Study finds you can eat 'unhealthy' foods and still lose weight

A study has found there is a way people can continue to eat treats such as cakes, burgers and bacon and still lose weight. Researchers in the UK have found a way to make sure that the foods you eat are burned for energy, rather than converted into fat that you store - which would cause you to gain weight.

A team from the University of Aberdeen got a group of healthy athletes and a group of people with type 2 diabetes to swap exercise routines for two months.

The athletes had been exercising for nine and a half hours a week, but dropped to zero, while those with diabetes who had not been exercising started training five hours a week.

The 'unhealthy' group lost weight and lowered their cholesterol and blood sugar levels thanks to the exercise routine. The researchers found that the bodies of athletes use saturated fats - such as those found in meat and sweet treats - as the ‘preferred source of energy.’

That means that fats from things such as crisps and biscuits can be used as fuel by your body if you exercise, for five hours a week, rather than being turned into excess weight. So as long as you exercise, you can also eat foods that may be seen as 'unhealthy', and your body will actually prefer the 'fuel' those foods provide.

Lead author Professor Dana Dawson said: "We discovered that athletes store and utilise saturated fat intensely for high-performance physical activity and conversely in people with type 2 diabetes, we observed predominantly storage."

She added: "Overall, the most striking and completely new perspective we have taken from this study is that one size ‘doesn't fit all’ and that one's cardio-metabolic health dictates how efficiently you're able to use different fats as fuel."

Professor Bryan Williams, Chief Scientific and Medical Officer at the British Heart Foundation, said: "This small study reinforces the benefits of keeping active on our heart health. While the study compared two very specific groups – male athletes and men with type 2 diabetes – the findings offer reassurance that being physically active can improve how the body uses different types of fat."

Fergus McKiddie, 56, took part in the trial as an athlete category. He said: "It has changed my outlook on how I eat now - I'm now less concerned about eating natural fats as I understand better how my body is handling them and making good use of them.

"It also really highlighted the importance of exercise for everyone especially those with type 2 diabetes so I would like more people to know that. It was a very interesting experience and produced an exciting result that potentially opens up new ways to assist with the ever-increasing numbers of patients being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes."

The findings were published in Nature Communications.