Thursday 29 September 2016

Obesity crisis stems from '30 years of flawed advice on diet'

Henry Bodkin in London

Published 23/05/2016 | 02:30

Urging people to follow low fat diets and to lower their cholesterol is having
Urging people to follow low fat diets and to lower their cholesterol is having "disastrous health consequences", a health charity has warned. File photo: PA

Thirty years of official health advice urging people to adopt low-fat diets and lower their cholesterol have had "disastrous health consequences," a leading obesity charity has warned.

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Calling for a major overhaul of official guidelines, experts said these were based on "flawed science" and had resulted in an increased consumption of junk food and carbohydrates.

The report, by Britain's National Obesity Forum (NOF) and the Public Health Collaboration, says that "eating fat does not make you fat" and accuses major public health bodies of colluding with the food industry.

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.

The authors call for a return to "whole foods", such as meat, fish and dairy, as well as high-fat healthy foods, like avocados.

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 were 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, which has been official policy in the UK since 1983, "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.

"We must urgently change the message to the public to reverse obesity and Type 2 diabetes," he said, adding: "Eat fat to get slim."

Snacking between meals is one of the main causes of the current obesity crisis, the report argues, while added that sugar should be avoided because it has "no nutritional value whatsoever".

Calorie-counting is also a damaging red herring, said the NOF report, as calories from different foods have "entirely different metabolic effects on the human body, rendering that definition useless".

Similarly, "you cannot outrun a bad diet" the authors state, citing the "incorrect" assumption that the solution to obesity is to burn more calories than are consumed.

"Obesity is a hormonal disorder leading to abnormal energy partitioning, which cannot be solely fixed by increasing exercise," the report says.

However, Dr Mike Knapton, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said the NOF findings were "full of ideas and opinion" but could not be counted as a comprehensive review of the evidence.

Irish Independent

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