The science of spaghetti

A PASTA industry more than 15,000km from Italy is thriving thanks to a unique collaboration between farmers, durum wheat researchers and a major food manufacturer.

Almost no durum wheat was grown in southern Australia until the 1990s when Adelaide-based San Remo Macaroni Company and a handful of growers approached the University of Adelaide about developing varieties that could handle the often-harsh conditions in South Australia.

Two decades and several new varieties later and the southern region of Australia is producing durum wheat and pasta of such high quality it is being snapped up around the globe.

San Remo has been manufacturing pasta in the South Australian capital since 1936 but relied on durum wheat grown in northern New South Wales, about 1500km from Adelaide, for many years.

Durum wheat breeder Jason Able from the University’s School of Agriculture, Food & Wine said the unique “closed triangle” relationship between researchers, growers and San Remo had allowed the southern region to rival the much older northern Australian region in production and quality.

He said the relationship also allowed San Remo to operate more efficiently, manufacture a 100 per cent durum wheat product and build an association in conjunction with growers.

“We’re very fortunate that through the grower association and the end user San Remo we’ve got a very unique relationship here where the breeding program works closely with the growers and San Remo,” Associate Professor Able said.

“We’ve got the basic fundamental science where it starts, which then feeds into the breeding program, followed by the growers, buyers and end users – the whole supply chain.”

South Australia is the driest state on the driest continent on earth.

The durum breeding program was started at the University of Adelaide by Professor Tony Rathjen who used traditional non-GMO breeding methods to cross breed germplasm from arid regions such as the Middle East and Turkey. The program now uses markers to identify genetic signatures in particular germplasm for traits such as salinity and boron tolerance.

It takes 8-12 years, many trial sites and quality evaluation to develop a new variety through to commercial release.

“In those early days it was tough and Tony did a lot from a breeding point of view to develop suitable germplasm for our conditions and I guess we’ve been able to take it another step with some of the technologies we’ve been able to incorporate from a molecular level,” Assoc Prof Able said.

San Remo’s specifically designed durum wheat mill in Adelaide is one of the largest and most sophisticated in Southeast Asia and Australia and is used to test the manufacturing value of new varieties.

“Before we even release a variety we generate enough grain – 30-50 tonnes – so San Remo can make product and give it their tick of approval,” Assoc Prof Able said.

“We can then move forward with confidence knowing that we are delivering something that the growers are going to want because San Remo wants it.

“Why is it that Italians would want to buy San Remo pasta when they know it is an Australian company? Because they know it’s top shelf durum that’s being used.”

Australia has a huge grain industry dominated by the production of bread wheat and barley. But flat world prices have many farmers looking to plant alternative grain varieties such as durum, which still accounts for less than 5 per cent of Australia’s wheat production.

Bread wheat is currently selling at about AU$230 a metric tonne while durum is fetching AU$330 a tonne.

The durum breeding program at the University of Adelaide has ongoing support from many industry stakeholders with major supporters including the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), South Australian Grain Industry Trust (SAGIT), San Remo, Southern Australia Durum Growers Association (SADGA) and the NSW Department for Primary Industries.

The university has released four new varieties since 2010, including DBA-Aurora in 2014, which has been hailed as a “turning point”.

The new Aurora variety has led to increased yields in more marginal areas and greater resilience to disease.

Assoc Prof Able said the gains from Aurora had made durum even more attractive to farmers.

But he said significant breeding programs for bread wheat and barley in Australia meant it was a constant challenge to develop varieties which will be competitive in the market place.

The next durum variety will more than likely be released by the university in September 2018 with a further variety due for launch in 2020 or 2021.

“I think we laid the golden egg a couple of years ago with the Aurora variety, which is doing very well, but we can’t rest on our laurels,” Assoc Prof Able said.

“We need another variety that matches it or is better because if we rely solely on one or two varieties it is a disaster waiting to happen.”

The rise of the southern region, which includes South Australia, western Victoria and southern New South Wales, has helped San Remo become Australia’s largest pasta manufacturer producing some 750 products and exporting to more than 30 countries, including Italy.

Durum has been grown in New South Wales since the 1950s in areas that have higher rainfall and more nutrient rich soils than southern Australia.

Global durum production is typically between 30 and 40 million metric tonnes a year.

Australia exports a little over half of the 500,000 – 600,000MT of durum wheat it grows a year. But it is the high quality of the clean, green grain, including protein levels consistently greater than 12 per cent that has Australian durum in demand globally.

The Australian industry was hit hard by a crippling drought and issues with crown rot disease in the 2000s but more favourable conditions and the release of new varieties has seen the quality and quantity of durum produced in recent years increase.

San Remo Milling Manager John Stuart said the company soon recognised that a “cut and paste” of the NSW durum industry was simply not going to have long-term success in South Australia.

img - San Remo

“What was required was a strong collaboration with the SA breeding industry to ensure that growers had access to world class genetic material that met our local needs, as well as developing effective partnerships with growers who were prepared to grow with us as the industry progressively developed,” he said.

Stuart said niche crops in Australia such as durum needed support to maintain their appeal not only against more mainstream cereal crops but against the large durum producers such as North America and Europe.

“To ensure that Australian origin durum can be manufactured into pasta and be competitive globally, our breeders need to be supported,” he said.

“San Remo is happy to play a part in that support and does so not simply by financial contributions, but also in practical ways with in-kind services such as test milling.”

San Remo enters into land-based contracts with growers in southern Australia, locking in prices and quantities before harvest.

While this means the company consumes much of the southern crop each year, the surplus left over for export markets is not known until after harvest.

Grain marketing company Mellco works closely with domestic and international durum wheat processors.

Managing Director Steve Mellington said while the quality of durum from southern Australia was not in question the lack of continuity of international supply was a potential issue.

“The premium end of the market actively seeks out Australian origin durum,” he said.

“The international market is happy to embrace our product but they need to get that continuity to buy with confidence.”

Mellington said increasing production through a continued co-ordinated approach was the best way to shore up export volumes.

SADGA Chairman Alwyn Dyer first planted durum in the Kaniva district near the South Australian/Victorian border in 1994 and has had a contract with San Remo since 1995.

He said the development of better varieties had coincided with improved farming techniques as growers gained experience with durum in new environments.

“The relationship between the association and the university has been able to fast track the release of newer varieties that perform better in hostile environments and tough seasons,” Dyer said.

“Especially Aurora, it is a bit more tolerant and farmers have learnt to manage their durum crops better.

“If San Remo hadn’t of put the money in early on to support the industry and help get it off the ground along with the university, the industry would not have developed the way it has.”

Dyer said there was an increasing amount of uncontracted durum in southern Australia this season meaning there would likely be greater volumes available for export following the November harvest.

He said while many growers liked the security of fixed-price contracts, the larger and more stable supply for export markets would lead to greater competition among buyers.

Beneo Foods looks to satisfy a sweet tooth – the healthy way

Food is often a highlight in our social activities. It helps to bring families and friends together, business meetings are conducted over lunch and dinners, and we have get-togethers and parties that are filled with food and drinks. Desserts, especially, hold a special place in our hearts – and on the dining tables – of Asian households. There is no denying that desserts give a befitting end to any meal. They have become an integral part of the region, be it cuisine-wise, or culturally as well as socially.

Rich desserts fit the mood of indulgence. Unfortunately, rich Asian-style desserts are commonly high in high glycaemic sugars. Also, they are often made available at joyous events and celebratory occasions when consumers tend to let their guard down and over eat.

In recent years, consumers globally have been linking sugar with health concerns like diabetes, obesity and tooth decay. Consumers are getting mindful of how much sugar they consume as they grow increasingly concerned over the harmful effects that too much sugar can have on their health. For instance, a recent survey conducted by research company Ipsos revealed that consumers in Indonesia are wary of sugar. More than two out of three consumers (69 per cent) in the country said they try to avoid sugar. Interestingly, Indonesia’s consumers still rely on sugary food and drinks for ‘taste’ (53 per cent) and more than half of them (53 per cent) also agree there are some sugars that are healthier than others.

So how then can consumers enjoy and indulge in sweet treats without feeling guilty?

Healthy food that tastes good

Consumers today have more choices than ever before when it comes to healthy and nutritious food options. Many manufacturers are already incorporating healthier ingredients into their recipes to replace sugar partly or fully. Specifically, chicory root fibres inulin and oligofructose, as well as functional carbohydrates from sugar beet such as the sugar replacer Isomalt and the alternative sugar Palatinose have been proven to be successful for replacing high glycaemic sugars in foods like confectioneries, dairy dessert and baked goods. At the same time, these derived-from-nature ingredients maintain the widely-loved tastes and textures of sweet treats.

Recent trials at the Beneo Technology Centre found that by including isomalt and inulin, the sugar content of a milk chocolate can be reduced by more than 2/3 while conveying the same sweet and indulgent taste as the full-sugar equivalent. There was also no difference in the manufacturing process, in areas like refining, conching and tempering, to create this healthier chocolate variant. Additionally, a recipe for chocolate chip cookie with 30 per cent less sugar was developed using chicory root fibre. The results showed that sweetness, taste and crunchiness were the same as the full sugar variant, yet the cookies were higher in fibre and can carry clean labels.

Christian Philippsen, Managing Director at BENEO Asia Pacific

Additionally, Beneo’s alternative sugar Palatinose helps to lower the blood glucose response of sweet treats. Using Palatinose, the team at the Beneo-Technology Centre developed a low glycaemic chocolate mousse that conveys the same creamy indulgence as traditional with a mild sugar-like sweet taste. This is recommendable as a low glycaemic diet allows us to better manage blood sugar levels, lowers the risks of developing diabetes and supports weight management effectively.

