Those whose obesity is an ongoing problem are now being told by health experts that cutting back on butter, cream, cheese, and other fatty foods, is fuelling the obesity epidemic with disastrous consequences for health in general. In a damning report the National Obesity Forum and the Public Health Collaboration said most of what we are told about healthy eating is wrong. Calling for a major overhaul of dietary guidelines, the researchers claim that far from demonising fat we should be eating more of it, and they have accused major public health bodies of colluding with the food industry.
The report describes sunflower oil as ‘barely a food,’ states people should stop counting calories, and warns that exercising will not help with weight loss. The controversial claims have been criticised by other experts who accuse the report’s authors of cherry-picking evidence to suit their arguments.
The row comes as Britain fights an obesity crisis. The UK is the second fattest country in Europe and obesity costs the economy up to £16 billion pounds a year. There are soaring rates of Type 2 diabetes fuelled by obesity and the condition uses a tenth of the NHS’s total budget
The new report’s authors say the epidemic roots lie in the modern obsession with low-fat diets. They cite studies which show a higher-fat, lower-carb diet is superior. The report states ‘eating diet rich in full-fat dairy such as cheese, milk and yoghurt, can actually lower the chance of obesity. The most natural and nutritious foods available – meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, nuts, seeds, olives, avocadoes – all contain saturated fat. The continued demonization of omnipresent natural fat drives people away from highly nourishing wholesome and health promoting foods.’
The authors of the report also argue that the science of food has been ‘corrupted by commercial interest’. Examples include the recent Eat Well Guide from Public Health England, which uses a graphic of a plate to advise people on their daily intake of fat, carbohydrates and other food groups. Representatives from the food and drink industry made up almost half of those who devised the graphics.
Less contentious advice in the report includes avoiding snacking and ditching sugar. Co-author of the report Aseem Malhotra is an advisor to the National Obesity Forum and a founding member of the Public Health Collaboration – a charity made up of dietitians, scientists and doctors. He described dietary guidelines promoting low fat foods as perhaps the biggest mistake in modern medical history, resulting in devastating consequences for public health. The consultant cardiologist added, ‘sadly this unhelpful advice continues to be perpetuated. The current Eat Well Guide from Public Health England is in my view more like a metabolic time-bomb than a dietary pattern, conducive for good health. We must urgently change the message to the public to reverse obesity and Type 2 diabetes.’
‘Eat fat to get slim. Don’t fear fat. Fat is you friend. It’s now truly time to bring back the fat,’ but Professor Tom Saunders of Kings College, London said, ‘The claim that eating fat does not make you fat is absurd and plain wrong. If you eat a lot of fat you will get fat.’ Dr Mike Knapton, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, said the report was, ‘full of ideas and opinions’ but lacked the rigour needed for it to be taken seriously. ‘The country’s obesity epidemic is not caused by poor dietary guidelines. It is that we are not meeting them.’
Dr Allison Tedstone, Chief nutritionist at BHE said, ‘In the face of all the evidence calling for people to eat more fat, cut out carbs and ignore calories is irresponsible. Unlike this opinion piece, our independent experts review all the available evidence – offers thousands of scientific papers, run full scale consultations and go to great lengths to ensure no bias.’
My own view, having lived in my youth for a while in harsh conditions in a biblical environment bereft of any real physical comforts that we enjoy today and ate fresh food as it was plucked from the ground, and was nurtured on full fat dairy products and unprocessed meat, truly believe that nature knows best.
The perfect diet to adopt is to eat in moderation, not to remove the goodness of what nature gives us and to stop tampering in a godly manner, trying to improve on it. Those who live an elongated life dispense with modern dietary advice and follow in the footsteps of their forefathers, living as close to nature as possible.
Learning from the past is still the best tonic available to us.