Sat Fat Spat 2

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

This week the headlines say “Eat fat to get thin” and “How you can eat high-fat foods like butter and cheese and STILL lose weight”. Have we been wrong about fat all this time?

A new report from the independent professional organisation, the National Obesity Forum, says avoiding butter, cream, cheese and other fatty foods is actually fuelling the obesity epidemic and accuses UK public health bodies of colluding with food industry. Official dietary advice, it says, leads to obesity and the guidance we are given on low-fat diets and cholesterol is wrong. 

Earlier this year Public Health England amended its Eatwell Guide to include more carbohydrate, more fruit and veg and less fat and animal foods. Dr Aseem Malhotra, one of the authors of the new report, described the new Eatwell Guide as a metabolic timebomb! He says: “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.”

The report describes calorie counting as a red herring, as calories from different foods have different effects on the human body. It emphasises the fact that in spite of dietary guidelines, the number of people with obesity and type 2 diabetes is rising. But this doesn’t prove that the guidelines are wrong; it merely shows that people are ignoring them.

Public Health England says the National Obesity Forum’s report is irresponsible and misleading. Professor Simon Capewell, from the Faculty of Public Health, says: “We fully support Public Health England’s new guidance on a healthy diet. Their advice reflects evidence-based science that we can all trust. It was not influenced by industry. By contrast, the report from the National Obesity Forum is not peer reviewed. Furthermore, it does not it indicate who wrote it or how it was funded. That is worrying.”  

The report has attracted considerable criticism. Professor Susan Jebb, a nutrition expert at Oxford University, is among a group of senior scientists condemning the report as non-rigorous and irresponsible. Professor Jebb questioned the National Obesity Forum’s motives after accusing it of accepting funding from the pharmaceutical industry. A quick look at the National Obesity Forum’s website reveals who their supporters include. 

Cholesterol rates in the UK are among the highest in the world. High levels are caused by saturated fat from meat, sausages, bacon, pies, cakes, biscuits, cheese and cream. The government recommends eating less of these and more foods containing unsaturated fats such as avocados, nuts, seeds, plant-based oils and spreads.

The pro-fat lobby (linked to the meat industry) try to convince us that saturated fat is not bad for you and may even be beneficial.  A limited number of flawed studies, claiming that saturated fat may not be as bad as previously thought, have received a disproportionate amount of media attention. This has led to much confusion among consumers. 

There is a substantial body of current evidence supporting the case that saturated fat is bad for health. All major health organisations (World Health Organisation, American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada, British Dietetic Association, American Heart Association, British Heart Foundation, World Heart Federation, British National Health Service, United States Food and Drug Administration and European Food Safety Authority) agree that saturated fat is a risk factor for heart disease.

The pro-fat and animal farming lobbies have their sights fixed on sugar as the villain of the piece. It may well be that focusing on saturated fat as the primary dietary villain for heart disease has distracted from the risks posed by sugar, but replacing one villain with another is not helpful.  

For information on what foods can help you avoid and/or reverse heart disease visit: www.viva.org.uk/heart-guide.

Links to the headlines:

The Guardian: Official advice on low-fat diet and cholesterol is wrong, says health charity.

The Mirror: How you can eat high-fat foods like butter and cheese and STILL lose weight.

The Telegraph: 'Eat fat to get thin': Official diet advice is 'disastrous' for obesity fight, new report warns

Find out how easy it is to go vegan here

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