The National Obesity Forum has been faced with backlash and infighting following controversial diet advice released under its name a week ago.
Leading medical professionals have threatened to shun the NOF over claims that advice which told the public to eat more fat, cut out carbohydrates and not count calories is “unsubstantiated” and “extremely dangerous”.
The Observer reports that internal NOF emails show that board members were not given the chance to approve the report before it was made public. Only the writers – Dr David Haslam and Dr Aseem Malhotra – along with the NOF chair and a select few other medical professionals, saw it before publication.
The emails reportedly show claims that Dr Haslam told the board on 12 May that he would seek their advice before publishing the report, but failed to do so.
The NOF reportedly plans to release a statement distancing the board of members form the report and its findings.
Claims made in the report have stirred up controversy among public health and diet experts, who say following the advice could do more harm than good.
Professor John Newman, 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.”
Public Health England emphasised that it recommends meals based on carbohydrates, especially whole grains, eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day and reducing intake of food that is high in saturated fat, salt, sugar and calories.
The British Dietetic association also spoke out against the report, which encourages the increased consumption of fat, including saturated fat - which the BDA said could be “extremely dangerous to patients” and cause “possible adverse side effects”.
The NOF report also claims that a Mediterranean diet low in carbohydrates, high in fat and with minimal snacking is the best way to control type 2 diabetes.
However, a BDA statement says “Cutting out food groups could lead to nutrition problems including nutrient deficiencies and adversely affect their blood sugar control, particularly in individuals taking certain medications or insulin.”
The BDA indicated that the writers of the report did not have sufficient evidence to make the controversial claims, which had the potential to confuse the public and potentially put their health at risk.
“It is unhelpful for the NOF to make such unsubstantiated claims,” the BDA said.
“Whilst the NOF paper claims to be evidence-based, the evidence used is limited and the paper is not peer reviewed.
“It is simply adding to the confusion of the public and could be potentially damaging to public health.”
Dr Haslam has defended his report, and claims that board members did in fact have a chance to discuss the report and knew what direction it was going in before publication.
He also said that he had received an “overwhelming” amount of praise for his report alongside the criticism.
“The messages of congratulations from healthcare professionals have been overwhelming,” he told The Observer. “Clinicians –rather than researchers or academics- who actually deal with patients have been almost 100 per cent supportive”.
Co-writer Dr Malhotra also defended the report saying “Their reaction is just another symptom of complete healthcare system failure, resulting in an epidemic of misinformed doctors and misinformed patients which has, and continues to sadly contribute to considerable ill health in the population.”
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