Celebrating healthy choices

The market for “functional foods” in Asia was estimated to be worth AU$93.5 billion in 2014, and is expected to continue growing at 5.9 per cent over the next 10 years.

This is not surprising as consumers today prefer food that supports a healthy lifestyle while satisfying sweet cravings. They are go for a diet that aligns with their fitness goals, that does not derail their weight management programs, and that can help them keep their metabolism in balance. Consumers are more informed than ever, and are wary of mere marketing claims. Instead, they are choosing to look at ingredient labels on food products and doing their own research on health products online. These days, consumers also want to know the specifics on food ingredients and their natural origin.

Ingredients such as Beneo’s range of chicory root fibres and functional carbohydrates allow manufacturers to offer healthier options of traditional food products. They make ideal ingredients for baked goods, confectioneries and many popular desserts. Consumers can now enjoy these sweet favourites without feeling guilty.

[Christian Philippsen (pictured) is Managing Director of BENEO Asia Pacific]


The power of efficient food processing

In light of Australia’s bid to reduce its carbon emissions by 2030, Steven Impey takes a look at how the food-processing sector is reacting to changing views on energy cost.

Energy consumption within the food sector is increasingly becoming a matter for concern – from the farmland where food is grown, right up to the processing methods that put packaged meals on supermarket floors.

Amid a growing energy crisis across Australia and the country’s bid to improve its carbon footprint, industry leaders are saying that now, more than ever, it is vital to react quickly.

To stave off climate change, the federal government is aiming to reduce its emissions by 26-28 per cent from its 2005 levels by the year 2030.

At the same time, power generated from the grid in mainland states is expected to rise to somewhere between 75 and 220 per cent in the next 20 years.

The question is: how are food-processing plants, and especially those that are reliant on a constant flow of energy, going to cope?

Spotting diminishing returns

Wiley, who design, build and maintain facilities, seek the latest approaches and technology to ensure they offer the best efficiency solutions.

Brett Wiskar, the company’s R&D and innovation director, believes that finding the link between the cost of energy and profitability is a pressing issue for many food processors.

“The real trick in reducing the impact and cost of energy is spotting the point of diminishing returns,” Wiskar said. “The opportunity to find power savings and wasteful systems in a manufacturing business is available to every operator in the food industry.

“To remain competitive both domestically and internationally,
our food sector has to find both the means to control energy costs and the means to lower their consumption as a percentage of output.”

Rather than deciding on a tactical expansion – for example a new product

line or facility expansion – businesses will start to give more consideration to the associated energy cost.

Screen Shot 2017-06-06 at 10.41.23 AM
Red meat consumption is in decline.


In turn, this enables businesses to take earlier steps to being self- sufficient in power generation and makes them better able to make tactical moves in the market.

Pressure is also being placed on companies within the supply chain to reduce greenhouse gases by – in some cases – more than 50 per cent by 2020. Among them, leaders in the meat and agricultural sectors are considering the consequences if the industry doesn’t address its energy use.

Addressing climate issues

Last year, a report by the Australian Meat Processor Corporation (AMPC) looked at the impact increasing average temperatures are having on the condition of cattle in the processing sector.

The report explained that, while maintaining a social licence to operate can be difficult, the red meat industry is seeking to avoid costs by increasing advocacy and research into offsetting carbon emissions of animals and the environmental impact of grazing.

It also raised the issue of increasing acidity in Australian soil, which it claims is affecting an estimated 50 million hectares of agricultural land.

To address climate issues, the AMPC is working with its members to help them better understand and reduce their own energy costs, which may include undertaking regular research into new initiatives and systems.

“Australia is facing a changing natural environment with increasing incidences of extreme weather events and changing weather patterns that directly impact the industry,” an AMPC spokesperson told Food and Beverage Industry News.

“We recognise this and continue to work to raise awareness about Australia’s changing climate and the impact it is having and will have upon our sector.”

AMPC is investing in research that seeks to understand “critical vulnerabilities in the value chain” as well as investigating technology, infrastructure options and mitigation techniques to minimise the industry’s impact on the environment.

Collaborate effort

In an address at the 2XEP Energy Productivity Summit in Sydney in April, the impact the ongoing energy crisis will have on industry was top of the agenda.

“Over the last 10 years, we have seen a decline in red meat consumption,” said Carl Duncan, who is group manager for resource efficiency at beef supplier Teys Australia. “High [energy] costs and competition mean the industry needs help.

“We would be the first to put our hands up and say that, while working collaboratively with government, we all need to help work through the energy crisis we are experiencing at the moment.

“What we would like to see is consistent policies [from the government] because, with large corporate companies and the current energy crisis being so rapid, it can be difficult for them to react.”

Using renewable sources of energy is one area were Teys is managing its consumption. By diverting wastewater, they have managed to offset 20 to 30 per cent of the company’s natural gas needs across their portfolio.

“The fact is: the energy crisis is putting unsustainable pressure on the industry, with energy markets increasing from 60 to 170 per cent in the last year and natural gas is increasing too,” Duncan added.

“Throwing stones isn’t going to solve the problem, so we all need to collaborate together to help solve it.”

In most food businesses, wastewater – whether a bi-product or as a consumable – contains organic matter, which keeps it at an artificially high temperature.

“Both the elevated temperature and the organic mater are potential sources of energy available to a food production business,” Wiskar explained.

“Through the implementation
of bio-energy recovery systems, businesses are able to harvest energy locked in the organic matter suspended in their wastewater.

“Covered anaerobic ponds or closed tanks allow the biological matter to breakdown generating bio-gas, which can be burnt to create energy.

“In addition, waste heat recovery systems can allow hot water and steam to be used as a source of energy through a range of potential conversion systems.”

Expectations are changing

Simplot, based in Victoria, is one of Australia’s leading food manufacturers for some of the world’s well-known packaged and canned food brands.

Speaking at the 2xEP Summit, the company’s manager for national continuous improvement, Carmel Gilles, explained how “integrating lean processes” is helping reduce energy cost.

“At Simplot, we have created a framework for continuous development and sustainability,” Gilles said. “A system where we can audit all of our sites to find where the gaps are and that helps us generate our plans. “

Their customers are also expecting are harder drive on energy and sustainability improvements. To do this, Simplot is engaging all of its employees to help make a difference.

Wiley are working closely with the food industry, empowering more companies to follow the same example.

“Simple wins exist in most food production businesses and are, generally, easily identified by auditing the operation to determine where power is currently being consumed,” Wiskar said.

“However, just because a change in the production process might reduce energy consumption doesn’t mean savings are scalable with continued long-term positive impacts.”

Simple solutions are often powerful and within reach – whether by changing the insulation or the means of exhaust within a production facility.

In addition, business operations often feel stuck with their current level of energy usage due to the “sunk cost” fallacy, where managers are reluctant to replace equipment that may be wasteful.

“This is despite the fact that a newer, more energy-efficient system might pay for itself – and the equipment it replaced – through energy saving alone,” Wiskar added.

“Exploring energy cost reduction through innovation is rarely a waste of time.”

Dysphagia no longer a bitter pill to swallow with 3D printed food

From tiny bird houses to car parts and even miniature models of yourself – 3D printing is fast becoming more accessible and easier to use than ever before. But did you know that you can 3D print food?

CSIRO’s meat research leader, Dr Aarti Tobin, is working on dysphagia that could one day be helped by 3D printed food.

Dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing food or liquids, is prevalent in the elderly. It’s caused by reduced muscle control, stroke, neurological dysfunction and even losing teeth. Dysphagia can lead to malnutrition, dehydration, aspiration pneumonia and sadly, death.

Food for dysphagia in elderly care settings is often minced and/or pureed and served with an ice cream scoop. Texture modified, moulded and restructured foods are also commonly used. These preparation methods make food soft and very easy to eat and swallow for dysphagia sufferers, but the food can lack visual appeal. For others such as people with dementia, it mightn’t look like food as they remember it and they can be less likely to eat it at all.

Aarti says that ‘we eat with our eyes’, so we make the decision whether we’re going to eat something depending on how appetising it looks on our plate.

Growing problem for an ageing population

With an expected 25 per cent of the Australian population over 65 years old by 2045, it will be all the more important to make food look like food and be easy to eat for our vulnerable populations.

Enter 3D printing! 3D printing works by precisely adding layer after layer of a material to create a 3D object from one or more nozzles.

NASA have developed a 3D food printer that can make pizzas for astronauts in space. One nozzle mixes and prints a dough slurry, another a tomato layer and so on. It helps solve the problem of astronauts having to stomach rehydrated space food, often for long periods of time.

3D printing can also make food that looks like real food but is soft and palatable and contains the specific nutrition we require as we get older, such as high protein.

Even better, 3D printing could one day help us to personalise our nutrition. Need more iron this morning after that busy weekend? What if our clever biosensing device could talk to our bench-top 3D printing food generator and create an iron-rich lunch designed especially for us? We’re starting to take sci-fi dreams like this to reality with our future science platforms.

Our $6 million additive manufacturing centre, Lab 22, is making 3D printing of metals more accessible for industry. We’re now taking our knowledge of 3D printing in other materials and applying it to the world of food

A lot of work is still needed on printed foods, such as getting the ‘inks’ right (that is, the food components), making sure they’re safe over time, improving print speeds and more. And of course, the food has to taste great!

Turning environmental problems into profit

CST Wastewater Solutions will showcase successful waste-to-energy technologies that respond to worldwide trends towards renewables at foodPro 2017 in Sydney from July 16-19.

The GWE anaerobic digestion technologies – to be featured on Stand S9 – extract biogas from virtually any biological waste stream, including municipal food wastes from restaurants, food service facilities, grocery stores, and municipal solid waste, as well as organic wastes from industrial processing facilities, food and beverage plants and agribusinesses.

The environmentally advanced technologies transform waste organic materials and wastewaters from an environmental liability into a profit centre, says CST Wastewater Solutions Managing Director, Mike Bambridge.

