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Healthy eating guidelines shaped by food industry lobby groups, claims nutritionist

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The UK’s new Eatwell Guide, launched last March, was put together by an ‘expert’ group primarily made up of representatives of the food and drink industry, says Dr Zoe Harcombe from the University of West Scotland.

The new guide emphasises the importance of starchy foods – which take up 38 per cent of the healthy plate, five per cent more than was recommended in the 2007 guidelines – and fruit and vegetables fill a further 40 per cent of the plate, while milk and dairy make up eight per cent, almost halving the amount considered healthy before.

In the 2007 guidelines, foods high in fats and sugars had ‘morphed’ into unsaturated fats and oils, says Dr Harcombe, which immediately prompted a nationwide advertising campaign from one of the UK’s major food manufacturers that celebrated their products special “dedicated section” on the food plate.

The guidelines are not supported by any science, but are shaped more by industry influence than evidence. “There has been no randomised controlled trial of a diet based on the Eatwell Plate or guide, let alone one large enough, long enough, with whole populations,” she says.

One example is the emphasis on eating more carbohydrates and fewer fats, a theory that hasn’t been based on any evidence, while the importance of carbs has never been tested. “Not even the hydration message – to drink six to eight glasses of sugar-free fluids every day – holds water,” she punned.

If there has been any test, it has demonstrated that current guidelines are wrong. For years, people have been urged to eat a high-carb and low-fat diet, and yet rates of obesity and diabetes continue to soar, and have done so since the 1980s when the recommendations were first mooted.

Overall, the Eatwell Guide has been a missed opportunity to tell people just to eat real food, she says.

(Source: British Journal of Sports Medicine, 2016; doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2016-096297)

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Article Topics: nutrition
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