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PHE response to the National Obesity Forum and Public Health Collaboration opinion paper

'Eat Fat, Cut the Carbs and Avoid Snacking To Reverse Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes' report is irresponsible and misleads the public.

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An opinion paper published today by the National Obesity Forum and the newly-formed Public Health Collaboration is irresponsible and misleads the public.

Professor John Newton, chief knowledge officer at Public Health England, said:

Suggesting people should eat more fat, cut out carbs and ignore calories conflicts with the broad evidence base and internationally agreed interpretations of it. The report from the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition on carbohydrates alone included around 600 peer-reviewed scientific reports. That review was carried out over a number of years, reflecting how long it takes to thoroughly consider evidence ahead of changing dietary guidelines.

We engage with a broad range of stakeholders when we make changes to advice, and this includes representatives of the food and drink industry. As the organisation that advises the government on dietary guidelines, it would be irresponsible for us to not engage with those who produce and market the food we all eat.

Our priority is to advise the public, clearly and consistently, basing the advice on broad, robust and objective evidence. To improve diet, reduce obesity levels and the risk of serious illnesses such as heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and some cancers, our advice remains that people should:

  • base meals on starchy carbohydrates, especially wholegrain
  • eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables each day
  • cut back on food and drink high in saturated fat, salt, sugar and calories

It is difficult to conduct research linking diet to later health. That is why PHE base its dietary guidelines on comprehensive reviews of the totality of the evidence. Our advice is based on reviews by independent experts whose reports consider all the evidence, are subject to public consultation and which go through agreed processes to ensure objectivity.

PHE consults with academia, health charities, including the National Obesity Forum, public health professionals, representative professional bodies, local government and the food and drink industry. However, we continue to monitor changes in the evidence base, and where new evidence emerges, carry out a new review to ensure guidance remains current.

This opinion paper from the National Obesity Forum and Public Health Collaboration is not a systematic review of all the relevant evidence. It does not include an assessment of the methodological quality of the studies and should not be confused with the comprehensive reviews of the evidence that are produced by our process. For example, this paper highlights one trial suggesting high dairy intake reduced the risk of obesity, while ignoring a systematic review and meta-analysis of 29 trials which concluded that increasing dairy did not reduce the risk of weight gain.

Published 23 May 2016