One of the technologies, GWE’s RAPTOR (which stands for Rapid Transformation of Organic Residues), is a powerful liquid-state anaerobic digestion process that consists of enhanced pre-treatment followed by multi-step biological fermentation.

RAPTOR is ideally suited to both industrial and municipal applications in Australasia, with one of its most recent installations demonstrating its potential for similar applications here, said Bambridge, whose company distributes the Global Water Engineering RAPTOR technology throughout Australia and New Zealand.

GWE anaerobic technology success story

A waste-to-energy project undertaken by the world’s largest integrated pineapple operation, Del Monte Philippines Inc. (DMPI), which has exceeded even the high effluent quality targets originally set for the job.

The Global Water Engineering (GWE) wastewater treatment installation (pictured) at the Cagayan de Oro pineapple canning plant has achieved 93 percent organic pollution (COD) removal in its anaerobic reactors, producing in the process enough green energy (methane rich biogas) to power two 1.4 MW generating electrical power generator units (or gensets).

DMPI – which accounts for about 10 per cent of the world’s annual production of processed pineapple products – will benefit from environmentally clean electricity to replace fossil fuels typically used in electrical power plants.

And the waste heat from the gensets is also put to use to heat up steam boiler feed water, which is a further reduction of fossil fuel use in the factory. Given the high prices of electricity form the Grid and the sometimes erratic supply, the plant will achieve rapid ROI payback, said Bambridge.

“Similar energy supply and price issues exist in Australasia, so the technology is highly relevant here,” he said.

The technology involved in this case study applies not only to pineapple production but also to a wide range of Australian and New Zealand food industries, including livestock and horticultural operations including fruit and vegetables, grain crops and any agribusiness with a biological waste stream.


Automation in the meat sector

While automation of the meat sector has always proved difficult, progress is being made. Matt McDonald caught up with Tony Randall from SMC to hear about the latest steps forward in this area.

It may sound obvious, but no two cows are exactly the same. While they may look roughly alike, they come in a range of sizes, shapes and weights. And because of this, the meat industry has always proven particularly difficult to automate.

But in recent times things have started to change.

“New technologies have come along – the likes of vision cameras where you can actually pick up where the product is before you go in and actually use automation. In the past you didn’t know what position the product was in,” Tony Randall, Head of OEM & Key Accounts at SMC Australia/New Zealand told Food & Beverage Industry News.

Another factor that has traditionally made abattoirs difficult to automate is their strict wash down requirements.

“They can run up to 20 hours a day and the other four hours is spent washing with high pressure steam. Every nook and cranny is washed and unfortunately that’s where
the automation products are,” said Randall.

“They get hosed down, so whatever we put in the business has to be smooth surface stainless steel to avoid bacterial build-up.”

Historically, there was a lot of aluminium and steel used in abattoirs, which raised the issue of corrosion. To deal with this, SMC has developed stainless products that suit such harsh environments.

The CG range of cylinders.


In particular, Randall pointed to the CG range of cylinders. “These are made with 304 stainless steel with a round, clean design. They are very cost-effective and we have large stock holding of the units to support abattoirs in country regions, where stock’s a big issue.”

In addition, he said, the company offers an IP69K solenoid valve bank to drive the CG cylinders. Both products can handle high-pressure, caustic wash-downs without a problem.

“In the past, they used standard aluminium cylinders which suffered a lot of corrosion. So [with these new products] the breakdown periods are much shorter. And in an abattoir when you have a breakdown the line literally stops,” said Randall.

The major benefit of these latest products is that they offer a much longer working life and fewer breakdowns. “Typically in the past, before we had that IP69 valve bank, we’d be interrupted by breakdowns due to standard valves not being able to handle the washdown environmant,” said Randall.

SMC products are used throughout the production processes, from the knocking box, ground and overhead conveyors, right up to the packaging machines where the meat is boxed, lidded and put out for delivery.

The future

Because of the nature of the product and the different bone structure of each animal, there are still limitations to full automation.

“Typically, you’re using manual labour to cut products. To get a robot or electro pneumatic automation to do that is incredibly difficult because first of all you’ve got to see where the product is,” said Randall. “Then you’ve got to get your cutting equipment into position.”

Asked about the future of automation in the meat industry, Randall said there will always be opportunities to automate in the red meat sector and SMC is working closely with a variety of OEM’s by offering newer technologies and specialist equipment to support automation.

He also pointed to Industry 4.0 and wireless technology, which could support lowering of installation costs throughout the production and packaging areas.

“We’re developing a technology where the use of cable will slowly disappear and it will be wireless connectivity to our products,” he said.

In addition, there is also a trend towards using lightweight pneumatic products on electric robots due to the robots carrying capacity. “We’ve developed [cylinders] that are smaller and lighter but can give you the same force,” Randall said.

Image 1
IP69K manifold.



CG5-S stainless steel cylinders:
Made from stainless steel, this range of cylinders can handle the regular, intense cleaning that characterises the meat industry. In addition, they use food-grade grease, which reduces the risk of contamination.

In order to make them smooth and prevent the build-up of foreign matter, the bracket surfaces that are used to mount these cylinders are electro polished.

The series CG5-S stainless-steel cylinder is available in eight bore sizes (20mm-100 mm). Further features include plugs for unused mounting threads (to prevent residue build-up in the threads),

as well as a scraper, which is specifically designed to prevent water from entering the cylinder.

According to the company, this can increase the service life by up to five times, compared to conventional cylinders.

IP69K manifold

Part of the SY 5000 range, the IP69K manifold can handle intense washdown and cleaning. For better control, users can install the manifold outside of a protective box and close to the actuators. On top of that, the device comes in a small package and is lightweight.

The manifolds are available with options of rubber or metal seal valves. Pressures from 100 to 700 kPa are achievable in the rubber seal, with the metal seal operating at up to 1000kPa. The compact unit also comes with an optional power saving coil that draws as little as 100mW.

Viewpoints: is saturated fat really the killer it’s made out to be?

A recent editorial in the British Journal of Sports Medicine dismissed the widely held belief that a diet rich in saturated fats increases our risk of heart disease as “just plain wrong”. The Conversation

The authors concluded we have been concentrating on reducing one type of fat in our diet when instead we should be promoting a Mediterranean diet, exercise and reducing stress to reduce our chances of heart disease.

So, is saturated fat really the killer it’s made out to be. Or, as the editorial suggests, have we really got it all wrong?

The case for saturated fat’s role in heart disease

David Sullivan, Clinical Associate Professor, University of Sydney

According to evidence collected over more than five decades, the level of saturated fat in our diet is one of the most powerful environmental risk factors for the inflammatory process in the artery wall that leads to heart attack and stroke.

Science and medicine have never suggested saturated fat itself, for instance from a diet rich in fatty meat or processed foods, blocks your arteries (vessels that carries blood from the heart to other organs).

What we know is eating too much saturated fat raises levels of blood cholesterol, in particular the type commonly called “bad” cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol or LDL.

LDL and related particles enter the artery wall where they are chemically modified, triggering a vicious cycle of inflammation and cholesterol accumulation. It is this cycle of inflammation and cholesterol accumulation that leads to heart disease and stroke.

That’s why doctors like to keep an eye on your blood cholesterol levels, as part of assessing your risk of heart disease.

But it’s not just LDL particles that contribute to the inflammatory process; other related particles do so too. So doctors look beyond simple measures of LDL cholesterol to measure your risk. It’s better to start with your total level of blood cholesterol, then take away levels of so-called “good” cholesterol – the high-density lipoprotein or HDL cholesterol. This gives you an idea of the level of damaging particles (or non-HDL cholesterol).

If we understand that raised blood cholesterol levels (in particular, raised LDL) increase your risk of heart disease and stroke, then it stands to reason that reducing their levels might decrease your chances.

This is exactly what two recent studies showed. These provided the highest form of evidence in over 40,000 patients; they looked at how two cholesterol-lowering drugs significantly reduced cardiovascular events, like heart attacks and stroke.

Neither drug has anti-inflammatory effects. Instead, their success is attributed to reduced levels of harmful cholesterol-carrying particles, including LDL cholesterol.

In one study, participants swapped butter for polyunsaturated margarine as a way of reducing their saturated fat intake.

So, what role does diet play in all this? Two landmark studies in people who ate Mediterranean-style diets show what happens when you eat less saturated fat. Replacing saturated fat in the diet with foods containing healthier unsaturated fat, like the fats in nuts, extra virgin olive oil, polyunsaturated margarine – but not processed carbohydrates – reduced levels of heart attacks and premature death.

Downplaying the role of dietary saturated fat in heart disease prevents health care workers from managing cardiovascular risk using diet. Any recommendation to not be so focused on saturated fat will therefore increase population levels of blood cholesterol, increasing the need for statins and other cholesterol-lowering drugs.

Some things you should know about statins and heart disease

The implication, that one of the most thoroughly researched areas of medical science – that excess saturated fat puts you at risk of heart disease and stroke – is a hoax, misrepresents the evidence.

The case against labelling saturated fat ‘bad’

Yutang Wang, Senior Lecture at Federation University Australia

Saturated fat (for instance high in fatty meat or full-fat dairy) is thought to clog the arteries and increase the risk of heart disease. But currently available evidence does not support these common beliefs.

First, let’s look at whether saturated fat really clogs the heart’s arteries leading to coronary atherosclerosis (when plaque builds up inside your arteries, in time hardening and narrowing them). In a surprise finding, one study in women who had been through the menopause found a diet richer in saturated fat was linked with less, not more, progression of coronary atherosclerosis.

Second, whether eating saturated fat increases your chances of dying from heart disease. When researchers combined the results from 41 research papers published from 1981 to 2014, eating saturated fat was not linked with dying from heart related diseases, like heart attack, stroke or type 2 diabetes.

