/ Food & Drink

Time to stop confusing people with nutrition advice

Healthy food choice

So, it now seems that we can eat fat and not get fat? That’s what the headlines dominating today’s newspapers seem to be telling us anyway.

The newspaper stories quote a report that’s been produced by the National Obesity Forum called ‘Eat Fat, Cut the Carbs and Avoid Snacking to Reverse Obesity’. This emphasises the need to encourage people to enjoy food and stresses fairly uncontroversial and sensible messages such as the importance of avoiding snacking in order to control your weight.

But it also calls for an urgent overhaul of current dietary guidelines which it blames for driving the epidemics of obesity and type 2 diabetes.

The thing is, the advice has just been reviewed. And while it would be nice to believe that the guidance we’ve been receiving for the past 30 years was flawed and that we can just tuck into as many fried breakfasts as we like and pile on the butter after all, the over-riding consensus is that just isn’t the case.

Of course the report is more nuanced than that, but it is claiming that eating fat doesn’t make you fat and that saturated fat doesn’t cause heart disease.

Guidance needs to be clear

The Government recently updated its Eat Well guide on how to have a balanced diet. It’s in the form of a plate and gives you an idea of the proportion of different types of food you should be eating.

The guide is still clear, it’s not about whether it’s fat that’s bad or whether it’s sugar. It’s about overall balance – watching that you aren’t eating too much fat (particularly saturated fat), sugar and salt – and of course eating more fruit and vegetables as well as starchy carbohydrates such as potatoes, bread, rice and pasta.

The trouble is many of us struggle to follow this advice. But the issue isn’t about changing the advice, it’s about making it easier for us to act on. It’s also important that official sources – including the Department of Health and Food Standards Agency speak up so that people aren’t confused by contradictory claims.

The Government has promised there will be a Childhood Obesity Strategy, now likely to be published after the EU referendum. In the meantime, it’s not new advice (which appears to contradict the old) that’s required.

We need action that clamps down on irresponsible food promotions and marketing (particularly when it comes to children). We need action to ensure clear labelling, and to make sure healthier foods are more widely available and affordable. And we need action to encourage reductions in the levels of sugar, salt and yes, fat too, in foods where levels are unnecessarily high.


If we are looking at obesity/weight etc perhaps we should have a Conversation that includes other factors that may give cause to excess weight.

People will no doubt be interested in the recent US research that shows PBA has an obesity effect on girls. A seven year study of pregnant women and their off-spring reveals those mothers with the highest PBA in their blood stream had the largest daughters. This complements previous research which did not monitor the pregnancy.

Intriguingly PBA does not make make boys fatter as they have different hormones.

Read en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bisphenol_A to see what other effects this endocrine disruptor may well have.

I followed the Atkins diet for two years and lost a lot of weight. But the problem is that no one really understands what causes heart attacks. It’s almost certainly unrealistic (not to mention impossible) to expect informed nutritional advice that works for everyone. Over the years achieving a consensus on healthy diets has been as difficult as training cats: it simply can’t be done, and competing ‘instant diet’ fads often place financial reward ahead of considered research. Just about the only thing that almost all dieticians agree on is to avoid processed food.

Saturated fat does appear bad in large quantities, but the body needs a fat intake, while some in the medical profession openly query why fruit is regarded as good. No easy answers, then, but probably a general leaning towards avoiding processed food, eating a lot of nuts and cereals and – best of all – doing a lot of regular and demanding exercise.

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There are many contributory factors for heart disease, Duncan, but what actually causes heart disease is still not really understood. If it were we could expect the pharmaceutical companies to issue tiny pills from age ten onwards, or even vaccinate against the possibility. That may well come, in time, but for now it’s surprising how little is really known.

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I wasn’t advocating anything, Duncan; merely stating the possibilities. But I don’t concur with your belief that it’s all about DNA. Our DNA evolves rather more often than we might imagine and the growing field of Epigenetics promises to be a source of some interesting discoveries in due course.

The next advice we will be given will be not to eat anything at all because all food contains things that will harm you,food is likely to kill you off so do not eat any food at all

Very true bishbut

Food and no food will both kill you but eating delays the inevitable longer : ) Essentially our little chemical factories we call bodies operate with the food we eat and taking in a reasonable mix is a requirement if we want it to work for a long time.

You may be slightly dismayed when you hear of British young girls drinking three large bottles of Coke a day – as was reported on Radio Four yesterday. It made me think if we wish to improve health generally then banning the sale of Coke would be a massive start.

Nutritionally speaking surely nobody could defend this product and similar
90 seconds of a few bullet points on Coke’s effects in the body

So what is it with the powers that be that they talk about the small stuff and allow such rubbish to freely advertise to the consumer. Surely in our society with these food agencies etc there could be nothing potentially dangerous being marketed?

