Thursday, 18 July 2013

Obesity - the 'official line' is fundamentally flawed


I was on the telly talking about Bradford Council and West Yorkshire Trading Standards spending £200,000 on a campaign to persuade fast food restaurants to offer smaller portions and low fat options. My point was that this is the wrong target - it isn't the fast food that's making us fat.

A day later I received an email from Verner Wheelock - that's Professor Vermer Wheelock who used to run the Food Policy Research Unit at Bradford University. Here's what he said:

I have just been watching the item on the initiative by Bradford Met about obesity. Unfortunately this appears to be following the official line which is fundamentally flawed.

And how is it flawed? Several things including:

...the dangers associated with obesity/overweight have been grossly exaggerated. The real problem is not excess weight per se but lack of fitness which affects everyone irrespective of weight

...saturated fats are important nutrients and that the campaign to reduce them is actually damaging to health. In fact there has been a very substantial reduction in the amount of saturated fat consumed over exactly the same period that the so-called “obesity crisis” has been developing.

Verner goes on to say that fat and salt are the wrong target. Instead we should reduce carbohydrate consumption and exercise more (he suggests walking for an hour a day). If you want a little more detail Verner's blog is a very interesting source.  Here's a sample:

With respect to implementation, the emphasis has been on the advice to reduce the total fat and especially the saturated fat (SFA). Here in the UK between 1969 and 2000 the National Food Survey (NFS) shows that total fat consumption had fallen from 120 to 74 g/day. Over the same period the consumption of saturated fat (SFA) decreased from 56.7 to 29.2 g/day. (The NFS was discontinued in 2000). My own interest in exploring the scientific basis of these dietary guidelines has been stimulated by the fact the expected benefits in public health have certainly not materialised. While it is true that life expectancy has been extended, there is no convincing evidence that health generally has improved. We have the “obesity crisis” which has probably been over-hyped (See Blog 10) as far as most people are concerned


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