Health Check: are saturated fats good or bad?

Many of us think saturated fat is bad for us because it increases levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol or LDL in our blood. But is LDL-cholesterol really that bad?

When researchers studied all the research papers written in English that investigated the effects of LDL-cholesterol on the deaths in people over 60, they had some surprising results. In most of the papers (representing 92% of participants), LDL-cholesterol was linked with a lower death rate, and there was no link in the remaining 8% of participants.

It is not the level of LDL itself that predicts people’s risk of heart disease, but the ratio of total cholesterol and another type of cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, that’s the key.

While LDL is largely responsible for delivering cholesterol to cells around the body, HDL cholesterol transports extra cholesterol back to the liver for recycling. So LDL and HDL work together to ensure cells in our body maintain the right levels of cholesterol.

Eating three eggs a day increased levels of HDL cholesterol in the short term.

A higher ratio of total cholesterol against HDL-cholesterol is commonly associated with higher incidence of heart disease because a higher ratio reflects that more cholesterol will be deposited into the blood vessel and less will be removed from it.

But when we eat saturated fat, both LDL and HDL cholesterol levels increase. So, eating normal amounts of saturated fat will not tip the balance. We need saturated fat in our diet to form the building blocks for the cells in our body and to help our cells communicate with each other.

The long-term effect of eating too much cholesterol on the ratio of total against HDL cholesterol is not clear. A short-term study suggests eating moderately high levels of cholesterol may not be bad. Researchers found that eating three eggs a day (containing 640 mg cholesterol) for 12 weeks did not increase LDL-cholesterol.

Instead it significantly increased HDL-cholesterol by 20% compared to those who ate an egg substitute without cholesterol.

So, we may need to stop thinking about “bad” saturated fat and “bad” cholesterol. Rather, we should enjoy our meals containing moderate amounts of saturated fat and be physically active. That will be more effective in keeping us healthy.

David Sullivan:

The author mentions the study of progression of artery disease in women who have gone through the menopause. This shows women with the highest saturated fat intake had the lowest LDL cholesterol levels (despite taking less lipid-lowering treatment). This might be explained, as some researchers suggest, by genetic factors that allow some people to tolerate saturated fat better, leading to a lower LDL and a reduced risk of heart disease.

And rather than eating moderate amounts of saturated fat, as the author suggests, there is ample evidence for avoiding saturated and trans fats, replacing them with healthier ones and reserving saturated fats as treats.

We also differ in our opinions of the best marker of heart-disease risk that your doctor might consider when analysing blood test results.

Use of the total cholesterol to HDL ratio, as the author proposes, has declined because levels of HDL cholesterol itself may not be a marker of heart disease protection. And raising HDL has not reduced the risk of heart disease. Instead, non-HDL cholesterol has been introduced as a superior measure to LDL, as I have mentioned.

Finally, there’s confusion over how the terms cholesterol and saturated fat are used. Saturated fat is chain-shaped and consumed in much greater amounts than the ring-like cholesterol. And it’s saturated fat in the diet that’s the main determinant of cholesterol levels in the blood.

Yutang Wang:

Despite decades of research on whether eating saturated fat increases our chances of dying from heart disease, the results are not consistent. Some show eating high saturated fat is bad, whereas others do not.

For instance, as recently as 2016, a study showed higher total saturated fat intake was linked to lower levels of heart disease.

Yes, LDL cholesterol can be chemically modified and involved in the inflammation process. However, this does not mean non-modified LDL cholesterol in the blood is bad.

There is no doubt that cholesterol-lowering drugs can lower your risk of a heart attack or stroke. These drugs can decrease LDL-cholesterol. However, the beneficial effect of cholesterol-lowering drugs may be largely because of the favourable change in the balance between total cholesterol and HDL-cholesterol, rather than lowering “harmful” LDL-cholesterol alone.

David Richmond Sullivan, Clinical Associate Professor, University of Sydney and Yutang Wang, Senior Lecturer, Federation University Australia

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Top image:

The protein gap – nutritional science’s biggest error

In the three decades following World War II it became an almost universal belief of nutritional scientists that protein deficiency was the most serious and widespread dietary deficiency in the world. Improving protein nutrition became a high priority for UN agencies, such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation. The Conversation

This problem was perceived to be so serious and widespread that in many developing countries most children were thought to suffer some degree of protein malnutrition – a condition the medical establishment called “kwashiorkor”. (Kwashiorkor is a word from the Ga language of West Africa that means “the disease of the deposed child”.)

For several decades, protein was a major teaching and research focus in human nutrition. This focus on protein and protein deficiency has persisted in many minds, even though official recommended daily allowances (RDA) suggest that deficiency is very unlikely. Some foods, including eggs, milk (especially skimmed milk) mushrooms, lentils and Quorn are still prized and afforded “superfood” status as rich sources of high-quality protein.

As late as 1972, Hugues Gounelle de Pontanel, later the president of the French National Academy of Medicine, made the following claim in his opening address at a scientific conference on the generation of protein from oil in France:

Every doctor, nutritionist or political leader concerned with the problem of world hunger has now concluded that the major problem is one of protein malnutrition.

When estimates of world protein needs were made using official estimates of protein requirements, there appeared to be a huge and rapidly increasing shortfall in supplies that was termed the “protein gap”. The low quality of many vegetable proteins and uneven worldwide distribution of protein amplified the problem. The protein gap seemed unbridgeable unless alternative – and previously untapped – sources of high-quality protein could be found.

Billions of pounds at today’s prices were invested in measures to try and close this protein gap. Some of the efforts included:

• Developing high-protein strains of cereals or adding synthetic amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) to increase the quality of wheat protein.

• Making so-called single-cell protein from micro-organisms (Quorn is one such product produced from a microscopic fungus and now marketed as a meat substitute for vegetarians).

• Mass producing palatable high-protein foods from products such as cotton seeds, sesame seeds, fish meal and soya beans.

The Protein Advisory Group, a UN agency, was established in 1955 to advise on the “safety and suitability” of these new protein-rich foods.

An emperor’s new clothes moment

However, the protein gap was finally exposed as a myth in 1974 when Donald McLaren, of the American University in Beirut, published a paper in The Lancet titled: “The great protein fiasco”. In a 2011 interview, reflecting on his life and career, McLaren described the belief in the protein gap as “one of the greatest errors committed in the name of nutrition science in the past half-century”.

A year after McLaren’s paper appeared in The Lancet, John Waterlow and Philip Payne from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine published an analysis of diets of children in developing countries. Their analysis revealed that protein deficiency was rare, and when it occurred it was caused by a simple lack of food, rather than the low-protein content of food. Even diets based on low-protein staples, such as yams and cassava, contain enough protein for human needs. Waterlow and Payne concluded that neither the protein-gap theory nor the diagnosis of kwashiorkor as a disease caused by protein deficiency remained tenable. It is still unclear why some malnourished children develop kwashiorkor.

Sources of protein.
Africa Studio/Shutterstock

Fake crisis

Three major factors led to the false belief in a world protein crisis: exaggerated official estimates of human protein requirements, especially those of growing children; overemphasis of the importance of the protein quality of individual foods; and the assumption that kwashiorkor was caused by protein deficiency and was the most common worldwide manifestation of malnutrition in children.

In 1943, the US RDA for protein for a two-year-old child was 40g a day. It is now only 18g a day. Using the 1943 RDA, protein deficiency would have seemed almost inevitable for children in many developing countries and a distinct possibility even in developed countries. The adult male RDA has fallen from 65g a day in 1943 to 55.5g a day now.

Back in 1959, Dr Mark Hegsted of the Harvard School of Public Health warned that estimated human protein requirements were excessively reliant on animal studies. Rats double their birth weight in four to six days and baby rats need five times more protein than adults when allowance is made for size differences. Breastfed human babies may take four to six months to double their birth weight, so their extra protein needs for growth are much more modest than those of a baby rat. Rat milk also has seven times as much protein as breastmilk, so animal comparisons tended to exaggerate the extra protein needs of a growing child.

Despite the fact that the protein gap theory has been thoroughly debunked, the focus on protein deficiency still persists in many minds. As recently as 2015, the Times of India ran an article with the headline: “Nine out of ten Indians lack proper protein intake”.

Sometimes bad ideas simply refuse to die.

Geoff Webb, Senior Lecturer, University of East London

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

PE bags giving powder-type food makers a competitive edge

Twelve years ago, packaging with Polyethylene (PE) bags was only possible for coarse particle food products. In 2005, the introduction of new technology gave manufacturers of powder-type foods the opportunity to take advantage of this excellent packaging material.

PE bags are waterproof, UV resistant and clean. As such, companies that use this packaging material using Form, Fill and Seal (FFS) with powder-type food stuffs stand to gain a competitive edge.

Consequently, more manufacturers of products such as proteins, dextrose, flakes, icing sugar, cacao powder, starch and other powdered foods are packing their goods into this material.

Waterproof, UV resistant and clean

Depending on the requirements, the value-adding advantages of PE packaging are immense.

First and foremost, it offers durability, more security during extended storage and greater cleanliness throughout the logistical chain.

PE’s high level of water-tightness and resistance to frost make it possible to store products outdoors year-round, and in all weather conditions. This allows filling plants to produce at constant capacity over the entire year and to secure sales turnover during peak periods.

Manufacturers and end-customers gain more stock space and are better able to utilise storage space. The overall protection and high UV-resistance of PE means quality remains steadily high over long periods so end-customers are able to take on larger quantities without having to sacrifice quality.

Less transport and storage damage also result. Depending on the climate, storage and transportation conditions, up to 10 per cent of products packed in conventional bags might not reach the end-consumer in a proper condition because of bag breakage and humidity.

