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“Eat more fat, cut out carbs, and ignore calories”

NOF-PHC Report

Thus has written Aseem Malhotra, him of the tight curly hair, slim build, brown eyes, sallow complexion, and boyish film star appearance, in a multi-authored joint National Obesity Forum (NOF)/Public Health Collaboration (PHC) report titled Eat Fat, Cut The Carbs and Avoid Snacking To Reverse Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes, published on May 23rd, 2016.  Under the following section headings, the report offers advice on how to lose weight and establish a healthy life style.

  1. Eating fat does not make you fat.
  2. Saturated fat does not cause heart disease. Full dairy fat is likely protective.
  3. Processed foods labelled ‘low fat’, ‘lite’, ‘low cholesterol’ or “proven to lower cholesterol” should be avoided.
  4. Limit starchy and refined carbohydrates to prevent and reverse Type 2 diabetes.
  5. Optimum sugar consumption for health is ZERO.
  6. Industrial vegetable oils should be avoided.
  7. Stop counting calories (calorie focused thinking has damaged public health.)
  8. You cannot outrun a bad diet.
  9. Snacking will make you fat (Grandma was right!).
  10. Evidence based nutrition should be incorporated into education curricula for all healthcare professionals.

Well, there was uproar.  There was scorn, derision, palpitations, apoplexy and recantations.  The advice to eat saturated fats, stop thinking you’ll burn off calories by exercising, and stop counting calories went against most modern theories of weight control and prevention of diseases such as heart and type 2 diabetes.  Arguments for and against the advice have raged and four members of the NOF Board have resigned. Clearly something has been going on behind the scenes in the NOF boardroom.

I can but conjecture what led to the resignations but here’s my best guess.

Scene: Hired meeting room in a hotel in Hackney.  Circular table, comfy chairs and a side table heavily laden with caffeine-loaded coffee, white and brown sugar, full-fat cream coffee whitener, a box of mixed doughnuts, a plate full of bacon sarnies, and another plate with old-fashioned bread and dripping with salt on the side if required.


David Haslam, NOF Chairman and joint lead author of the report

Deborah Cook, NOF Deputy Chairwoman

Jen Nash, NOF Board Member

Matt Capehorn, NOF Board Member

Sangeeta Agnihotri, NOF Board Member

Aseem Malhotra, joint lead author of the report, NOF and PHC Advisory Board Member.

Jason Fung, James Di-Nicolantonio, Caryn Zin, and Peter Brukner: co-authors of the report.

Sam Feltham, PHC Director and Trudi Deakin PHC Advisory Board Member and report co-author

Others who should have been present either sent in their apologies or fled to a safe haven such as North Korea.

Transcript of the meeting

David: Ahem.  Morning all.  Help yourself to the goodies over there, thoughtfully provided by the Let’s Eat Healthy Corporation, a non-profit charitable organisation set up jointly by the NOF and PHC.  The pizzas and double whoppers with cheese are coming in a minute.  All comfy?  Right, let’s get started. I believe we have a problem.

Deborah: Thanks David, and indeed we do have a problem; a problem of such magnitude that we may not survive.

Aseem (stirring two heaped spoons of sugar into his coffee): What’s up?

Deborah: What’s up!  Jeez, have you seen the reactions to this report Aseem? How the hell did it go out without the full approval of the Board?  I never got a chance to review it before its release and there are sections I don’t agree with.

Jen: Nor me and me too.

Matt: Nor me and me too.

Sangeeta: Nor me and me too.

Aseem (looking thoughtfully at his black coffee): Hmm.  I didn’t think the report would stir up such a faeces storm.

Deborah  (pouring coffee into her NOF emblazoned mug): It did Aseem, it did.  Pass the double-cream Jen, there’s a love.  Thanks.  Now, where was I?  Ah yes; was the report peer-reviewed before publication?

Jason, James, Caryn and Peter in chorus: Yes, we all reviewed it very carefully for scientific accuracy based on the results of exemplary experimentation, detailed data collection and analysis, and irrefutable conclusions and it was fine.

Deborah: Wait a minute.  You are all co-authors of the report.  Are you telling me you each peer-reviewed your own report?  You can’t do that.  Peer reviewing is conducted by independent experts who have not been associated with the study or the results presented in the report.

David: Oops.  Bit of a boo-boo, eh?

Matt: ‘Fraid so David old chap.  It looks as if we’ve written and published a half-buttocked report with, possibly, the wrong advice.  Boy oh boy, these bacon butties are tasty.  Any HP sauce on the table?

Sam: Whoa, I’m beginning to think my organisation, PHC, might take some flak for this.  Trudi, you’re on my advisory board; what do you think.

Trudi (speaking through a mouthful of bread and dripping): No comment Sam.  I’m also one of the authors.

Sam: How about you Aseem.  You’re also on my advisory board.

Aseem: Sorry Sam.  I’m one of the lead authors.  Pass me a doughnut please Sangetta.  They look delicious.

Deborah: Bloody hell.  This is all very incestuous.  We’ve got NOF and PHC advisory members who have both written and peer-reviewed—ha ha, that’s a laugh—this report.  Folks, we’re in the proverbial and to be honest I want nothing further to do with the NOF.  I don’t want my name associated with this report and I resign with immediate effect.

Jen: Nor me and me too.

Matt: Nor me and me too.

Sangeeta: Nor me and me too.

And with that, Deborah Cook, Jen Nash, Matt Capehorn, and Sangeeta Agnihotri stood up and walked out of the room, each grabbing a doughnut on the way.

Aseem (looking sheepish): Whoa.  That’s a bit extreme.  Can you pass me that last doughnut, David?  Where do we go from here?

David: Search me.  To hell in a handbasket I reckon.

Aseem (licking sugar from his lips): I know.  I’ll brush my teeth, comb my hair, put on a clean white shirt—no tie mind you— and go on TV and say we are reconsidering our advice in the light of new evidence.  That nice lady on the BBC Breakfast Show will love to have me on the sofa and I’d love to be on it.  I’ll give her a call.

Everyone in chorus: Good luck Aseem.

End of meeting.

Disclaimer: what’s fact and what’s fiction?

Fact.  The people I’ve mentioned are real and are either members of the NOF, authors of the report, peer reviewers of the report, or members of the PHC, or all four of the above!  In the case of Aseem Malhotra, he’s everywhere.

Fiction.  The Hackney meeting and the discussion therein.  These people did not say any of these things—I made it up, honest— but I wonder what they did say.  I bet it was an interesting meeting, with or without all the health-enhancing full-fat and sugary goodies.

PS.  Did you know that Aseem Malhotra is an anagram for A Mortal Shame (almost, there’s a spare E).  I’m just saying.