Dr John Briffa blows apart the low-calorie, high-carb thinking on nutrition, says Joanna Blythman

I'm glad that the European Parliament knocked traffic-light labelling on the head. This kindergarten scheme was simplistic and misleading.

My main objection was its demonisation of time-honoured foods that contain fat and cholesterol, like butter, milk and red meat. Any scheme that fails to distinguish between natural, whole foods and processed foods is useless.

The fact that the traffic-light scheme was silent on critical matters like additives and pesticide residues just underlined its inadequacies.

This gut reaction has been reinforced by reading Dr John Briffa's new book, Waist Disposal, which should be compulsory reading for public health advisers, food campaigners and anyone with too much fat round their middle.

Briffa is Britain's most thoughtful, informed and independent commentator on nutrition. Like all sane medics who aren't in the pocket of Big Sugar, he agrees that sugary foods and drinks are unhealthy and fattening, but thereafter he blows apart the current 'healthy eating' gospel.

While the mantra has been to cut out fat and fill our plates with starchy carbohydrate foods, Briffa argues that because they encourage the body to secrete insulin, the chief fat storage hormone, carbohydrates are the prime cause of weight gain. Natural fat (saturated or otherwise), on the other hand, is not fattening and has health benefits. His advice is to eat fat freely as long as it isn't the artery-clogging hydrogenated fat widely used in processed food.

Briffa picks apart the number-crunching calorie theory that has dominated nutrition thinking since the 1930s, pointing out how it leads to unrealistic diets that condemn people to hunger and disappointment. Instead we should be looking at which macronutrients satisfy appetite best, he says, and here the answer is protein, followed by fat.

Briffa advocates an eating approach that mirrors our ancient, evolutionary diet, which means not eating processed food, and basing your diet on protein, fat and limitless vegetables. (Vegetables are carbohydrates but they mainly don't disrupt insulin as cereal-derived carbohydrates do. Plus, they contain lots of beneficial micronutrients.)

I look on the study of nutrition as a work in progress. We should always examine critically any nutrition orthodoxy. But when the right answer emerges, I think it will look a lot more like Briffa-style thinking than calories and traffic lights.

Joanna Blythman is a food journalist and author of Bad Food Britain.