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The Effect Of A High Sugar, High Fat Diet

Although they may taste good, it is widely known that sugary treats and foods with a high fat content are bad for our health, and contain little, if any nutritional value. But just how bad are they? According to health experts not only are our favourite sweet treats high in calories, which can lead to weight gain, they can also lead to other health issues such as type 2 diabetes and tooth decay. Recent research found that an excessive intake of sugar could also increase your risk of high blood pressure, which if not managed could lead to coronary-related conditions like heart disease, stroke, kidney disease.


Sugar can be found in a number of foods. Common foods that contain high levels of sugar include:

  • Fizzy drinks
  • Sweets
  • Cakes
  • Biscuits
  • Chocolate
  • Jams
  • Ice-cream

According to the government guidelines, a food item considered high in sugar would contain more than 15g of sugar per 100g. A food that is low in sugar will contain less than 5g of sugar or less per 100g.


There are three main types of fat; saturated, trans and unsaturated. Saturated fats can cause you to develop high cholesterol and, if eaten in large quantities, can greatly increase your risk of heart disease. Foods that are high in saturated fat, include:

  • Cakes
  • Biscuits
  • Cream
  • Cheese
  • Pies
  • Sausages
  • Fried foods
  • Takeaways
  • Pastries
  • Mayonnaise
  • Cream
  • Oils

In line with the government's food guidelines, a food that contains more than 5g of saturated fats per 100g is classed as high in fat. A food that is low in saturated fats has 1.5g of saturated fat per 100g.

How to reduce your fat and sugar intake:

Reducing fat in your diet Reducing sugar in your diet
Swap cakes/biscuits with fruit Use an artificial sweetener
Swap full fat food options like milk and spreads, with low fat options Choose fruit over sweets or sweet snacks
Where possible opt to grill, bake or steam foods instead of fry Choose reduced sugar options
Remove the fats of meats Carefully read food labels, which may try to disguise their sugar content
Eat more lean meats like chicken and fish instead of red meats Opt for foods that say 'unsweetened' or 'no added sugar'
Use the traffic light system on food labels to help you with your choices

The hidden sugars and fats in pancakes

Tuesday the 9th February is Pancake Day, also known as Shrove Tuesday, a day on which many of us will indulge in the classic battered sweet (and sometimes savoury) treat. However, unknown to many of us, a single pancake with certain toppings can exceed 300 calories and contain as much as 10g of fat and 14g of sugar. Although it is not necessarily the pancakes themselves that are the culprits, the toppings typically served with a pancake such as sugar, cream, syrup, chocolate and butter contain high levels of sugar and fats. Not only can this add to your waistline, it can also have a damaging effect on your health.

To see how much sugar and fat is consumed in a typical pancake, we have done a loose comparison study. Looking at the typical pancakes of some countries across the globe, we compared the calories, sugar and fat content of some of the best-known pancakes. It is worth noting that some countries have more than one traditional pancake. For this exercise we chose just one pancake variation per country and compared those particular pancakes. Taking a closer look into the traditional pancake served in several countries across the world, it is interesting to see how they compare with the traditional English lemon and sugar pancake.


Pancake calories across the world

When it comes to calories in pancakes, certain countries greatly outweigh others. For instance an American buttermilk pancake eaten alone is only 107 calories, and contains 2g of fat and 2g of sugar. However include the traditional ingredients of blueberries, maple syrup, and melted butter, typically served with an American pancake, and the calories of a single American pancake is almost doubled to 278 calories, 9g of fat, and 14g of sugar. Eating just two American pancakes will see your calorie count rise to a mighty 556 calories. For a woman, the recommended daily calorie intake is 2,000 calories. Eating just three American pancakes means that you have already met a quarter of your daily intake. In contrast to American pancakes, the typical pancake in Ethiopia known as an Injera, is a yeast-risen flatbread that is spongy in texture. Unlike traditional pancakes, which are eaten as sweet or savoury appetizers, this pancake, Injera is used as an eating tool to absorb gravy from a stew and scoop up salads. A typical 20 diameter Ethiopian Injera is usually around 190 calories with 0g of fat on its own. However combined with the traditional Ethiopian stew, the calorie count can reach up to 740, although the sugar content is still low.

It could be argued that Pancake Day comes around just once a year, and that the high consumption of the battered treat is not a reflection of a normal diet. However we would need to put into context just how much exercise would be required to burn these additional calories. Four classic English sugar and lemon 10 " diameter pancakes, in one serving equates to roughly 960 calories, contains 12g of sugar and 40g of sugar. In order to burn this off you would need to:

Out of the countries shown on the map, the Indian dessert pancake Malpua is one of the pancakes which contains some of the highest levels of fat, and sugar. Although, there are many variations of the Malpua pancake, for this map we have looked at one of the popular Malpua variations, which contains condensed milk, grated coconut and ripe banana. A single Malpua pancake of this persuasion is 340 calories, and contains 10g of fat and 34g of sugar.

Food which contains excessive amounts of sugars and fats, like pancakes can cause a number of health issues and provide little nutrients. From obesity to diabetes, high blood pressure, to heart disease, the health implications of consuming sweet treats in excess like pancakes, cakes, biscuits can be detrimental.

There are ways you can reduce the calories, sugar and fat content in your pancake. Simple changes like swapping full fat milk for skimmed milk, opting to use egg whites instead of eggs, and reducing the amount of sugar in your batter mix will help to reduce the calorie content. Opting for fresh fruit toppings instead of syrup can reduce the amount of calories, fat and sugar content in your pancake and will ensure you enjoy this treat without the guilt and the potential negative health effects.


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