Powder-type foodstuffs-2

At the point of sale, bag cleanliness and uniform product quality add to increased customer satisfaction and thus lead to stronger sales. Attractive and customised packaging designs can enhance the manufacturer’s brand.

In this respect PE offers a number of possibilities. Plastic bags can be printed over the entire surface and in multiple colours with photo-quality images, product information and barcodes.

And that’s not all that PE bags have to offer. With options of using smooth or rough bags, or those with easy-to-tear PE material, water solubility, carry handles, re-sealable openings or the possibility to mix directly in the bag, there is a PE solution for almost any manufacturer. And when it comes to sustainability, PE bags can be made from renewable, compostable and biodegradable raw material and recyclable PE.

The path to advanced PE packing technology for powder-type products

Advanced PE packing technology offers a high performance system with a universal spectrum of applications and product-specific dosing and compaction systems. Machines are compact in size and require very little film because of the efficient compaction function, saving significant costs on the packaging itself.

The impetus for developing PE packing technology for powder-type products started when a customer of Haver & Boecker, a developer and supplier of innovative processing and packing technologies, expressed the wish to pack powder product into plastic bags.

Finding a solution was no easy task, but using the given requirements the company’s technical experts developed a completely new bag and filling concept in a compact design. Vibrating bottles and vibrating table or bottom vibrators provided the needed compaction.

In 2005 the first ever Haver & Boecker Adams packing machine went into production and quickly established itself on the market. Today over 100 machines are in operation in 18 countries worldwide.

Before companies opt for this technology, they can test their own products on the machine together with their own packaging.

A comprehensive support service, including training, is provided during the installation and start-up phases, and also later for maintenance and repairs.

Adams packing systems are available with the common performance spectrum of up to 2000 bags/hr and for a weight range of 1-10kg, 5-30kg and 15-50kg. With a steplessly selectable bag weight, the filling of pre-made bags from side-gusset tubular film, regular bags or flat film bags is possible.

The new standard

The packing of powder products into PE bags is seeing an even higher degree of acceptance by the market. End-buyers are opting for products filled in PE packaging or even directly requesting it because of their attractive store shelf appearance and other clear advantages like cleanliness and protection from the weather elements. It is becoming the new standard for packing powder-type products.


Alan Arbotante is Haver & Boecker Australia’s Manager – Packing Solutions

Food as medicine: how what you eat shapes the health of your lungs

This article is part of a three-part package “food as medicine”, exploring how food prevents and cures disease. Read other articles in the series here. The Conversation

We all understand that eating too much of the wrong foods – those that are high in energy and low in nutrients, such as fast foods, processed foods and takeaways – causes weight gain and can lead to obesity. These foods are often high in saturated fat, refined carbohydrates (or sugars) and sodium, which increase the risk of developing diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.

But eating poorly has other, somewhat more surprising ramifications. Recently we have come to understand that unhealthy eating patterns can affect our lungs. Switching your diet to one rich in fruit and vegetables could help you breathe easier.

Healthy diets and healthy lungs

Most of the epidemiological evidence linking diet with lung function has focused on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Linked to smoking, COPD causes progressive lung deterioration and asthma.

Several large studies have observed people over time, and found that an unhealthy eating pattern (including refined grains, cured and red meats, desserts and French fries) increases the risk of lung function decline and COPD onset, compared to a healthy eating pattern (including fruit, vegetables, fish and wholegrains).

A recent study followed more than 40,000 men for 13 years, and found a high fruit and vegetable intake was associated with reduced risk of COPD. Current and ex-smokers eating five or more serves a day of fruit and vegetables were 30 to 40% less likely to develop COPD compared to those eating fewer than two serves per day.

A three year study in patients with existing COPD revealed those consuming a high fruit and vegetable diet had an improvement in lung function.

In asthma, there is evidence westernised diets, fast foods and processed foods increase the risk of asthma attacks, lung function decline, wheeze and breathlessness.

We have tested the effect of a high fruit and vegetable diet in asthma sufferers over three months. We found people consuming seven or more servings of fruit and vegetables per day had a reduced risk of asthma attacks, compared to people who consumed a low fruit and vegetable diet (fewer than three servings per day).

Another intervention study in asthma used a diet originally designed to reduce high blood pressure – the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet – for six months. One of the DASH dietary goals was to consume seven to 12 servings of fruit and vegetables, as well as two to four servings of low-fat/fat-free dairy products, and limiting daily fat and sodium intake. This led to improvements in asthma control and quality of life.

How do fruit and vegetables improve lung health?

People with respiratory diseases such as COPD and asthma typically suffer from inflamed airways. The airway tissue becomes swollen and hypersensitive, excess mucus is produced and the breathing tubes become damaged, sometimes irreversibly. The resulting narrowing of the airways makes it difficult for air to pass in and out of the lungs.

Failure to breathe freely can very quickly become life threatening. Restricted airflow can also have a debilitating effect on day-to-day activities, causing symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, breathlessness and chest tightness in people with asthma and COPD.

Fruit and vegetables are a rich source of several nutrients, in particular soluble fibre and antioxidants, that have been shown to reduce inflammation in the airways.

Dietary fibre reduces lung inflammation

Dietary fibre exists in soluble and insoluble forms. Soluble fibre is fermented by gut bacteria to produce short chain fatty acids. These can bind to specific receptors on the surface of immune cells, which suppress airway inflammation. We have shown a single dose of soluble fibre activates these receptors and reduces inflammation in human airways within just four hours.

Short chain fatty acids can also inhibit expression of the genes that cause airway inflammation, through a process known as epigenetic modification. So a high soluble-fibre intake has the potential to protect against airway inflammation through both activation of anti-inflammatory immune receptors, and inhibition of genes controlling inflammation.

Antioxidants are also anti-inflammatory

Antioxidants present in fruit and vegetables – such as vitamin C, carotenoids and flavonoids – are also beneficial, as they can protect against the damaging effects of free radicals, which are highly reactive molecules produced by activated inflammatory cells that can damage asthmatic airways. Many observational studies have linked antioxidants with lung health.

However, data from antioxidant supplementation trials in asthma are not convincing. Few studies show a beneficial effect, likely due to the use of individual nutrients. Multiple antioxidants exist together in fruit and vegetables, which have interdependent roles that are likely to be critical for their protective effects. So dietary modifications using whole fruit and vegetables is a better strategy.

Sometimes we can become overwhelmed by the nutrition messages in the media, which tell us to eat this and not eat that. Sometimes the advice seems contradictory and confusing. So here is a very simple and focused message for people with respiratory disease – eat more fruit and vegetables!

There’s really nothing to lose and everything to gain. As well as helping to maintain or achieve a healthy weight and reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer, you will also be improving your lung health.

Further reading:

Food as medicine: why do we need to eat so many vegetables and what does a serve actually look like?

Food as Medicine: your brain really does want you to eat more veggies

Lisa Wood, Professor, University of Newcastle

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Sustainable shopping: here’s how to find coffee that doesn’t cost the Earth

Shopping can be confusing at the best of times, and trying to find environmentally friendly options makes it even more difficult. Welcome to the first instalment of our Sustainable Shopping series, in which we ask experts to provide easy, eco-friendly guides to purchases big and small. The Conversation

The morning coffee ritual is serious business; Australians drink roughly 16.3 million coffees a day. Plenty of news coverage has been devoted to its health benefits and cultural significance, but how much do you know about the environmental cost of your daily latte?

Coffee is grown in some of the most biologically diverse regions of the world, sometimes causing significant damage. But there are choices you can make to reduce the ecological impact of your caffeine fix.

The issue

Coffee mostly affects tropical forests, as they are cleared to make way for coffee farms. But with certain cultivation practices, these coffee farms can support an impressive range of forest biodiversity.

The world’s most popular coffee type, Coffea arabica, grows under the rainforest canopies of Ethiopia. A natural requirement for shade means coffee is often cultivated under shading plants, from a single tree species to a diverse range of plant life.

However, to improve productivity, traditional coffee farms have been increasingly replaced with sun-tolerant coffee varieties that produce higher yields. Compared with shaded coffee, these simplified plantations support fewer native species, store less carbon, experience higher levels of erosion, and leach more nutrients. They also require more resources such as water and fertilisers.

How can we increase sustainability?

The most important choice when it comes to sustainable coffee is the actual coffee and its cultivation. Cultivation can contribute as little as 1% or as much as 70% of the total environmental footprint of a cup of coffee. How the coffee is consumed (instant, fresh grounds or pods, for instance) has less influence.

The lowest-impact coffee is grown using traditional cultivation methods with minimal mechanisation. At the other extreme are large farms that are highly mechanised and require more fertiliser and pesticides.

A combination of traditional cultivation methods, maintaining shading plants, protecting local forests and buffering waterways (filtering farmland runoff with vegetation before it enters waterways), has the lowest environmental impact.

What can you do?

While searching for your daily dose of caffeine, you have probably come across several different sustainability certification logos. They are the easiest way to find out about how your coffee is cultivated, and have proved effective in protecting coffee landscapes from degradation.

The two most prominent certification programs are The Rainforest Alliance and Australian Certified Organic.

The Rainforest Alliance requires a level of native vegetation to be maintained within each coffee farm. There is some criticism that the alliance has watered down its criteria in recent years, at least in terms of maintaining diverse shading vegetation. However, their certification leads to positive outcomes such as protection of waterways and native vegetation.

Australian Certified Organic certifies coffee roasters such as Coffex, Coffico and Rio Coffee.
Australian Certified Organic

Australian Certified Organic is focused on protecting natural habitats and biodiversity, efficient water use, and minimising the use of chemicals in fertilisers and pest and disease management. These practices are strongly aligned with traditional coffee cultivation.

While certification programs are not perfect, logos can certainly act as a guide to sustainable products.

