within the recommended ranges for fibre density and percentage of energy derived from carbohydrate and fat, and per portion they contained significantly more energy, protein, fat, and saturated fat and significantly less fibre.

TV chef Jamie Oliver is a campaigner who has long ‘striven to convince people of the health benefits of cooking their own food’ and has launched a crusade against sugar. Surely his recipes are healthy?

Taken from two of his books – Ministry of Food and 30 Minute Meals – they made up 47 of the 100 celebrity chef recipes.

They included one dish – Cauliflower Macaroni – that contains a whopping 1,100 calories per serving, about half an adult’s daily intake. It also contains 58g of fat, roughly three-quarters of a person’s daily need.

Oliver’s pancakes, touted by the Sunday Times as a ‘healthy breakfast’, contain more sugar than a bowl of Kellogg’s Frosties. His milkshakes contain more sugar than a can of Coke. A bread recipe calls for two tablespoons of sugar.

Oliver’s book Meals in Minutes was condemned by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine as ‘one of the worst cookbooks of 2011’. His meatball sandwich recipe contains ‘double the calories, cholesterol, sodium, and saturated fat’ of a Big Mac.

A child could eat a diet of Frosties, Coke, a Big Mac, and a ready meal and potentially come away healthier than if they were fed a selection of Jamie Oliver’s recipes.

OK, let’s skip the pancakes and the Frosties, and make a healthy fruit and veg smoothie instead. Bad move:

Having that all-fruit-and-greens-and-maybe-some-nut-milk smoothie for breakfast is seriously sabotaging your health — and your goals.

Why? Because you are loading your system with simple sugars. And that’s it…

When your body digests these sugars, it results in a burst of energy that quickly depletes, and storing them results in (you guessed it) generating fat….

You’re going to feel hungry. You’re going to store excess sugars as fat. And you’re going to crave high-fat foods (which is really just your body telling you it wants long-sustaining energy) until you finally give in and eat a large meal. Or you binge on a bag of chips. Or you buy three cookies. Who knows?

How about adding some brown bread toast, then?

Many types of brown and wholemeal bread contain higher levels of sugar than white loaves, a Telegraph analysis shows.

A number of popular manufacturers are adding sugar to bread seen as a “healthier” option, while equivalent white loaves remain free of the substance.

Campaigners described the findings as “alarming”, suggesting that families who opted for wholemeal varieties for health reasons were being misled. One nutritionist said the added sugar partly undermined the benefits of eating wholemeal.

But surely brown bread is healthier?

Researchers at Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science monitored the gut bacteria and levels of fat, cholesterol, glucose and essential minerals such as calcium and iron in 20 healthy people.

Half the participants were given a higher-than-average amount of fresh whole-wheat sourdough bread to consume for a week, and the others were given the same portion of processed, packaged white bread.

“The initial finding, and this was very much contrary to our expectation, was that there were no clinically significant differences between the effects of these two types of bread on any of the parameters that we measured,” said the study’s senior author Professor Eran Segal.

“We looked at a number of markers, and there was no measurable difference in the effect that this type of dietary intervention had.”

How about embracing ‘wellness’ and going gluten-free?

A gluten-free diet is essential for people who have coealic disease or perhaps an allergy or intolerance. However, the diet has also risen in popularity among people who needn’t follow it.

Now, a new study has suggested that a gluten free diet can actually lead to obesity as gluten-free products actually contain a significantly higher energy content including more fatty acids and lipids than their gluten counterparts.

No wonder middle class kids are topping the obesity charts…

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