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Eating well.....or not

If you were hoping for some relief from the increasingly adversarial public debate ahead of next month’s EU referendum, you are out of luck - or at least those of us in the food industry can see no respite.

Look no further than a report published earlier this week by some board members of the National Obesity Forum in collaboration with the Public Health Collaboration. The report carried the title “Eat fat, cut the carbs and avoid snacking to reverse obesity and type 2 diabetes”.

In short, the report poured scorn on much of the official ‘healthy eating’ advice of the last thirty years with its major focus on reducing fat intake. This advice was claimed to be a contributory factor behind the rising levels of obesity and type 2 diabetes witnessed over the last decade. Special criticism was reserved for the Eatwell Guide, published in March by Public Health England, which, in the opinion of the report’s authors, continued to overlook the best available scientific evidence.

Among its many recommendations, the report suggested “a higher fat, lower carbohydrate diet is superior to a low-fat diet for weight loss and cardiovascular disease risk reduction” and also advocated a reduction in the consumption of overly processed foods.

Other National Obesity Forum board members were quick to disassociate themselves from the report, claiming they had not had the opportunity to view its contents before publication. The divergence of views among scientists and nutritional experts was widely covered in the media....

There is no doubting that rising levels of obesity and incidence of type 2 diabetes represent a major public health issue in many western societies and it is worrying, to say the least, that there seems to be such a polarity of views among our so called ‘experts’ regarding the solutions to be pursued.

As the EU Referendum debate clearly illustrates, adversarial argument is ‘the order of the day’. The current rules of the media jungle dictate that only extreme views gain airtime. Consensus is boring and is either for the back pages or is just ignored.

The conflicting views about the reasons for the rise in obesity and the proposed solutions at least tell us that health and nutrition is an extremely complex subject.

Given the lack of clarity in the minds of those who should be telling us the right way forward, maybe we should just play safe?

We don’t have to all turn vegan or run a marathon every other weekend to ensure a long and happy life.

If we choose to live relatively modestly, eat a wide range of foods, don’t smoke but enjoy an occasional tipple and build some regular exercise into our daily routines, the chances are we won’t do ourselves too much harm.

Maybe common sense is too bland a message for this adversarial and opinionated age?

25th May 2016