That said, products without logos aren’t necessarily unsustainable. Some small landholders with highly sustainable, shade-grown coffee can’t afford the expense of certification.

In this situation you can talk to your local roaster (or a distant one via the internet). Roasters may have direct relationships with their coffee growers and can tell you about their cultivation practices. Good questions to ask are whether the cooperative has any certification, whether the cultivation is organic or shade-grown, and whether the cooperative has any associated environmental programs.

Ultimately, a little knowledge of coffee cultivation and its impacts can go a long way in making wise and environmentally sound purchases. There is a huge range of coffee choices available, and good evidence that the choices you make can influence significant and positive environmental outcomes.

Aaron Gove, Adjunct Lecturer, Environment and Agriculture, Curtin University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Food as medicine: your brain really does want you to eat more veggies

This article is part of a three-part package “food as medicine”, exploring how food prevents and cures disease. Read other articles in the series here. The Conversation

As well as our physical health, the quality of our diet matters for our mental and brain health. Observational studies across countries, cultures and age groups show that better-quality diets – those high in vegetables, fruits, other plant foods (such as nuts and legumes), as well as good-quality proteins (such as fish and lean meat) – are consistently associated with reduced depression.

Unhealthy dietary patterns – higher in processed meat, refined grains, sweets and snack foods – are associated with increased depression and often anxiety.

Importantly, these relationships are independent of one another. Lack of nutritious food seems to be a problem even when junk food intake is low, while junk and processed foods seem to be problematic even in those who also eat vegetables, legumes and other nutrient-dense foods. We’ve documented these relationships in adolescents, adults and older adults.

Diet has an impact early in life

The diet-mental health relationship is evident right at the start of life. A study of more than 20,000 mothers and their children showed the children of mothers who ate an unhealthier diet during pregnancy had a higher level of behaviours linked to later mental disorders.

We also saw the children’s diets during the first years of life were associated with these behaviours. This suggests mothers’ diets during pregnancy and early life are both important in influencing the risk for mental health problems in children as they grow.

This is consistent with what we see in animal experiments. Unhealthy diets fed to pregnant animals results in many changes to the brain and behaviour in offspring. This is very important to understand if we want to think about preventing mental disorders in the first place.

Teasing out the cause from the correlation

It’s important to note that, at this stage, most of the existing data in this field come from observational studies, where it is difficult to tease apart cause and effect. Of course, the possibility that mental ill health promoting a change in diet explains the associations, rather than the other way around, is an important one to consider.

What comes first, the junk food or the depression?

Many studies have investigated this and largely ruled it out as the explanation for the associations we see between diet quality and depression. In fact, we published a study suggesting that a past experience of depression was associated with better diets over time.

But the relatively young field of nutritional psychiatry is still lacking data from intervention studies (where study participants are given an intervention that aims to improve their diet in an attempt to affect their mental health). These sorts of studies are important in determining causality and for changing clinical practice.

Our recent trial was the first intervention study to examine the common question of whether diet will improve depression.

We recruited adults with major depressive disorder and randomly assigned them to receive either social support (which is known to be helpful for people with depression), or support from a clinical dietitian, over a three-month period.

The dietary group received information and assistance to improve the quality of their current diets. The focus was on increasing the consumption of vegetables, fruits, wholegrains, legumes, fish, lean red meats, olive oil and nuts, while reducing their consumption of unhealthy “extra” foods, such as sweets, refined cereals, fried food, fast food, processed meats and sugary drinks.

The results of the study showed that participants in the dietary intervention group had a much greater reduction in their depressive symptoms over the three months, compared to those in the social support group.

At the end of the trial, 32% of those in the dietary support group, compared to 8% of those in the social support group, met criteria for remission of major depression.

These results were not explained by changes in physical activity or body weight, but were closely related to the extent of dietary change. Those who adhered more closely to the dietary program experienced the greatest benefit to their depression symptoms.

While this study now needs to be replicated, it provides preliminary evidence that dietary improvement may be a useful strategy for treating depression.

Depression is a whole-body disorder

It’s important to understand researchers now believe depression is not just a brain disorder, but rather a whole-body disorder, with chronic inflammation being an important risk factor. This inflammation is the result of many environmental stressors common in our lives: poor diet, lack of exercise, smoking, overweight and obesity, lack of sleep, lack of vitamin D, as well as stress.

Many of these factors influence gut microbiota (the bacteria and other microorganisms that live in your bowel, also referred to as your “microbiome”), which in turn influence the immune system and – we believe – mood and behaviour.

In fact, gut microbiota affect more than the immune system. New evidence in this field suggests they are important to almost every aspect of health including our metabolism and body weight, and brain function and health. Each of these factors is relevant to depression risk, reinforcing the idea of depression as a whole-body disorder.

What is the human microbiome?

If we do not consume enough nutrient-dense foods such as fruits, vegetables, fish and lean meats, this can lead to insufficiencies in nutrients, antioxidants and fibre. This has a detrimental impact on our immune system, gut microbiota and other aspects of physical and mental health.

Gut microbiota are particularly reliant on an adequate intake of dietary fibre, while the health of the gut may be compromised by added sugars, fats, emulsifiers and artificial sugars found in processed foods.

A diet high in added fats and refined sugars also has a potent negative impact on brain proteins that we know are important in depression: proteins called neurotrophins. These protect the brain against oxidative stress and promote the growth of new brain cells in our hippocampus (a part of the brain critical for learning and memory, and important to mental health). In older adults we have shown that diet quality is related to the size of the hippocampus.

Now we know diet is important to mental and brain health as well as physical health, we need to make healthy eating the easiest, cheapest and most socially acceptable option for people, no matter where they live.

Further reading:

Food as medicine: why do we need to eat so many vegetables and what does a serve actually look like?

Felice Jacka, Principal Research Fellow, Deakin University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Food as medicine: why do we need to eat so many vegetables and what does a serve actually look like?

This is the first article in a three-part package “food as medicine”, exploring how food prevents and cures disease. The Conversation

Most Australian adults would know they’re meant to eat two or more serves of fruit and five or more serves of vegetables every day. Whether or not they get there is another question.

A recent national survey reported 45% of Australian women and 56% of Australian men didn’t eat enough fruit. And 90% of women and 96% of men didn’t eat enough vegetables. This figure is worse than for the preceding ten years.

Men had on average 1.6 serves of fruit and 2.3 serves of vegetables per day, and women had 1.8 serves of fruit and 2.5 serves of vegetables. A serve of fresh fruit is a medium piece (about 150 grams) and a serve of vegetables is half a cup of cooked vegetables or about a cup of salad.
Why do we need so many veggies?

A high intake of fruit and vegetables lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and some cancers. These chronic diseases are unfortunately common – it’s been estimated A$269 million could have been saved in 2008 if everyone in Australia met fruit and vegetable recommendations.

The recommendation to include plenty of vegetables and fruit in our diet is based on a large body of evidence showing the risk of a range of health conditions is reduced as we eat more fruit and vegetables. The specific targets of two serves for fruit and five to six serves for vegetables are largely based on nutrient requirements for healthy people and what diets usually look like for the average Australian.

So to set these guidelines, certain assumptions are made about dietary practices, such as breakfast being based around cereal/grain and dairy foods, and main meals being comprised of meat and vegetables, usually with a side of something starchy like rice, pasta or the humble potato – an Australian staple.

Does this mean it’s the only pattern to meet all the nutrient requirements? No. Could an adult be equally healthy if they ate three serves of fruit and four serves of vegetables? Yes, probably.

Some recent research even suggests our current targets don’t go far enough. It estimates an optimal intake for reducing our risk of heart disease and early death to be around ten serves of fruit and vegetables a day. Whether we are aiming for two and five, or ten serves, is somewhat academic – the clear message is most of us need to increase our fruit and vegetable intake.

Why is two and five such a hard ask?

The populations of most Western countries report eating far less fruit and vegetables than they’re supposed to. So what’s making it so hard for us to get to two and five?

Diets higher in fat, sugar and grains are generally more affordable than the recommended healthy diets high in fruit and veg. In fact, for Australians on low incomes, a healthy food basket for a fortnight would cost 28 to 34% of their income, up to twice the national average for food expenditure.

As a result, people with limited access to food for financial reasons often choose foods with high energy content (because they are filling) over those with high nutritional value but low energy content like fruit and vegetables. These high-energy foods are also easy to over-consume and this may be a contributing factor to weight gain. People who are poorer generally have a diet poorer in quality but not lower in energy content, which contributes to a higher rate of obesity, particularly in women.

Fresh fruit and vegetables cost more to purchase on a dollars per kilojoule basis, and also perish more quickly than processed foods. They take more time and skill to prepare and, after all of that effort, if they don’t get eaten for reasons of personal preference, they go to waste. For many it may not stack up financially to fill the fridge with fruit and vegetables. Under these circumstances, pre-prepared or fast food, which the family is sure to eat without complaint or waste, is all too convenient.

How we can increase veggie intake

The home and school environments are two key influencers of children’s food preferences and intakes. Parents are the “food gatekeepers” and role models particularly for younger children. Where there is parental encouragement, role modelling and family rules, there is an increased fruit and vegetable intake.

Dietary behaviours and food choices often start in childhood and continue through adolescence to adulthood. So encouraging fruit and vegetable intake in schools by mechanisms such as “fruit snack times” may be a good investment.

Policy approaches include subsidies on healthy foods. Other examples include levying a tax on foods of low nutritional value, improved food labelling, and stricter controls on the marketing of unhealthy foods. In Australia debate continues around a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, which could be used to subsidise healthy foods such as fruit and vegetables.

Research has found the more variety in fruit and vegetables available, the more we’ll consume. Those who meet the vegetable recommendation are more likely to report having at least three vegetable varieties at their evening meal. So increasing the number of different vegetables at the main meal is one simple strategy to increase intake.

