TOO big, too small – what portion of fat on your plate is just right?

‘Low fat’, ‘lite fat’, ‘low cholesterol’ and ‘proven to lower cholesterol’ are now in the firing line of health experts.

Urging people to follow low fat diets and to lower their cholesterol is having “disastrous health consequences”, a health charity has warned.

In a damning report that accuses major public health bodies of colluding with the food industry, the National Obesity Forum and the Public Health Collaboration have called for a “major overhaul” of current dietary guidelines.

They say the focus on low fat diets is failing to address Britain’s obesity crisis, while snacking between meals is making people fat.

Instead, they call for a return to “whole foods” such as meat, fish and dairy, as well as high fat healthy foods including avocados, arguing that “eating fat does not make you fat”.

Dorset HealthCare professionals have said mixed messages on what to eat can have a catastrophic affect on people’s health, and lead to binge eating and other eating disorders.

Just last month the Dorset Echo reported alarming new figures for obesity problems in the county.

In one year, almost 4,000 people in Dorset were admitted to hospital with obesity.

Shocking figures show that obesity was either the primary or secondary diagnosis for more than 1,500 men and more than 2,400 women in 2014/15.

Ruth Devenish, a dietician for Dorset HealthCare and the Young Persons Eating Disorder Service, said: “Strict guidance on fats and sugars can easily lead to educational messages categorising foods as good or bad and healthy or unhealthy – which can then present food in a negative way, and trigger unhelpful food relationships.”

Ruth said labelling the foods can lead to feelings of guilt around eating.

Ruth said: “All foods in the right amounts can be part of a balanced regular eating plan for health.”

Ros Rea, a clinical nurse specialist for Dorset HealthCare agrees with Ruth. Ros said there is no such thing as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ food.

Ros said: “A healthy diet is one that consists of a whole variety of foods including chocolate and cakes alongside moderate exercising.”

Ruth added: “We all need to include some fats as part of a healthy diet.

“Fats provide our bodies with essential fats needed for most cells in our bodies, including supporting our brain function.

“Fats also provide our bodies with fat soluble vitamins for maintaining health.

“What’s important is that we receive messages to help us choose the right balance of fats from the foods we eat.”

David Patrick, 25, from Weymouth used to weigh 23 stone and was obese. Severely overweight and struggling up a flight of stairs, David decided to do something to fight the fat. He shed seven stone after joining the Portland Slimming World group in 2012.

David said: “After following a healthy eating plan for four years now, I do struggle with the idea that fats can be ‘good’ or ‘bad’ – a balanced diet is exactly that.

“It’s eating healthy but allowing yourself treats – labelling fats and carbohydrates as either good or bad food would suggest that actually healthy eating and their relation to obesity is actually quite simple, which it isn’t; there wouldn’t be an issue if it could be defined so easily!

“It’s about knowing what are the right foods for you to (if needed) lose weight to a healthy range, and then maintain that weight going forward. Carbohydrates and fats are a part of that.”

However David said in order for him to lose weight, the initial changes in his diet were extreme.

David said: “For me it seemed common sense that fresh foods, particularly fruit and vegetables, were obviously going to be better for a nutritional and healthy diet than a takeaway of burgers and chips.

“I know that solely eating fatty foods does not help with your weight management, but that doesn’t say people shouldn’t ever be allowed them ever.

“You can still have the food you want and daily treats – it isn’t about depriving yourself of those foods or cutting them out completely.

“Naturally though, healthier foods that are lower in fat are going to help in staying healthier.”

The new report –- which has caused a huge backlash amongst the scientific community – argues that saturated fat does not cause heart disease while full fat diary – including milk, yoghurt and cheese – can actually protect the heart.

The report also said sugar should be avoided, people should stop counting calories and the idea that exercise can help you “outrun a bad diet” is a myth.

Instead, a diet low in refined carbohydrates but high in healthy fats is “an effective and safe approach for preventing weight gain and aiding weight loss”, and cuts the risk of heart disease.

The report added: “Eating a diet rich in full fat dairy - such as cheese, milk and yoghurt - can actually lower the chance of obesity.

“The most natural and nutritious foods available - meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, nuts, seeds, olive, avocados - all contain saturated fat. The continued demonisation of omnipresent natural fat drives people away from highly nourishing, wholesome and health promoting foods.”

Dr Aseem Malhotra, consultant cardiologist and founding member of the Public Health Collaboration, a group of medics, said dietary guidelines promoting low fat foods “is perhaps the biggest mistake in modern medical history resulting in devastating consequences for public health.

“Eat fat to get slim, don’t fear fat, fat is your friend. It’s now truly time to bring back the fat.”

However, Dr Mike Knapton, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation (BHF), said: “This report is full of ideas and opinion, however it does not offer the robust and comprehensive review of evidence that would be required for the BHF, as the UK’s largest heart research charity, to take it seriously.

“This country’s obesity epidemic is not caused by poor dietary guidelines; it is that we are not meeting them.”

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.

“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.”


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