Ian Macdonald

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Ian Macdonald is Professor of Metabolic Physiology at the University of Nottingham and head of the newly formed School of Life Sciences in the faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences.


Macdonald is a registered nutritionist who has previously worked as an adviser to large food corporations Coca-Cola and Mars.

He is chairman of the carbohydrate working group of the UK government appointed Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition; joint editor of the International Journal of Obesity; a fellow of the Society of Biology; and an honorary fellow of the Association for Nutrition. [1]


Advising against cutting UK sugar intake

In March 2014 the British government said it would not act on the recommendation by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to cut people's sugar intake by half amid increasing concern from scientists that high sugar intake is fuelling obesity and tooth decay. [2]

Macdonald leads the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) which advised the government against adopting the WHO's advice. Five of its eight members, including Macdonald, rejected the WHO advice, leading to accusations by anti-sugar campaigners of having 'worryingly close' ties with the fast food and confectionary industry. [2]

The controversy was further fuelled by conflict of interest accusations over Macdonald's past work for confectionary giants Coca Cola and Mars. Macdonald saw 'no problem' with this issue, particularly as he had stepped down from paid roles with both companies' European advisory boards during the SACN inquiry into carbohydrates for the UK government. [3]

Government officials said the committee was expected to carefully consider the evidence which led WHO to make its recommendations. [2]

Financial ties between nutrition experts and food companies

The results of an investigation by the British Medical Journal (BMJ) in February 2015, showed that research carried out by members of the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) was supported by companies including PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Mars and Nestlé. [4] The findings of the report show that Macdonald received funding from two of these companies.

An SACN spokesperson, however, has said there were 'robust checks and balances' to ensure the impartiality of the committee’s work. [5]



  1. Ian Macdonald www.nutritionsociety.org, accessed 24 February 2015
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Britain 'will not act' on sugar advice The Telegraph, 9 March 2014, accessed 24 February 2015
  3. Sugar intake must come down, says WHO – but UK likely to resist The Guardian, 7 September 2013, accessed 24 February 2015
  4. The BMJ www.bmj.com, accessed 25 February 2015
  5. Kadhim Shubber Public scientists urged to quit over food and drink group links ft.com, 11 February 2015, accessed 25 February 2015