dietary guidelines

A new report warns that current recommendations for public health dietary guidelines are actually fuelling obesity and type 2 diabetes, rather than reducing them.


Britain’s National Obesity Forum and Public Health Collaboration have released a controversial report that criticizes current public health guidelines in Britain, which focus on low-fat and low-cholesterol diets as the key to reducing conditions like obesity and type 2 diabetes. According to the report, those recommendations are based on “flawed science”, and in addition have been capitalized on by commercial interests, resulting in an increase in the very problems they purport to target.

Authors of the study argue that in fact, avoidance of refined and starchy carbohydrates is the key to reducing obesity and incidence of type 2 diabetes. They further point to evidence that it is excessive snacking, rather than eating saturated fat, that causes weight gain, and suggest that food companies have taken advantage of the current dietary guidelines’ focus on fat by encouraging a market for low-fat junk food that is high in refined carbohydrates and polyunsaturated vegetable oil.

The study argues that dietary guidelines should include the following recommendations:

  • Eating fat does not make people fat, but snacking does;
  • Saturated fat does not cause heart disease;
  • Processed foods labelled as “low fat”, “light”, “low cholesterol” or “proven to lower cholesterol” should be avoided, along with industrial vegetable oils;
  • Starchy and refined carbohydrates should be limited to prevent and reverse type 2 diabetes;
  • The optimal sugar consumption for health is zero.

Moreover, the study suggests that by “erroneously” focusing on fat content, and particularly saturated fat, current dietary guidelines have demonized natural and nutritious foods like meat, fish, eggs, dairy, nuts, seeds, olives and avocados, all of which contain saturated fat.  The authors contend that merely counting calories, or fat content, is an ineffective strategy for weight loss, because it fails to appreciate that obesity is a hormonal disorder leading to abnormal energy partitioning.  It is not the total calories that matter, they argue, but rather the type of calories, because calories from different foods are metabolized differently and can have entirely different effects on factors such as hormonal systems including insulin, and on satiety or food cravings.

However, the report has been criticized by some experts.  Suzanne Dickson, a professor of neuroendocrinology at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, considers the recommendations in the report to be misleading, and not in keeping with advice from the World Health Organization.

She states, “While it may be good to reduce intake of carbohydrates and sugars, there remains a great body of evidence that it is equally important to limit intake of fats. I am not aware of any evidence that common obesity is due to under- or over-production of any hormone. I am not aware of any hard evidence that snacking causes obesity.”

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Written By: Linda Jensen

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