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Opinions of Thursday, 31 August 2017

Columnist: Dr. Raphael Nyarkotey Obu

Fat does not make you fat: The French do not swallow! (1)

Our Daily Manna (ODM) is a devotional book introduced to me by a female friend seven years ago. I must say it has been a blessing to me.

In the August 27th 2017 edition; I learnt one very important lesson on health in this book “The French DO NOT SWALLOW: MEDITATION POWER SECRETS”! According to Dr. Chris, the French eat a lot of saturated fat, yet they are more lean (slimmer) than the Americans and far less likely to be obese.

Their diseases are half that of Americans and they have a lower obesity rate than any other country in the European Union. According to the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter, research conducted in restaurants in Paris and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, showed that French meals were considerably smaller.

The most impressive finding was that the French take longer time to eat their smaller portions. The average French person spends nearly 100 minutes daily just eating while Americans ‘swallow’ their daily bread in only 60 minutes. The conclusion? Take time to enjoy your food and eat slowly!

Dr. Chris further advised the readers of ODM to eat little by little if serve large meals. Never rushing their food is the secret of the French and it can be the spiritual secret of surviving life’s storm, he concluded.

This quickly drew my attention to fat education and researched extensively on the French and fat issues. According to Wikipedia: "The average French person consumed 108 grams per day of fat from animal sources in 2002 while the average American consumed only 72.

The French eat four times as much butter, 60% more cheese and nearly three times as much pork. Although the French consume only slightly more fat overall (171g/day v 157g/day), they consume much more saturated fat because Americans consume a far larger proportion of fat in the form of vegetable oil, with most of that being soybean oil. However, according to data from the British Heart Foundation in 1999, rate of death from coronary heart disease among males aged 35–74 years was 115 per 100,000 people in the US, but only 83 per 100,000 in France."

The French Experience on Fat

From my observation, structured eating habits are established at a very young age in France, and most women inherently enjoy a balanced relationship with food that helps them stay slim pleasurably. For foreigners, I believe it’s never too late to learn how to be a naturally thin eater.

French women inherently understand that satisfaction is qualitative not quantitative. Discerning palates are encouraged and cultivated. In France, there is an emphasis on eating a wide variety of foods—fruits, vegetables, beef, poultry, fish, bread and cheese—without overdoing any one thing. Food groups like beef, dairy, fat or carbs are not labeled “bad.” After all, a little baguette and brie won’t make you fat, but eating too much will.

Petite isn’t just a dress size either; serving sizes are appropriately small, especially rich desserts, charcuterie and cheese. Decadent foods are treated like a delicacy, eaten only after a meal and in small amounts. French women would rather have a slither of silky smooth mousse cake than a whole slab of fat-free cake that doesn’t thrill the taste buds.

So why don’t they seem to get fat? This so-called “French paradox redux” that allows French people to eat all the “forbidden” foods and stay thin while Americans get fatter has been demystified by a new Cornell study.

Researchers found that while the French use internal cues -- such as no longer feeling hungry -- to stop eating, Americans use external cues -- such as whether their plate is empty, whether their beverage has run out and whether their TV program is over.
The study, which analyzed questionnaires from 133 Parisians and 145 Chicagoans, also found that the heavier a person is, the more they rely on external cues to tell them to stop eating, and the less they rely on whether they feel full.

Over time, the researchers concluded, instead of relying on external cues, using your body’s internal cues to tell you when to stop eating may improve your eating patterns.

The Ghanaian Experience

In Ghana, it appears that food is our enemy now! The media landscape is hyped with nutritionist and health expert educating us on dieting with diverse recommendations. In fact, the public are even scared of what to eat. Don’t eat this; another one said this is good for you. So what do we do?

Never have I learnt so much about food's nutrient content and chemical formulas as in my years spent in research but chancing on ODM and my research on nutrition has completely transformed now.

Revealingly, In Ghana, food is now reduced to unattractive scientific values such as "saturated fats", "fatty acids", "trans fats", "monounsaturates" and "TFAs", to name just a few. A thin spread of butter a day is even a taboo for human being.

Growing up, I never thought about food in those clinical terms, and even as a teenager concerned with my looks, never did I view cooking as the temple of the trio protein-lipid-glucid.

We eat in groups as a family; the eating regime is about survival of the fetus: whoever eats fast get satisfied. So obviously, some of us grew up with this kind of robust eating habit though we are adult now.

It is sad to see people eating and walking on the street because they are in hurry to go to work, occasion et al. we need to change our attitude towards eating habit. We eat late or go to bed immediately after eating. Bad eating habiting is the order of the day.

Food, to most of my compatriots, is a matter of colours, savours and flavours. The emergence of the terms gluten-free, fat-free and sugar-free in the 1980s was an Anglo-Saxon deformity.

Why would you want to eat a tasteless fat-free pizza or a sugar-free blueberry muffin? Just don't eat them or eat the real thing. The notion of pleasure seemed to have never existed. However, since when has butter been bad for you?

Dr. Mercola's Comments

If only we all were born in France, we would all be blessed with the inherent ability to eat fattening foods to our heart’s content, and still stay lean and trim.

I am, of course, using sarcasm. A French person has every chance to get fat as an American does (just ask any French exchange student who comes to the United States -- they probably ended up going home at least 10 pounds heavier).

What is it about the French culture that seems to favor thinness, even in the midst of all of that bread, cheese, butter, wine and heavy sauces? In a sentence: they eat real food, and they savor it.


Dr. Raphael Nyarkotey Obu - PhD is a research Professor of Prostate cancer and Holistic Medicine at Da Vinci College of Holistic Medicine, Larnaca city, Cyprus and the National President of the Alternative Medical Association of Ghana(AMAG). He is also the President of Men’s Health Foundation Ghana