Debate has sprung from claims that official guidance on saturated fats lacked solid evidence.

Researchers published in the online medical journal Open Heart have knocked the science behind saturated fats being bad for the heart.

The researchers wrote: “It seems incomprehensible that dietary advice was introduced for 220m Americans and 56m UK citizens, given the contrary results from a small number of unhealthy men.”

Despite this, experts have come to the defence of what the original paper concluded.

Public Health England said that while the paper may have been criticised, new evidence exists today which does confirm that eating too much saturated fats can impact on health.

Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, said: “This paper is not critical of current advice on saturated fats, but suggests that the advice was introduced prematurely in the 1980s before there was the extensive evidence base that exists today.

“The advice issued by COMA in 1991 confirmed that eating too much saturated fat can raise cholesterol levels which increase the risk of heart disease.”

The organisation said current recommendations, to keep fat consumption to a maximum of 30% of overall energy intake and saturated fat to just 10%, should be followed to maintain a healthy diet.

The new report was led by University of the West of Scotland researcher Zoë Harcombe. On her website she is quoted linking the increase in consumption of carbohydrates to obesity. She said: “If we have been eating food in the form that nature intended for 24 hours, agriculture (large-scale access to carbohydrates) developed four minutes ago and sugar consumption has increased twenty-fold in the last five seconds. I wonder which food is more likely to be responsible for obesity, diabetes, or indeed any modern disease?”