DECADES of advice to eat carbohydrates is responsible for Britain’s obesity crisis, it was claimed last night.
A trio of leading medics said guidelines that made bread, pasta and potatoes the base of the nation’s diet have had disastrous consequences for millions and created a time bomb for the NHS.
They have called for an urgent review of dietary advice which was drawn up 35 years ago. Cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra, the Queen’s former doctor Sir Richard Thompson and nutritionist Sarah Macklin, said NHS instructions should be ignored in favour of a low-carbohydrate, Mediterranean diet to beat diabetes, obesity and heart disease.
Dr Malhotra said: “If all UK diabetics were to follow guidelines reflecting the independent scientific evidence and ignore current low-fat diet government guidelines, it would reduce dependency on diabetes drugs and insulin by over 50 per cent, saving the NHS hundreds of millions of pounds annually.
“Basing diets on starchy foods is misguided and in my view, has been a direct cause of the obesity crisis.
“For decades, fat has been demonised and led to a huge market in low-fat products, a problem made worse by commercial influence.
“A complete dietary guidelines overhaul would reverse obesity, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease and save billions every year.”
The guidelines, first published in 1983, state men should consume a maximum of 2,500 calories a day and women 2,000. The NHS Eatwell Guide says meals should include potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, with low or reduced-fat cheese and yoghurt and preferably unsaturated oils and spreads.
But experts say the advice has replaced millennia of eating satiating, nutritious full-fat whole foods and turned us into a sugar-obsessed nation reliant on medication. Shocking statistics show processed foods now make up half the average Briton’s diet, with most coming from starchy and sugary sources. More than two-thirds of men and almost six in 10 women are now overweight or obese.
The UK obesity crisis has seen 12 million at increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, meaning 25 per cent of the population has or could develop an illness that can kill.
In contrast, the fabled Mediterranean diet, rich in olive oil, oily fish, nuts and non-starchy vegetables and low in sugar, bread, potatoes and rice, is credited for keeping weight down and protecting against heart disease.
Sir Richard, past president of the Royal College of Physicians, said: “It’s more important to cut down on the calories in carbohydrates rather than the calories in fat, because it has caused a tsunami in diabetes. And we are all obsessed by sugar. We need to address this right now.”
The experts also called for a Europe-wide campaign to slash the amount of medication people are taking and an inquiry into the safety of pills taken by tens of millions.
They say the food and drink industry and global pharmaceutical giants continue to have a “pervasive influence over policy” that sees doctors coerced into prescribing unnecessary and potentially harmful treatments rather than providing patients with basic lifestyle solutions.
More than half of all UK adults take at least one prescription medication, with 50 per cent of those over 70 on at least three. It is estimated that prescribed medication is the third most common cause of death after heart disease and cancer.
Diabetes medication costs the NHS more than £1billion a year and treatment more than £14billion, equal to £25,000 a minute.
Experts told the European Parliament yesterday that evidence-based medicine had been hijacked by conflicts of interest at the highest levels, with unscrupulous lobbying driving up profits at the expense of public health.
Overall, 1.1 billion prescriptions were issued in England last year at a total cost of £9.17billion. The most prescribed drugs were cholesterolbusting atorvastatin and thyroid medicine levothyroxine sodium.
Doctors in England also issued 23.8million opioid drugs, such as tramadol, on which TV star Ant McPartlin, 42, became hooked after a knee operation. The majority were for chronic and prolonged ailments such as back pain.
Opioids, mainly fentanyl, oxycodone, tramadol, morphine sulfate and buprenorphine, cost £263million a year, but there is huge controversy over their “seductive” effect. Ukip MEP and Type 1 diabetic Nathan Gill reduced his insulin requirements by 50 per cent after cutting out sugar and starchy carbohydrates.
“Too much saturated fat increases blood cholesterol, which also increases the risk of heart disease. “We recommend a balanced diet based on starchy high-fibre carbohydrates that are also low in saturated fats.”
Douglas Twenefour of Diabetes UK said: “Nutrition is a complex science which is why nutrition guidelines go through systematic reviews of evidence and consultations to build consensus.”