Tabloids have interpreted new advice that the public could increase calorie intake by 16% as a chance to eat an extra cheeseburger a day

The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) has caused controversy with a draft report which tabloids interpreted as a chance to eat an extra cheeseburger a day.

It comes just weeks after Prof Nutt was sacked from another government advisory committee for publishing research in medical journals stating that alcohol and tobacco are more dangerous than ecstasy.

The SACN has produced the 210 page draft report; it states that there has been an underestimation in the level of physical activity people exert. It’s a pretty simple dilemma.

Eat more calories than your physical activity burns and you put on weight
Eat fewer calories than your physical activity burns and you lose weight.

If people are taking more exercise than initially thought, then they should be able to increase the calories in their diet whilst maintaining a balance.

Adults’ recommended daily calorie intake currently states that women should aim to consume 2000 calories a day and men 2500. The report says you could eat 16% more calories than the current recommended intake.

This sent the tabloids into a frenzy, the Daily Mail went with, “’You can eat an extra cheeseburger a day’ – say diet experts” as the headline for its article.

Technically no diet expert is encouraging people to eat an extra cheeseburger a day. Anybody with even a remote degree of knowledge on nutrition will tell you that calories are not the be all and end all for a healthy diet.

Calories in fact, in the prevention of disease can become an inadequate representation, most importantly because they don’t raise awareness of cholesterol content.

Coronary heart disease is the biggest killer in the UK . Hypercholesterolemia (a high content of cholesterol in the blood) is a major cause. Cheeseburgers are not good for maintaining normal cholesterol levels. Tabloids publishing articles stating you can eat an extra cheeseburger a day is therefore rather stupid.

Obesity is a huge public health issue in this country. This report has been accused of sending the wrong message out to people who are overweight by consumer experts and health campaigners.

Furthermore, this report opens up the debate. Even if there is scientific evidence to prove the truth, do the public need to be shaded from it to prevent the health of the nation deteriorating.

Is a little bit of knowledge a dangerous thing? Most people would say no, the public deserve to hear the truth, but I’ve grown up around people who dictate their lives by articles such as the one in the Daily Mail.

Unlike people with a scientific background the public may lack the ability to collect and analyse data to give a true representation of the evidence available. One report can be hugely misleading without counterbalancing evidence from the other side of the argument.

Image: Suat Eman /