This could be made a journey of discovery by adding one new vegetable to the household food supply each week. Buying “in season” fruit and vegetables and supplementing fresh varieties with frozen and canned options can bring down the total cost. Then it’s a matter of exploring simple, quick and tasty ways to prepare them so they become preferred foods for the family.

Genevieve James-Martin, Research Dietitian, CSIRO; Gemma Williams, Research Dietitian, CSIRO, and Malcolm Riley, Nutrition Epidemiologist, CSIRO

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Australian lentil crop doubles previous record

Australia is strengthening its position as a major exporter of lentils following a bumper crop.

Latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) show lentil farmers Down Under harvested a record 620,000 MT of mainly red lentils late last year, double the previous record of 310,000 MT set in 2010.

The majority of the crop was grown in South Australia (420,000MT), which increased its yield to 2.95MT per hectare in 2016/17 from 1.58MT per hectare in 2015/16 thanks to excellent winter rainfall.

The record result was also helped by an 11 per cent increase in hectares planted in South Australia and Victoria, the only lentil-producing states, to 253,000 ha.

Australia is now among the biggest producers of the soup-and-curry pulse behind India, the biggest lentil consumer, and Canada. More than 90 per cent of Australia’s lentils are exported to countries including India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Egypt.

Pulse Australia CEO Nick Goddard said high global prices in recent years driven by poor seasons in India and low wheat and barley prices had convinced more Australian farmers to plant lentils.

He said although prices had fallen from the recent spikes of more than AU$1000 a tonne in 2015 they remained above long-term averages.

“They are still an attractive proposition for growers in Australia relative to wheat and barley,” Goddard said.

“Last season was certainly a record in Australia by a long shot … the extra rain had a very positive affect in almost doubling the yield.”

South Australia is well suited for growing larger red lentil varieties that are proving popular in India and Sri Lanka.

“We compete head-on with Canada on the medium size but there’s a large variety called Jumbo we produce that really does have a strong place in the market over there,” Goddard said.

Farmers in Australia are also turning to pulses as a means of improving soils while rotating fields away from traditional cereal plantings.

The United Nations declared 2016 as the International Year of Pulses sparking a campaign to increase domestic consumption, including the launch of Australia’s first lentil beer.

Australian lentils are harvested and processed in November and December, taking advantage of a window between the Canadian (August/September) and Indian (March/April) harvests.

AGT Foods Australia is a leader in value-add processing of pulses.

CEO Peter Wilson said although prices had stabilised to about AU$650 a tonne, they were at a level where they were trading internationally, which was “a good thing”.

“The great thing about red lentils is that they have fairly broad and deep markets around the world,” he said.

“The red lentils are relatively stable at the moment. We’ve got to be striving for really good quality all the time so we encourage farmers to continue to invest in the product to ensure we can position it to the highest paying market.

“I think we’ll continue to see good growth based on profit – farmers are going to plant things that are going to make them money, that’s the bottom line.”

Barley genome sequencing good news for beer, whiskey makers

A group of 77 scientists worldwide has sequenced the complete genome of barley, a key ingredient in beer and single malt Scotch. The research, 10 years in the making, has been published in the journal Nature.

“This takes the level of completeness of the barley genome up a huge notch,” said Timothy Close, a professor of genetics at UC Riverside. “It makes it much easier for researchers working with barley to be focused on attainable objectives, ranging from new variety development through breeding to mechanistic studies of genes.”

The research will also aid scientists working with other “cereal crops,” including rice, wheat, rye, maize, millet, sorghum, oats and even turfgrass, which like the other food crops, is in the grass family, Close said.

Barley has been used for more than 10,000 years as a staple food and for fermented beverages, and as animal feed.

It is found in breakfast cereals and all-purpose flour and helps bread rise. Malted barley gives beer color, body, protein to form a good head, and the natural sugars needed for fermentation. And single malt Scotch is made from only water and malted barley.

The report in Nature provides new insights into gene families that are key to the malting process. The barley genome sequence also enabled the identification of regions of the genome that have been vulnerable to genetic bottlenecking during domestication, knowledge that helps to guide breeders to optimize genetic diversity in their crop improvement efforts.

Ten years ago, the International Barley Genome Sequencing Consortium, which is led by Nils Stein of the Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research in Germany, set out to assemble a complete reference sequence of the barley genome.

This was a daunting task, as the barley genome is almost twice the size of the human genome and 80 percent of it is composed of highly repetitive sequences, which cannot be assigned accurately to specific positions in the genome without considerable extra effort.

Multiple novel strategies were used in this paper to circumvent this fundamental limitation. Major advances in sequencing technology, algorithmic design and computing made it possible. Still, this work kept teams around the world – in Germany, Australia, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and the United State – occupied for a decade. This work provides knowledge of more than 39,000 barley genes.

Alcoholic beverages have been made from malted barley since the Stone Age, and some even consider this to be a major reason why humankind adopted plant cultivation, at least in the Fertile Crescent, where barley was domesticated.

During malting, amylase proteins are produced by germinated seeds to decompose energy-rich starch that is stored in dry grains, yielding simple sugars. These sugars then are available for fermentation by yeast to produce alcohol. The genome sequence revealed much more variability than was expected in the genes that encode the amylase enzymes.

Barley is grown throughout the world, with Russia, Germany, France, Canada, and Spain being among the top producers. In the United States, barley is mainly grown in the northwest. Idaho, Montana, and North Dakota are the leading producers.

The Nature paper is called “A chromosome conformation capture ordered sequence of the barley genome.”

Photo credit: Close Lab, UC Riverside.

Crop probiotics: how more science and less hype can help Australian farmers

Australian farmers are at risk of missing out on a global boom in “crop probiotics”, because lax regulations make it less likely the supplements they buy to boost their crops will actually work. The Conversation

Similar to the probiotics that offer health benefits for humans, certain natural bacteria can make crops healthier, hardier and more productive, by increasing their resilience to pests, pathogens and environmental stresses and improving access to soil nutrients.

But our research has found that the quality of products sold as “biostimulants” in Australia (which includes crop probiotics) varies wildly, with many available that do not deliver the promised benefits.

This potentially deprives our farmers of genuine products developed and tested with scientific principles. It muddies the waters, as companies selling effective products compete with those peddling “snake oil”. It also raises concerns about biosafety: importers can simply tick a few boxes and claim there aren’t pathogens in the bottle, without hard proof.

How do crop probiotics work?

Bacterial biostimulants naturally form a mutually beneficial bond with plants. One of the better known examples involves legumes, like clover and soybeans, which have rhizobia bacteria living in their roots. Rhizobia absorb nitrogen from air and deliver it as a natural fertiliser to their plant host in a symbiotic exchange.

As well as helping the plants thrive, farmers can use legumes to replenish nitrogen in soil, reducing the use of man-made nitrogen fertiliser. This symbiosis has been researched for over a century, and is well understood.

While we know less about other crop-beneficial bacteria, our understanding is growing. Microbes have been found that make crops more resistant to heat, waterlogging, drought and certain diseases.

But although the effects have been studied extensively in laboratories, it’s a big step to translate fundamental science to farm-relevant application.

Many factors, including the particular crop, soil and climate, influence the effectiveness of crop probiotics. The bacteria must survive transport and storage, and have to associate effectively with crops in the presence of many potentially competing microbes.

The communication between beneficial bacteria and crops is finicky as both partners have to produce mutually understandable chemical signals. We listened in on the conversation between beneficial Burkholderia bacteria and sugarcane, confirming that both undergo complex change to accommodate the partnership.

Finding the right microbes and making them work with crops in field settings remains difficult. Each group of useful microbes has many species and subtypes, and only few generally convey benefits, and often only in certain situations. Scientists are working to address these constraints.

Bold claims, inconsistent results

While crop probiotics offer an ecologically friendly option for farmers looking to improve and protect their harvests, the Australian market is far from reliable.

Our research group was asked to evaluate commercial crop probiotics. Over a year of experimentation on a sugarcane farm, we tracked the supposedly beneficial bacteria and fungi of two Australian probiotics products from soil to crop.

DNA analysis didn’t detect changes in root-associated bacteria, but the composition of root-associated fungi changed. Whether these changes are meaningful is unclear, as the manufacturers didn’t specify how the products work and which changes are to be expected. Clearly, studies over multiple years and sites are needed to confirm if and when products are beneficial.

The problem isn’t that biostimulants don’t work in principle. Many laboratory experiments have shown bacteria can help plants grow faster, stronger and bigger. But the real world is messy, with plenty of variables. Manufacturers who aren’t pushed by legislation can take shortcuts, and nebulous marketing is common.

Soybean root nodules, containing billions of nitrogen-fixing rhizobia.
via Wikimedia commons

Our second investigation involved a commercial seedling nursery. The international manufacturer of the probiotic didn’t provide instructions for dosage, leaving us to guess at the correct application rate. In the first round of experimentation, the seedlings died. Feedback from the manufacturer was quick: we had used the wrong dose.

The next round of research used a lower dosage, per the manufacturer’s advice, that did not improve seedling growth. In its absurdity, this example highlights the need for tighter market regulation.

Since the benefits of currently available biostimulants are imprecise, many people are divided on their use. Better regulations would promote certainty, and prevent farmers wasting money on unreliable products.

The future of crop probiotics

Currently Australian regulations emphasise flexibility, offering multiple options for manufacturers to prove their crop probiotics work. But this leaves the door open for ineffective products.

Crop probiotics are currently regulated under the umbrella of pesticides (although they’re often marketed as providing other benefits). The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority guidelines say “up to 10 field trials may be required depending on the crop’s economic importance”, making it difficult to tell how many trials are expected. One industry partner we spoke to said that, while he has chosen to do field trials, he didn’t have to supply that data to the APVMA to get his product registered.

