Trustees that quit anti-obesity charity in row over 'eat more fat' advice could return

Four of the seven trustees of the National Obesity Forum stood down last week after the charity released a controversial report without prior consultation

A anti-obesity charity that lost more than half of its board in a row over a report urging people to eat more fat has opened negotiations for them to return after the chair apologised.

Four of the seven trustees of the National Obesity Forum quit last week after the charity released a report co-authored by its chair Professor David Haslam, in conjunction with the charity Public Health Collaboration, which recommended people eat more fat and fewer low-fat diet products in order to lose weight.

The report, entitled Eat fat, cut the carbs and avoid snacking to reverse obesity and type 2 Diabetes, was not published on the NOF’s website, but bears the charity’s logo prominently on the title page.

The four board members who resigned complained they should have been consulted about the report and its advice before it was released, and a fifth trustee was reportedly considering following suit.

But a spokesman for the charity, which had an income of £1,814 and spent £819 in the year to October 31 2014, said today that discussions had begun with at least three trustees to encourage them to return, while one was on holiday, making her difficult to contact.

"There are now negotiations in place for the four trustees to rejoin," he said.

He said the charity felt their departure had been a "knee jerk" reaction to the report and the controversy surrounding it.

"Although we recognise the way the document was put out was mistake and the chair has apologised for that, one bad mistake should not jeopardise the forum as a whole," he said. 

The Charity Commission had been made aware of the situation, the spokesman said. 

The tone of the discussions with the former trustees had been very positive, he said.

A summary of the report now appears on the charity’s website, along with a statement explaining that it is not endorsed by all board members.

"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," it says.

The statement said the NOF and the board welcomed debate and discussion, even of opinions which challenge widely held beliefs.

"This paper has some interesting arguments for future discussion, some of which are the opinions of the authors, and not all of the board members," the statement said.

The summary also includes examples of reactions to the report – among them, Mike Lean, chair of human nutrition at the University of Glasgow, is quoted as saying the report’s authors had "blown it" in giving out such advice, but Professor Ian Banks, president of the European Men’s Health forum, is quoted as describing it as a "superb report".

A spokesman for the Charity Commission said: "The Charity Commission is currently engaging with the charity to seek further information following media reporting regarding the governance of the charity and the publication of the report.

"The commission will await a response from the charity before deciding what, if any, further action is required."

Third Sector was unable to contact any of the trustees who have resigned for comment.

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