OFFICIAL healthy eating guidelines promote industry 'wealth' not public 'health' and involved too many people with a commercial interest, an expert has warned.

Dr Zoe Harcombe, from the University of the West of Scotland, says the Eatwell Guide hailed by Food Standards Scotland (FSS) as representing a balanced diet has never been thoroughly researched.

In a hard hitting article in a leading health journal, Dr Harcombe says the group behind the latest guidance consisted "primarily of members of the food and drink industry rather than independent experts.”

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She is calling for the advice - presented as a pi-chart (or plate) showing the quantities of different food groups which should be consumed - to be ripped up and replaced with advice about eating non-processed goods.

However, Public Health England, who commissioned the latest revision of the guidance say the work was carried out by Oxford University using "high-quality nutrition data". The FSS is also standing-by the advice.

Dr Harcombe's article, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, is the latest development in an escalating row about how to eat healthily.

Four members of campaign group the National Obesity Forum recently resigned after the forum published a report suggesting low-fat and lower cholesterol diets were having "disastrous health consequences". The same document also argued cutting carbohydrates was important for weight loss and avoiding type two diabetes.

The Eatwell Guide, which has existed in some form since 1994, shows starchy carbohydrates including bread, pasta and potatoes making-up a large part of a balanced diet. Dr Harcombe, who says she has spent three-and-a-half years investigating the evidence behind the guide, says this is a consequence of organising food intake around cutting fat. The latest revision of the guide, she says, recommends starchy foods make up 38% of what people eat.

"The government does not seem to realise all of these starchy foods are just sugar in a different form," she said.

In the journal article she insists this low fat, high carbohydrate approach has never been properly evaluated.

Dr Harcombe, a researcher with the Institute of Clinical Exercise and Health Science at the University of West of Scotland, said: "The primary issue with the Eatwell Guide, as with its predecessors, is that it is not evidence based. There has been no randomised controlled trial of a diet based on the Eatwell Plate or Guide, let alone one large enough, long enough and with whole population generalisability."

Arguably, she adds, everyone has been involved in testing the diet and rates of obesity and diabetes have risen. She said: "The association between the introduction

of the dietary guidelines, and concomitant increases in obesity and diabetes, deserves examination."

She describes the launch of the latest Eatwell Guide as a "missed opportunity" but continues "when the who’s who of the food industry were represented on the group, Eat Real Food! was

never a likely outcome."

On her website she lists members of a reference group behind the new guidelines. Public Health England say this panel purely gathered views on potential methods to be used when updating the dietary advice. The group involved the British Nutrition Foundation - whose members include British Sugar PLC, Mars UK Ltd, Warburtons and HJ Heinz Ltd. The British Retail Consortium, the Food and Drink Federation and other retail organisations were also on the group.

Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, said: “Official dietary recommendations are based on reviews of all available evidence, including randomised control trials. The Eatwell Guide is a tool, underpinned by this advice, to help people understand what a healthy balanced diet might look like.

“PHE commissioned the University of Oxford, who used the official dietary recommendations and high-quality nutrition data, to develop the Eatwell Guide.

“Prior to this, PHE established a reference group with the limited remit to gather views on potential methods but it had no influence on the final product."

Food Standards Scotland said in a statement: “The new Eatwell Guide, which was produced by Public Health England in association with FSS and other UK governments, encompasses consensus evidence from the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition Report on Carbohydrates and Health, together with existing dietary recommendations. The development of the Eatwell Guide was carried out independently, and objectively, and we fully support the messages contained within it.”