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‘Sugar v Fat’ debate – expert commentary by Dr Richard Mackenzie, University of Westminster

Biomedical Sciences 3 February 2014

Dr Richard Mackenzie, senior lecturer in cell metabolism and diabetes at the University of Westminster, comments on the experiment he conducted for last night’s BBC Horizon programme ‘Sugar v Fat’ on the effects that diet has on increasing the risk of diabetes:

“The sugar vs fat debate is one of the most talked about health topics. Eating the right foods and taking part in some form of physical activity are essential for healthy living and disease prevention. We are all very much spoilt for choice when it comes to food selection and there are numerous diets currently available – many of which are confusing and hard to follow. Even more troubling are the potential effects these diets can have on our health.

“I was asked by the BBC Horizon programme ‘Sugar v Fat’ to test the effects that a high fat and carbohydrate/ sugar diet would have on diabetic risk in twin doctors Chris and Alexander Van Tulleken. The question of whether fats and/ or carbohydrates are bad for us is not a new one. My research has led me to believe that either fat or carbohydrates in high amounts can be damaging to our health.

“What I found out when conducing the experiments on the twins not only surprised them but also shocked the BBC Horizon team. One twin who followed a high fat diet and ate foods such as meat and cheese for one month lost around 4kg (8.8 pounds) in weight. However, he also increased his risk of developing type 2 diabetes and lost a worrying amount of muscle mass. While the other twin, consuming a high carbohydrate diet, saw little change. This was not necessarily surprising from a medical point of view as high fat intake and fat accumulation are predictors of diabetes. Too much fat accumulation can interfere with the workings of vital organs such as the liver, and can make the body resistant to insulin -the hormone that regulates blood sugar– potentially leading to diabetes.”

View the clip here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01qmglp

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