Don't fear fat, it's sugar that is enemy No. 1 in our diet, warns Dr Aseem Malhotra

Don't fear fat, it's sugar that is enemy No. 1 in our diet, warns Dr Aseem Malhotra

Reena Ranger, Chair of Women Empowered, is In Conversation with Dr Aseem Malhotra for her regular series for ‘iGlobal’ to explore some inspirational facets from the life and achievements of prominent Global Indians.

Dr Aseem Malhotra is an NHS trained Consultant Cardiologist, Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, and Visiting Professor of Evidence Based Medicine at the Bahiana School of Medicine and Public Health, Salvador, Brazil. Dr Malhotra is a world-renowned expert in the prevention, diagnosis and management of heart disease. He is a founding member of Action on Sugar and was the lead campaigner highlighting the harm caused by excess sugar consumption in the UK, particularly its role in type 2 diabetes and obesity.

Q

What is the lesson you have learned during lockdown and the Covid-19 pandemic?

A

That we are not living in a democratic country and that we can no longer call ourselves Great Britain, just Britain.

The best indicator of how well we are doing as a society is the health of the population, and Britain's health is dire. The Covid-19 pandemic shone a light on how those countries most badly affected with the highest death tolls are also the ones with the greatest social and economic inequalities (an indirect marker of excess chronic stress for everyone), the highest prevalence of people being overweight, obese or having excess body fat. The key drivers of all these problems

is corporate greed. Big Food and Bad Pharma in essence lie and kill for profit. The freedom to deceive market fuels the business of selling lies.

Downstream this directly influences what we eat, what medicines we take and how we live and work. For decades this has all been heading in the wrong direction making us more physically and mentally sick. We all have a role to play, in making a stand against injustice and fixing our broken system. Until this is tackled head on through people being genuinely allowed to make decisions about their health based on unbiased and untainted information the situation will only get worse, for society now and for future generations. We all need to fight for REAL democracy, which is currently non-existent.

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Q

What is the one lesson or words of wisdom that you try to live your life by that you would recommend to the next generation?

A

The ultimate happiness in life doesn't come from wealth, it comes from health. Most of what gives us optimal physical and mental health is the food we put in our mouths, moving mindfully, getting enough sleep and keeping stress to a minimum.

As a cardiologist and a qualified doctor for almost two decades I've witnessed too much misery, ill health and premature death that I can count in people because of lack of education into adhering to these lifetyle habits. It doesn't have to be this way.

Choose a career, not based on how much money you will make but something you love, you're good at and a job that is some way enriches other people's lives. That will give you the most meaning, purpose and as a result much greater likelihood of better physical and mental health. Also, if you're getting upset on social media or comparing yourself to others in terms of popularity and likes from posts then it's doing you harm. Get off it and spend time with friends and family that increase your sense of well-being. Don't spend more than 30 minutes on social media per day.

Q

What should we be more mindful of in our diets – fat or sugar?

A

Don't fear fat, it's sugar that is enemy number 1 in the western diet. The previous dietary dogma that suggested eating fat leads to clogged arteries and weight gain has been completely debunked. Providing you cut the sugar and minimise the carbs, fat actually keeps you fuller for longer and eating more of it can help with weight loss.

Of all the dietary macronutrients it has the least impact on raising insulin. It's chronically raised insulin over time that is at the very root of heart disease itself. Saturated fat from foods such as full.

fat dairy and red meat actually raises the good cholesterol (HDL) in the blood stream which is biologically protective against heart disease.

Sugar on the other hand provides no nutritional value, increases insulin resistance even in normal weight people and drives up damaging levels of cholesterol in the form of triglycerides.

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Q

If you could have dinner with four people, living or dead, who would they be; and where and what would you eat?

A

Mahatma Gandhi – Delhi. Authentic home cooked Indian vegetarian food eaten in our family home cooked by my father.

Siddartha Gautam (The Buddha) – Nepal. Drink tea, no food, just fasting.

Barack Obama – Chicago. In a jazz bar, eating grass-fed steak over a good bottle of red wine.

Eddie Vedder, lead singer of Pearl Jam, – San Diego. A beach bar/restaurant and seafood galore. Whisky with the starters and then red wine with the main course.

Reena Ranger is the Chair and Co-Founder of Women Empowered. In this exclusive “In Conversation” series for ‘iGlobal’, the dynamic entrepreneur-philanthropist catches up with high-achieving Global Indians across different fields to spotlight some insightful life lessons.

*The views expressed in the answers are of the interviewees.

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