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Controversial report says official advice on a low-fat diet is wrong

23 May 2016  •  Author(s): Victoria White, Digital Content Producer

A new report from The National Obesity Forum (NOF) and the Public Health Collaboration argues that the low-fat, low-cholesterol health message that has dominated UK health policy since the 1980s is based on ‘flawed science’ and has had ‘disastrous’ health consequences.


The report says that the low-fat, low-cholesterol message has resulted in increased consumption of low fat junk food, refined carbohydrates and polyunsaturated vegetable oils. NOF and the Public Health Collaboration are therefore calling for a complete overhaul of dietary advice and public health messaging. They say that consumers should be encouraged to eat fat, saying ‘eating fat does not make you fat’. They recommend that UK guidelines for weight loss should encourage a low refined carbohydrate and a high healthy high fat diet (i.e non-processed foods) as an acceptable, effective and safe approach for preventing weight gain and aiding weight loss.

NOF and the Public Health Collaboration also add that sugar should be relegated to the status of condiment or food additive. They say sugar should only be consumed occasionally rather than be a daily part of a healthy diet and recommend that food labelling records sugar content in teaspoons to help enable consumers make more informed decisions when purchasing products.


The report has been met with some criticism. Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist for Public Health England, has said that the report is irresponsible: “In the face of all the evidence, calling for people to eat more fat, cut out carbs and ignore calories is irresponsible.”

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.”

Dr Tedstone commented that while the report from NOF and the Public Health Collaboration referred to only 43 studies, the official guidance that currently stands is based on thousands of scientific studies.

Douglas Twenefour, Deputy Head of Care at Diabetes UK, added: “The government’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition considered a huge volume of evidence on carbohydrate intake last year and concluded that whether you got your calories from carbohydrates, proteins or fats has no effect on your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.”

The British Dietetics Association (BDA) also responded to the report, saying that it does not support the recommendations made in regards to reversing obesity and type 2 diabetes. In a statement, the BDA said: “The idea that the NOF are encouraging increasing saturated fat consumption could be extremely dangerous to patients.”

3 responses to “Controversial report says official advice on a low-fat diet is wrong”

  1. I would strongly support the general message of the National Obesity Forum. It is clear from the more recent medical literature that the low saturated fat message that originated from the work of Ancel Keys was terribly wrong. Keys himself conducted the Minnespta Cardiac Experiment comparing diets rich in either saturated fat or polyunsaturated fat and failed to publish the result that showed no advantage for the polyunsaturated diet, (BMJ. 2016 Apr 12;353:i1246. doi: 10.1136/bmj.i1246. Re-evaluation of the traditional diet-heart hypothesis: analysis of recovered data from Minnesota Coronary Experiment (1968-73).
    Ramsden CE1, Zamora D2, Majchrzak-Hong S3, Faurot KR4, Broste SK5, Frantz RP6, Davis JM7, Ringel A3, Suchindran CM8, Hibbeln JR3.
    In addition there has been the Womens’ Health Initiative experiment over ten years from the 1990s that also showed no advantage from reducing total and saturated fat in the diet. (The Big Fat Surprise. Nina Teicholz)
    Defenders of the old policy should note the work of the distinguished psychology researchers of the UC San Francisco presented in the book “A general Theory of Love” where the comment about memory is:
    “Because human beings remember with neurons, we are disposed to see more of what we have seen already, hear anew what we have heard most often, think just what we have always thought. Our minds are burdened by an informational inertia… and as a life lengthens, momentum gathers.”
    New insights from more recent published research cannot be readily accepted by the old guard because of the way the human brain works!

  2. Mal says:

    The quote from PHE exemplifies why a fresh look is required:
    “In the face of all the evidence, calling for people to eat more fat, cut out carbs and ignore calories is irresponsible.”
    There are many thousands of diabetics all over the world who are losing weight and coming off their drugs by adopting a high-fat low-carb diet. This is evidence of the best kind; not reports, not scientists describing mice, but real people getting better by eating real food.
    PHE are living in the past and ignoring real new evidence.The low-fat experiment of the last 40 years has not worked, has it? That is real evidence too.

  3. Jamie Alison says:

    If you look at photographs from the mid-20th century, you’ll see most people were pretty slim. If you see what they ate, it was lots of fat, butter, milk, etc. What people did not have was an abundance of sugar in about everything. Good luck these days finding even ham or bread without added sugars, especially corn-syrup.

    Adding corn-syrup to everything should be outlawed. With our brains hard-wired to like sweet things, adding corn-syrup is almost as addictive and dangerous as handing out drugs.

    Apart from that, the food experts just piss me off. Every week they come up with a different story.

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