Greenfinch Food Fight

Nutrition Policy Food Fight in the UK

A nutrition policy food fight is bubbling over in the UK, precipitated by a report from two UK charities: the National Obesity Forum and the Public Health Health Collaboration. The report advances a rather simple recommendation: “Eat fat, cut the carbs, and avoid snacking to reverse obesity and type 2 diabetes.”

In case that miracle cure does not capture your attention, the report also accuses “academics, institutions, and journals” of having “colluded with industry for financial gain.” As a case in point, the report singles out the latest Eatwell guide from Public Health England as being guided more by commercial interests than by scientific evidence. There’s more, like a recommendation for “zero sugar consumption.”

Naturally such sensational and thinly supported claims are drawing considerable criticism from scientists who have endured the torturous process of developing peer-reviewed, evidence-based nutrition guidance. Alison Tedstone, Director of Diet and Obesity for Public Health England, said:

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.

She noted that thousands of scientific studies were evaluated in the process of developing UK nutrition policy. The National Obesity Forum report cited only 43 references, some of which were opinion papers.

The Royal Society for Public Health characterized the National Obesity Forum report as a “muddled manifesto of sweeping statements, generalisations and speculation.”

This spectacle is unfortunate. Dogma, ad-hominem argumentation, and suppositions presented as facts serve only to make the path to better dietary guidance more difficult. It’s hard enough without all this silliness.

To read the report from the National Obesity Forum, click here. To read more from the BBC, click here. For more about the Eatwell Guide, click here.

Greenfinch Food Fight, photograph © Keith Ellwood / flickr

Subscribe by email to follow the accumulating evidence and observations that shape our view of health, obesity, and policy.


May 25, 2016