Heavyweights weigh in on fat debate
British National Health Service guidelines - which advise cutting down on fatty foods like butter, cream and chocolate - may be putting the public at risk and should be urgently revised, a leading heart scientist has warned.
Dr James DiNicolantonio insists that diets low in saturated fat do not lower cholesterol levels, prevent heart disease or help people live longer. He is so concerned about misinterpretation of "flawed data" that he has called for a new public health campaign to admit that "we got it wrong".
Health experts and nutritionists back his comments, saying that for too long "uncomfortable facts" have been stifled by "dietary dogma".
Saturated fat is traditionally found in butter, cheese, fatty meat, biscuits, cakes and sausages.
But DiNicolantonio claims that sugar and carbohydrates are the real culprits driving high cholesterol and the obesity epidemic.
His claims echo those of South African sports science professor Tim Noakes, who is promoting a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet. Noakes believes fat is not bad for your heart but that sugar causes inflammation, which leads to heart problems.
DiNicolantonio says: "A public health campaign is drastically needed to educate on the harms of a diet high in carbohydrates and sugar.
"There is no conclusive proof that a low-fat diet has a positive effect on health. Indeed the literature indicates a general lack of any effect, good or bad, from a reduction in fat intake.
"A change in recommendations is drastically needed as public health could be at risk," he says.
But Alison Tedstone, director of nutrition and diet at Public Health England, says: "The totality of the evidence suggests that high saturated fat intake is associated with raising total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) blood cholesterol levels which, over time, could lead to an increased risk of developing heart disease.
"It is, therefore, reasonable to conclude that a reduction in saturated fat intake will lower total and LDL blood cholesterol which, in turn, may reduce the risk of developing heart disease."