Thirty years of official health advice urging people to adopt low-fat diets and to lower their cholesterol is having “disastrous health consequences,”writes Henry Bodkin on the front page of the Daily Telegraph, quoting a leading obesity charity.
“Eating fat does not make you fat,” argues a new report by the National Obesity Forum (NOF) and the Public Health Collaboration, as they demanded a major overhaul of official dietary guidelines.
The report says the low-fat and low-cholesterol message, which has been official policy in the UK since 1983, was based on “flawed science” and had resulted in an increased consumption of junk food and carbohydrates.
The document also accuses major public health bodies of colluding with the food industry, said the misplaced focus meant Britain was failing to address an obesity crisis which is costing the NHS £6 billion a year.
The authors call for a return to “whole foods” such as meat, fish and dairy, as well as high-fat healthy foods like avocados.
The report, which has provoked a broad backlash among the scientific community, also argues that saturated fat does not cause heart disease while full fat dairy products such as milk, yoghurt and cheese, can actually protect the heart.
Professor David Haslam, NOF chairman, said: “As a clinician treating patients all day every day, I quickly realised that guidelines from on high suggesting high carbohydrate, low-fat diets were the universal panacea, where deeply flawed.
“Current efforts have failed, the proof being that obesity levels are higher than they have ever been, and show no chance of reducing despite the best efforts of government and scientists.”
Processed foods labelled “low-fat”, “lite”, “low cholesterol” should be avoided at all costs and people with Type 2 diabetes should eat a fat-rich diet rather than one based on carbohydrates, the report urges.
Dr Aseem Malhotra, consultant cardiologist and member of the Public Health Collaboration, a group of medics, said dietary guidelines promoting low-fat foods “is perhaps the biggest mistake in modern medical history, resulting in devastating consequences for public health”.
“Sadly this unhelpful advice continues to be perpetuated,” he said.
“The current Eatwell guide from Public Health England is in my view more like a metabolic timebomb than a dietary pattern conducive for good health.”
Dr Malhotra also suggested the scientific integrity of the PHE advice had been compromised by commercial interests.
“We must urgently change the message to the public to reverse obesity and Type 2 diabetes,” he added.
“Eat fat to get slim,” he concludes. “Don’t fear fat; fat is your friend.”
Snacking between meals is one of the main causes of the current obesity crisis, the report argues, while added sugar should be avoided because it has “no nutritional value whatsoever”.
Calorie counting is also a damaging red herring when it comes to controlling obesity, said the NOF report, as calories from different foods have “entirely different metabolic effects on the human body, rendering that definition useless”.
… Responding to the NOF document, Professor Iain Broom, from Robert Gordon University, said: “The continuation of a food policy recommending high carbohydrate, low fat, low calorie intakes as healthy eating is fatally flawed.
“Our populations for almost 40 years have been subjected to an uncontrolled global experiment that has gone drastically wrong.”