Thirty years of faulty dietary advice that urges people to adhere to a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet is dangerous for the fight against obesity, a health charity in the United Kingdom warned.

The country is facing an obesity epidemic that poses the same threat as natural disasters or terrorist attacks, England's Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies said in December last year. Efforts to curb obesity are therefore urgent and important.

But a new report by the National Obesity Forum (NOF) and the Public Health Collaboration says the country's focus on low-fat diets fails to address the obesity crisis, arguing that eating fat does not make a person fat.

With that, researchers are calling for a major overhaul of official dietary guidelines, suggesting that the public return to fish, meat and dairy, as well as high-fat food such as avocados.

Proponents Of The Report

The new report argues that the low-fat, low-diet policy in the UK, which has been implemented since the 1980s, was based on "flawed science" and even resulted in increased consumption of carbohydrates and junk food.

Professor David Haslam, chair of the NOF, said guidelines that recommend high-carbohydrate, low-fat diets are considered the universal panacea but are deeply flawed.

Haslam, who is a full-time general practitioner and a physician in obesity medicine, said current efforts to curb obesity have failed.

Evidence suggests that obesity levels in the UK are higher than they have ever been and show no reduction despite the best efforts of scientists and the government, he said.

Consultant cardiologist Dr. Aseem Malhotra said dietary guidelines that promote low-fat food continues to be perpetuated.

"[This] is perhaps the biggest mistake in modern medical history," said Malhotra, adding that it often results in devastating outcomes for public health.

Aside from the argument that eating fat does not make a person fat, the charity presented the following:

1. Counting calories is meaningless as calories from different food have different metabolic effects on the body.
2. Obesity is a hormonal disorder and cannot be fixed solely by exercise.
3. Meta-analysis indicates that saturated fat does not lead to heart disease.
4. Processed food with labels such as "lite," "low-fat," "low-cholesterol," "proven to lower cholesterol" should be avoided, as no single piece of evidence displays that reducing fat lowers risk for cardiovascular problems.
5. Snacking in between meals will make a person fat.
6. Those with Type 2 diabetes should eat a diet rich in fat instead of a diet based on carbohydrates.

The new report has also mentioned that the scientific credibility of studies that promote low-fat diets have been compromised by commercial interests.

Malhotra pointed to a report by the Public Health England (PHE) called Eatwell guide and described it as a "metabolic timebomb" rather than a dietary pattern helpful for good health.

"Don't fear fat," concluded Malhotra. "Fat is your friend."

Opponents Of The Report

The report, however, has provoked a backlash in the scientific community.

Dr. Mike Knapton of the British Heart Foundation said the new report is full of opinion and ideas without presenting a comprehensive review of the evidence.

"This country's obesity epidemic is not caused by poor dietary guidelines," said Knapton. "It is that we are not meeting them."

Professor John Wass of the Royal College of Physicians said what the public needs is a balanced diet, regular physical activity and normal healthy weight. He said referencing to selective studies is equal to misleading the public.

Another expert says the report by NOF is not peer-reviewed and does not indicate who wrote it or who funded it.

In contrast, the report by the PHE reflects evidence-based science that can be trusted, said Professor Simon Capewell.

Chief nutritionist Alison Tedstone of PHE said eating more fat and ignoring calories are "irresponsible."

Tedstone said unlike the report, which was an "opinion piece," their independent experts review all available evidence, run large-scale consultations and go to great lengths to make sure there is no bias.

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