A consumer advisory panel to the scientists who say Americans don't have to worry about eating fats and cholesterol has quit in anger.
The Consumer Liaison Panel to the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences is to inform the academy today that it is severing the relationship.
The cause is the board's May 27 statement that there is no firm proof that cutting down on saturated (mainly meat and dairy) fats and cholesterol will help protect any but the most vulnerable people against heart attacks.
This advice can do so much "potential harm to the American public" that "we feel compelled to resign," the consumer panel has said in a letter members say will be delivered to Dr. Philip Handler, academy president.
The food board's finding has brought criticism from other scientists who say there is ample evidence to make "prudent" persons eat less meat, less fatty dairy products and fewer cholesterol-rich eggs as daily fare.
The Washington Post and other newspapers have also reported that the food board is heavily weighted with food-industry officials and industry-paid scientific consultants.
Consumer interests, and the view that diet is important in preventing heart disease, have been represented recently mainly by the Consumer Liaison Panel, which is headed by James Turner, an attorney and former Ralph Nader associate.
The food board created the consumer panel and a similar industry advisory body in 1974.
Since then, the board "has repeatedly ignored" the consumer advisers, according to the letter to Handler. The letter calls the board a self-perpetuating, "change-resistant" body holding "isolated, outdated" views.
The panel cites 20 "expert" committees and two federal agencies -- the departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services -- as favoring a lower fat, lower cholesterol diet.
The academy may take a closer look at the food board report, some members unofficially say. Members of the academy's Assembly on Life Sciences have been asked to come to a regular meeting Monday to discuss the report.