Friday, 29 September 2017

"Completely mad" - Action on Sugar on Aseem Malhotra

How crazy do you have to be to get kicked out of Action on Sugar? Let's find out.

I'm grateful to Blair Spowart for sharing some e-mails between Action on Sugar and Public Health England which he received under the Freedom of Information Act. If you recall how closely PHE works with the UK Temperance Alliance (AKA Institute of Alcohol Studies) you won't be surprised to hear that PHE and Action on Sugar have a cosy relationship and exchange many e-mails. PHE appear to be using them as outriders for their sugar reformulation programme and, for reasons that have never been adequately explained, Action on Sugar - a pressure group - are invited to the meetings between PHE and the food industry.

But the most amusing correspondence involves someone whose name has been redacted but is quite clearly Aseem Malhotra.

When AoS was launched in January 2014, Malhotra was the group's scientific director and he was the smug little face of the organisation. But his relationship with the group gradually faded and he has been written out of AoS's history.

As others have noted, Action on Sugar's claims were hysterical nonsense from the outset. It takes a special kind of pseudo-scientific bullshit to get excluded from such company but Malhotra managed it by going off the deep end. Despite being a cardiologist, he recommends that people eat lots of saturated fat and avoid statins. He also reckons that exercising doesn't help people lose weight.

AoS have never spoken publicly about their divorce from Malhotra, but the FOI e-mails reveal what they think of him. In March last year someone from Action on Sugar wrote to PHE's Alison Tedstone to reassure her that Malhotra had nothing to do with the group...

It's not clear what the trigger for these e-mails was. At the time, Malhotra was all over the media claiming that 'type 2 diabetes is a condition of carbohydrate intolerance' and getting in trouble for a flawed (and retracted) journal article about statins. But he was in the media for all sorts of reasons, none of which were scientifically robust, so it could have been anything.

Things got worse in May 2016 when Malhotra and his new low carb chums released a ridiculous report with the National Obesity Forum telling the public: ‘Eat fat to get slim, don’t fear fat, fat is your friend'. It was near-fatal for the National Obesity Forum's credibility. Various board members walked out and the organisation released a statement saying:

The rest of the Board of the NOF wish to make it completely and transparently clear that they were not given the opportunity to see the document, or give any input into it and some members opinions differ from those specifically presented in the document.

On May 23rd, with PHE openly describing Malhotra's advice as 'irresponsible', Action on Sugar contacted the agency again to confirm that they had nothing to do with him. They not only said that Malhotra's report was 'ridiculous' but also noted that he was 'completely mad' on the issue of statins. He or she expressed relief that Malhotra had 'at least given up saying that he is a Founder Member of Action on Sugar, which was completely untrue'.

In fact, Malhotra still describes himself as 'Founding member and advisor to campaign group Action on Sugar' on his hilarious website and it seems to me that Malhotra has a decent claim for saying he was a founding member. He was certainly a member when it was founded - indeed, he was its scientific director - but it is understandable that MacGregor and his AoS colleagues want to distance themselves from him. With his thirst for fame, he has gone too far even for his fellow zealots. It seems that Action on Sugar now agree with what I said about Malhotra way back in April 2012 when I first became aware of him and wrote a piece entitled 'Aseem Malhotra doesn't know what he's talking about'.

Four years later, on the very same day that AoS e-mailed PHE to call Malhotra 'mad', I asked on this blog 'Is this the end for Aseem Malhotra?' and predicted...

Within a year or two Malhotra will be earning his living selling diet books and delivering cherry-picked presentations to credulous low carb cultists on cruise ships. Mark my words. 

His diet book came out a few weeks ago. I'm not aware that he has done any work on a cruise ship yet, but he is on the low carb conference circuit so it can only be a matter of time.

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