Public Health England’s Chief Nutritionist Criticises Fat Diet Advice

In response to a recent report from two major charities, the chief nutritionist of Public Health England has dismissed advice regarding consuming more fat.

Dr Alison Tedstone was responding to a much publicised report by the National Obesity Forum, which suggests that eating fat could help cut obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Tedstone believes that the claims of the report are irresponsible and not scientifically supported.

Dr Aseem Malhotra, a senior adviser to the National Obesity Forum, indicated her belief that the general advice conveyed to the public regarding low-fat foods is extremely misguided.

“The change in dietary advice to promote low fat foods is perhaps the biggest mistake in modern medical history. 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 your friend.”

But Tedstone instead suggest that the lack of peer review for the report is a damning, and that some of its conclusions and decisions are poorly founded.

“In the face of all the evidence, calling for people to eat more fat, cut out carbs and ignore calories is irresponsible. It’s a risk to the nation’s health when potentially influential voices suggest people should eat a high fat diet, especially saturated fat. Too much saturated fat in the diet increases the risk of raised cholesterol, a route to heart disease and possible death.”

Thousands of scientific studies were considered as part of the process of creating the dietary guidelines for the British government, whereas the National Obesity Forum quoted just 43 studies.

The Royal Society for Public Health described the report a “muddled manifesto of sweeping statements, generalisations and speculation”.

However, although critics were more measured in their response to the report, indicating that there was useful information contained within it, and that it certainly should not be discounted completely.

Naveed Sattar, a professor of metabolic medicine at the University of Glasgow, described it as “good, bad and ugly”.

Dr Nita Forouhi, of the MRC epidemiology unit at the University of Cambridge, was also critical of the report, suggesting that he was guilty of making sweeping statements in many places.

“This is a highly selective review, it is not a systematic appraisal of the evidence and in places opinions are expressed that are not backed up by a body of evidence.”

However, Foruouhi did praise the opinion of the report that lower refined carbohydrates should be reduced, while also suggesting that the overall message to reduced carbohydrate consumption ignored the issue of quality, with wholegrain carbs and fibre being essential for a healthy diet.

Prof Tom Sanders from King’s College London commented harshly on the report.

“It is not helpful to slag off the sensible dietary advice. The harsh criticism of current dietary guidelines meted out in this report is not justified as few people adhere to these guidelines anyway. There is good evidence that those that do follow the guidelines have less weight gain and better health outcomes.”

Nonetheless, one of the basic messages of the report, that cutting carbohydrates and ultimately sugar consumption is essential to reduce the existing obesity and diabetes epidemic, does seem to be sound advice that very few health professionals can reasonably contradict.


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