Two anti-obesity campaigners resigned from the National Obesity Forum (NOF) board after a controversial study was published allegedly without their knowledge and approval. The publication reportedly suggested that following low-fat diets to lower cholesterol is having "disastrous health consequences".
Dr Matt Capehorn, the clinical director at NOF, and Sangeeta Agnihotri, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, have both resigned, which was confirmed by a NOF spokesman, The Guardian reported. The spokesman added that he "expects" at least one more resignation as fallout of the publication.
The resignations reportedly followed publication of a study on 23 May, titled, "Eat fat, cut the carbs and avoid snacking to reverse obesity and type 2 diabetes." The report, which received mixed reviews from the scientific community, reportedly alleged that major public health bodies and the food industry were misleading people fighting obesity by urging them to eat a low-fat diet. In the report, the NOF and the Public Health Collaboration called for a "major overhaul" of current dietary guidelines, arguing that saturated fat does not cause heart disease as is normally believed, instead full-fat dairy products – including milk, yoghurt and cheese – can help in protecting the heart. The publishers claimed that their report "was supported and peer reviewed by an International expert panel."
The spokesman said that the report was published without the knowledge of the two board members and neither of them having seen a draft. "In a democratic organisation, that is not what you do. It has caused a huge amount of problems. They feel they were not consulted or shown any of the drafts of the document."
The NOF is a charity organisation set up in 2000 with the intention of raising awareness among masses about obesity and for promoting lifestyle changes that could help get rid of obesity. In a recent statement, the forum admitted that some board members were not consulted or shown the draft of the report and they may have differing views on the topic. However, the NOF is a forum "that welcomes debate and discussion, even when opinions differ or challenge widely held beliefs," the NOF said in the statement, adding that the views expressed in the publication were of the authors and not of the NOF board members.
"Though individuals' opinions differ within the Forum, as a group however, the NOF supports the principle of discussion and therefore the right of those named authors to produce an opinion paper based on their own views without prejudice or penalty," the statement read. It added that its board members too have the right to put forth their views and discuss them.