Fat fight

Our ongoing confusion over fat

September 27, 2012

A recent troll through the New York Times reveals just how confused we are about fat.

Does eating fat make us fat? The cheese industry, laboring under this theory, has struggled mightily to produce low-fat cheese that people will actually eat. But since fat (and its fellow traveler salt) are essential to cheese, this effort is not winning converts.

Does eating fat keep us healthy? By trying to cut back on fat, New York City schools found themselves offering lunches that fell below federal calorie minimums. But were the calorie requirements too high to begin with? And are the lower-calorie lunches — generally made with more whole foods and fewer processed foods — better for the students to eat?

Does being fat trump being fit? According to the so-called "obesity paradox," overweight people who exercise regularly are healthier than skinny people who do not.

And, finally, comes a study suggesting that we might get fat because processed foods are addictive. Not addressed: whether a toddler addiction to Elmo is responsible for the recently documented Healthy Elmo Effect, in which Elmo stickers on apples encouraged kids to eat, well, more apples.

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