You would not put some used chip fat in the engine of your car. It works for a short while but it is not designed for it, the same holds for humans. Feeding the engine the right balance between proteins, fats, carbs with some minerals and vitamins, etc keeps it strong and healthy. It will break down eventually, all engines do, but you don’t want to go the garage too often.

Basically the advice is the following:

– Don’t eat too much and eat mainly plant based food, but go easy on the carbs and on snacks.

Or don’t eat at all! 😀

Why no one does a real study into the amount of growth hormone and antibiotics that are contained in virtually all available meat?
We do notice (for example) the difference in the size of the poultry between 20-30 years ago and present. Does anyone believe that this was (and still is) achieved through a “natural selection” process? All the animal meats and derivatives (sauces, gelatins, etc) that end up in our body contain exactly how much of these substances that promote growth and fatness. Neither are destroyed by cooking or processing.

Which? should look into this!

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The biggest problem with dietary ‘advice’ has to be the UK press. The gutter press in particular love anything that sells papers and makes a profit, so they jump on phrases and conclusions which make sensational headlines. The recent furore about eating fat is an excellent example:
Dr Aseem Malhotra, a senior adviser to the National Obesity Forum, said: “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 the report has been criticised for not going though scientific peer review.
Dr Tedstone, Public Health England’s chief nutritionist, responded to the publication by saying: “In the face of all the evidence, calling for people to eat more fat, cut out carbs and ignore calories is irresponsible.”
She said thousands of scientific studies were considered as part of the official guidance adopted throughout the UK, whereas the National Obesity Forum quoted just 43 studies, some of which were comment pieces.
She added: “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.”
The Royal Society for Public Health described the report a “muddled manifesto of sweeping statements, generalisations and speculation”.
Naveed Sattar, a professor of metabolic medicine at the University of Glasgow, said the report was “good, bad and ugly”.
He backed calls to cut snacking, but said eating more fat as a cure for obesity and type 2 diabetes was “not warranted” by the evidence and would have “adverse” consequences.
He said the authors had been selective in their choice of evidence and had ignored “an abundant literature which goes against their conclusions”.
The government’s obesity adviser Prof Susan Jebb said the “current dietary advice is based on the best evidence we have”.
She said the debate should be widened from a focus on fat. “We’re eating too many calories – if we want to tackle obesity people do need to eat fewer calories [and] that means less fat and less sugar.”

The scientist, at the MRC epidemiology unit at the University of Cambridge, told the BBC: “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.”
She praised the call to lower refined carbohydrates, but said the overall message to cut carbs ignored the issue of quality as “we do need wholegrain carbs and fibre in out diet”.

Prof Tom Sanders from King’s College London said: “It is not helpful to s**g 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.”

The authors of the report, the National Obesity Forum, receive funding from the following:

LighterLife UK Limited
Roche Products Ltd
Abbott Laboratories
Slim Fast Foods Ltd
Safeway Foods plc
Tanita UK Ltd
Sanofi-Aventis Ltd
Mantis Surgical Equipment Ltd
GlaxoSmithKline UK Ltd
British Meat Nutrition Education Services

Coincidentally, I happened to pick up a magazine whilst waiting in the reception at my local chiropractic centre yesterday and my attention was drawn to an article about a substance called Trimethylamine -N -oxide (TMAO) and its association with cardio-vascular events.

Studies published in 2013 indicate that high levels of TMAO in the blood are associated with an increased risk of major adverse cardio-vascular events.

When foods such as red meat in particular, some energy drinks and some dietary supplements containing high levels of L – carnitine , or eggs and soy containing lecithin are ingested, bacteria in the gut convert these substances into TMAO. TMAO has been shown to cause atherosclerosis, the disease process that leads to cholesterol-clogged arteries which “we know that clogged arteries can lead to heart attacks.”

As posted previously, the Atkins diet remains questionable, given that its founder had been treated for a heart condition before his death at 72 from a fall, coupled with the fact that his wife refused to allow an autopsy following his death leaves one pondering why anyone would want to risk damaging their health by partaking in any kind of high trans-fat diet.

Ian, you may like to read more on recent research re this topic @

health.harvard.edu. – New Study Links L – Carnitine in Red Meat to .Heart Disease.

Thanks, Beryl. The Atkins diet isn’t suitable as we get older as some research has suggested a link between low carb-high protein diets and liver damage. I don’t eat any meat, anyway, but devour fish of all types.

Ian, good luck with your continued recovery, but go easy on the smoked fish! Apparently 3 ounces of freshly baked salmon contains 51mg of sodium compared to 222mg in one ounce of smoked salmon, the extra sodium could counterbalance any benefits from omega-3 fats 🙂