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National Obesity Forum - eat more fat?

Published by Arnold Page in Food and fitness · 23/5/2016 17:13:00
Tags: saturated_fatweight_lossNational_Obesity_Forum
Today, 23rd May, the National Obesity Forum published 10 items of dietary advice. According to the BBC website the Forum's 10-point list is as follows:

  • Eating fat does not make you fat
  • Saturated fat does not cause heart disease and full-fat dairy is probably protective
  • Processed foods labelled "low fat", "lite", "low cholesterol" or "proven to lower cholesterol" should be avoided
  • Starchy and refined carbohydrates should be limited to prevent and reverse type 2 diabetes
  • Optimum sugar consumption for health is zero
  • Industrial vegetable oils should be avoided
  • People should stop counting calories
  • You cannot outrun a bad diet (i.e. exercise alone won't put things right)
  • Snacking will make you fat
  • Evidence-based nutrition should be incorporated into education curricula for all healthcare professionals.

The first point is clearly wrong as it stands. I think what the authors meant was either that eating fat in reasonable quantities doesn't make you fat, or that eating fat is not the principal cause of obesity, or else that eating fat (and protein) is less fattening than eating the equivalent number of calories from starchy carbohydrates and sugar, because calorie for calorie fat is more satiating.

Apart from that, how was this generally sensible advice received and reported? According to the BBC's web site, Alison Tedstone of Public Health England described the report as "irresponsible and potentially deadly" while someone from The Royal Society for Public Health described it as a "muddled manifesto of sweeping statements, generalisations and speculation". Other members of the nutritional establishment complained that the report had cherry-picked research data and referred to only 43 papers, some of which were not peer-edited scientific ones.

Except for my caveat above, the Forum's 10 points are totally supported by my book 'Twenty-First Century Nutrition and Family Health', which is firmly based on nearly 500 proper published and peer-reviewed research papers. So I find it hard to explain the vitriolic condemnation of the report as reported by the BBC. I suspect that the establishment is slowly becoming aware that much of its advice has been wrong, as the spokesman for the Forum said, and they are getting scared of being found out. 

Take saturated fat, for example. Dr Tedstone says, "Too much saturated fat in the diet increases the risk of raised cholesterol, a route to heart disease and possible death." She carefully avoids stating that too much saturated fat actually causes heart disease, because the evidence for that is virtually zero, but I wonder whether she has studied the data on the relationship between national blood cholesterol levels and deaths from coronary vascular disease (CVD) published for 192 countries by the World Health Organization. These data show clearly that in general the higher one's blood cholesterol level the less chance one has of developing CVD. In fact women in the country where the average blood cholesterol is lowest (3.25 mmoL/L) are 3 times as likely to die of CVD as those in the country with the highest blood cholesterol levels (6.2 mmoL/L), and this is a clear trend across all 192 countries. There is a similar trend for men but not quite so significant.  Zoe Harcombe has converted the data to graphical form and you can see it in her article here. My own book references a number of other research reports with similar findings. Older men, and women of all ages, are more likely to die of a coronary heart attack if their cholesterol levels are low than if they are high.

Again, Dr Tedstone, according to the BBC online site, says that "calling for people to ... cut out carbs ... is irresponsible". Why? Don't carbohydrates contain calories? In any case the report didn't say cut out carbs, it said limit them. Taking a similar line, the government's obesity adviser Prof Susan Jebb said "if we want to tackle obesity people do need to eat fewer calories [and] that means less fat and less sugar." Once again, there is no mention of carbohydrates. Why not? A gram of sugar and starch both contain about 4 calories, so most people consume far more calories from starchy carbohydrates than sugar, and even from fat. So why does the nutritional establishment so love carbohydrates and hate saturated animal fats? Could it possibly be because carbohydrates and vegetable fats come mainly from lucrative manufactured foods made and supplied by producers and retailers who lean on the government to avoid telling people they should reduce their consumption of biscuits, crisps, cakes and baps, and should use natural animal fats such as butter and lard rather than the more profitable spreads and cooking oils made from subsidised crops such as oilseed rape and maize?

So far as cholesterol is concerned, if it became known and accepted that high levels of cholesterol were not unhealthy then the US$26.2 billion a year statins industry would collapse, and manufactuers of premium-priced cholesterol-lowering spreads would lose out, so it is obvious that these industries will use every means possible to maintain the myth that cholesterol is bad. One example of this happening was the recommendation by NICE in 2014 that doctors should prescribed statins much more widely. I believe it was withdrawn following a letter to its chairman signed by the President of the Royal College of Physicians and another eight authoritative figures. The letter listed extensive medical evidence opposing NICE's advice, and pointed out that eight members of its advisory panel of twelve experts had direct financial ties to the pharmaceutical companies that manufacture statins.

If you want to be healthy yourself and want your children to be healthy then follow the advice of the National Obesity Forum. It is good advice!

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