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 Food for Thought: Have We Been Giving the Wrong Dietary Advice?

Zoë Harcombe1, Julien S. Baker1, Bruce Davies2

1Institute of Clinical Exercise and Health Science, Faculty of Science and Technology, University of the West of Scotland, Hamilton, UK; 2University of Glamorgan, Pontypridd, UK.

Email: [email protected]

Received January 16th, 2013; revised February 18th, 2013; accepted February 25th, 2013


Background: Since 1984 UK citizens have been advised to reduce total dietary fat intake to 30% of total energy and saturated fat intake to 10%. The National Institute of Clinical Excellence [NICE] suggests a further benefit for Coronary Heart Disease [CHD] prevention by reducing saturated fat [SFA] intake to 6% - 7% of total energy and that 30,000 lives could be saved by replacing SFAs with Polyunsaturated fats [PUFAs].

Methods: 20 volumes of the Seven Countries Study, the seminal work behind the 1984 nutritional guidelines, were assessed. The evidence upon which the NICE guidance was based was reviewed. Nutritional facts about fat and the UK intake of fat are presented and the impact of macronutrient confusion on public health dietary advice is discussed.

Findings: The Seven Countries study classified processed foods, primarily carbohydrates, as saturated fats. The UK government and NICE do the same, listing biscuits, cakes, pastries and savoury snacks as saturated fats. Processed foods should be the target of public health advice but not natural fats, in which the UK diet is deficient. With reference to the macro and micro nutrient composition of meat, fish, eggs, and dairy foods the article demonstrates that dietary trials cannot change one type of fat for another in a controlled study. Interpretation: The evidence suggests that processed food is strongly associated with the increase in obesity, diabetes, CHD, and other modern illness in our society. The macro and micro nutrients found in meat, fish, eggs and dairy products, are vital for human health and consumption of these nutritious foods should be encouraged.


Keywords: Cardiovascular Disease; Obesity; Fatty Acids; Saturated Fatty Acids; Monounsaturated Fatty Acids; Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids; Dietary Fats; Dietary Carbohydrates; Epidemiology