Beware the views of Britain’s ‘food Taliban’

By Rick Pendrous

- Last updated on GMT

Beware the food 'Taliban': Rick Pendrous, editor, Food Manufacture
Beware the food 'Taliban': Rick Pendrous, editor, Food Manufacture

Related tags Nutrition

Nutrition is not a precise science. Most studies on the effects of human dietary intake have to take account of potentially confounding factors, since it is rarely possible to control what people eat in extended studies as it might with lab rats.

So it is not surprising that views often differ about the mechanisms behind particular observations. After all, it is in the nature of science that theories evolve as new evidence emerges.

However, following the publication of the Scientific Advisory Report on Nutrition (SACN), several world leading experts on nutritional metabolism have expressed concern about the air time given to some other sections of the medical and scientific community.

They are worried about the high profile given to individuals who have interpreted the SACN findings to support their own strident views about the dangers of free sugars in food, often based on flawed research conclusions and thin evidence.

‘Food Taliban’

The ideas proposed by some of these “zealots” ​or “food Taliban”​, as they have been described to me, have been called “absolute nonsense”.​ The trouble is, the true experts in the field despair of trying to counter the daily barrage of misinformation that is reported in the popular media.

The simple truth is we are still eating and drinking too much and need to reduce our calorie intake and take more exercise to stem rising obesity levels.

Manufacturers can do more by reformulating foods to make them healthier. But that was never going to be the whole solution. If consumers are to be given the help they need to make the right food choices, as the Department of Health believes, then consistent, clear and accurate messages are critical.

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