Companies have to prove their products are “effective as per the label claims”. But as we found in our research, this doesn’t help when manufacturers exclude crucial information from their labels.

Manufacturers can sell probiotics that have been tested overseas, although studies “should be done under conditions that are typical of Australian climatic conditions”. However, because they’re not automatically required to retest in Australia, different soils, climates and crop types can render them essentially useless.

Consequently, many products exist on the Australian market which don’t have clear label instructions for effective use, claim to work on an outlandish number of crops and don’t even touch on the topic of which soils they work effectively in.

Australia contrasts with the European Union, which demands multi-step scientific testing of products. For a product to be permitted for use in agriculture, EU legislation requires 10 or more field trials, conducted over two growing seasons in different climates and soil types. Delivery methods and dosage must be evaluated and effects confirmed. Crop trials have to ensure statistical validity. The EU has created an online database of detailed reports and standards that can be easily searched by the public.

These regulations have an impact on which biostimulants reach the market. European products often contain only one type of active microbe, as it’s otherwise difficult to meet the strict criteria. On the other hand, many biostimulants sold in Australia contain multiple microbes that are not clearly classified on labels.

This makes it more difficult to tell what’s actually in a product, how useful it will be under different conditions, or if it contains bacteria that are beneficial for certain crops but harmful for others.

We recommend that Australia adopts the EU model of a regulated biostimulant market to encourage investment. Scientifically rigorous, multi-year studies are also needed, to test and develop effective products.

There is much research expertise in Australia, but currently farmers must rely on marketing rather than science.

Susanne Schmidt, Professor – School of Agriculture and Food Science, The University of Queensland; Paul G. Dennis, Lecturer in Soil Science and Terrestrial Microbial Ecology, The University of Queensland; Richard Brackin, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, The University of Queensland, and Shelby Berg, RhD Candidate in Plant and Soil Science, The University of Queensland

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Partnering on an automation solution for the Asian Food Market

HMPS, a leading Australian machine builder which specialises in customised end of line packaging machinery, recently partnered with SMC, a leader in pneumatics and automation on a case packer for the food industry.

According to Linh Bui, Business Development Manager at HMPS, the company proposed a solution to automate the end of line requirements of an Asian food manufacturer which would automate the process with minimal operator involvement, while adhering to the health requirements of the food and beverage industry.

Linh, who specialises in dealing with the Asian market adds that many Asian food companies are looking towards automation to manage the increased volumes of output required in the food manufacturing environment.

The machine which was designed to place boxes of dry food into larger cartons, ready for palletising and shipping, was required to be easy to maintain, easy to clean and easy to operate. The customer required up to 12 product formats, between 180 and 260g to be packed at an output speed of between 10 and 30 cartons per minute.

“This is another similarity with the Australian market, machines are required to do multiple functions and must be easy to set up for various product lines. HMPs specialises in designing for this type of flexibility” comments Bui.

“We suggested the HMPS5000 Wraparound Case Packer to eliminate their end-of-line labour constraints. This recommended solution delivered an expected lifespan of at least 10 years, and the availability of local parts and servicing would minimise running costs over its life. An ROI both in labour and material savings calculated that this machine would be offset within 3-4 years, in Australia ROI would be 1.5 years”

The HMPS Product Flow

Products enter the system on an infeed conveyor system which allows product to either continue travelling narrow face leading into the case packer or with the use of two differential speed belts rotate 90degrees to wide face leading. The inners then travel towards to a servo driven water wheel, standing them upright into a servo driven index system. Once the correct carton quantity is collated they are then driven up to a servo side shift before being transferred into the carton by a Delta Robot.

Simultaneously, as the products are collated, a flat wraparound blank is erected in Station 1 before being transferred and positioned in the loading station where the collation of products is loaded. The minor flaps opposite the loading station may be folded at this stage to ensure correct product alignment. At the next index the final minor flaps are folded fully locating the product. During the next index, hot melt adhesive is applied to the minor flaps and at the next station the carton is held in compression to complete the end sealing. The carton is then side transferred to seal the manufacturers flap.

Firmly bonded cartons are discharged from the machine to await palletising.

A graphical operator panel is used to assist in the machines start up, operation and fault finding. This will display: Machine status – Product selection – All alarms and faults.

HMPS partnered with SMC on this project because of their firm understanding of the food and beverage market and the specialised products and service they offer to this industry. According to Linh one of the deciding factors when building machines for export is the availability of parts. “We want to ensure that our customers have access to critical spares and technical service no matter where they are in the world. That is why we partner with international players such as SMC who have offices in more than 80 countries around the world with a very strong presence In Asia” adds Linh.


The SMC Solution

Jason Sutton, Area Sales Manager for SMC further elaborates that SMC has designed and developed products according to the Japanese company’s philosophy of being Customer Centric. To this end products with the food industry was developed based on customer feedback and requirement. According to Jason, because of the large footprint of SMC they are in contact with food and beverage customers in so many different countries and on so many applications that the company has a very good idea of the best products to suggest for these types of applications.

Screen Shot 2017-04-24 at 10.35.57 AM

In addition to supply the components, SMC also assist customers in the selection and commissioning of the products if required.

SMC is no stranger to customization themselves, the SMC linear belt drive (LEJB63) was modified in Australia to accept HMPS’ choice of motor. This modification was done at the company’s local Sydney facility.

Air preparation incorporate lockable manual isolation for maintenance work as well as category rated safety valves for integration into the safety system of the machine. Actuation is simplified by EtherNet/IP communication with the SMC EX600 Valve Manifold also serving as a field collation of reed switch and proximity wiring point. Daisy chain capability of the node further increases future expansion capability.

The manifold is based on SMC new SY series with improved flow rates and compact size delivery higher response in a smaller footprint. The entire valve bank in IP65 rated, very handy for any food related product be it dry or wet.

Carton erection is driven via a valve on the manifold to a single SMC ZL112-DPL Vacuum ejector with integrated pressure switch offers the customer simplified integration. The inbuilt pressure switch reduces plumbing and simplifies troubleshooting by combing several functions into one easily accessible unit.

To meet the tight space constraints of the top flap of the box a rotatory table actuator was fitted, SMC’s MSQB50A unit. Footprint and size is the trend of the industry at the moment and this unit delivers by not only having a flat output flange but also enabling compact installation.

Other products used on the HMPS Case Packer included the guided cylinders – MGPM and CQM cylinders with integrated slide tables. Guided cylinders simplify the design as they include a guiding mechanism built into the cylinder. This removes the need for additional design work and sourcing various parts from multiple supplier to achieve the same end result.

Can turmeric really shrink tumours, reduce pain and kill bacteria?

Turmeric is a yellow coloured spice widely used in Indian and South East Asian cuisine. It’s prepared from the root of a plant called Curcuma longa and is also used as a natural pigment in the food industry. The Conversation

In the literature, curcumin is reported to be an antioxidant that protects the body against damage from reactive molecules. These are generated in the body as a result of metabolism and cause cell damage (known as free radicals).

It’s also reported to have anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-cancer properties, as well as encouraging the death of cells that are dangerous or no longer needed by the body.

Curcumin has been widely studied in relation to numerous ailments, but what does the literature say? Is consuming turmeric beneficial?

For aches and pains

Chronic inflammation has been linked to the development of numerous diseases such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. There is some evidence curcumin reduces the levels of certain substances (cytokines) that produce inflammation.

Systematic reviews and meta-analyses, which combine data from several randomised controlled trials (where an intervention is tested against a placebo, while the subjects and those conducting the study don’t know who has received which treatment) support this finding to a certain extent.

A meta-analysis of nine randomised controlled trials showed taking curcumin supplements led to a significant reduction in cytokines that produce inflammation. But the authors claimed these reductions were modest, and it’s unclear if they would actually have a benefit in real life.

These trials were conducted with small sample sizes ranging from 10 to 50 people, which reduces the strength of the evidence. It’s difficult to draw a conclusion on a beneficial dose and how long you should take curcumin, or the population group that can benefit the most from curcumin.

A meta-analysis investigated the effects of turmeric/curcumin on pain levels in joint arthritis patients. The group supplemented with 1000mg of curcumin per day said they had reduced pain compared with the placebo group.

In this study, curcumin was found to be as effective as ibuprofen in terms of reducing pain levels in these patients. But the authors of this meta-analysis themselves suggested that due to small sample size and other methodological issues there is not sufficient evidence to draw definitive conclusions.

Turmeric is often marketed as an anti-inflammatory.
Screen shot/Suppkings

For diabetes and heart disease

Curcumin is also thought to be beneficial in preventing insulin resistance (which leads to increased blood sugar), improving high blood sugar and reducing the toxic effects of high blood glucose levels.

But these studies have been conducted in animals and are very few human trials have been conducted in this area.

One study that reported reduction in blood glucose levels in type 2 diabetes patients reports a change in blood glucose from 8.58 to 7.28 millimoles per litre after curcumin supplementation. People with levels above seven are classified as diabetics. So in clinical terms, the change is not that much.

Similarly in relation to heart disease, animal studies show benefits of curcumin supplementation in improving heart health, but there are very few clinical trials conducted in heart disease patients.

Smaller clinical trials looking at ten patients also show benefits of curcumin in reducing serum cholesterol, which is a risk factor for heart disease. But meta-analysis looking at combined effects of different trials does not show these benefits.

For cancer

Curcumin has also been widely studied in relation to its anti-cancer properties. Laboratory and animal studies support this claim, but the evidence for cancer prevention in human trials is lacking.

Although there are some small studies (in 25 cancer patients) that showed reductions in precancerous lesions, and two patients showed shrunken tumors, this small number is not enough to conclude anti-cancerous effects of curcumin.

There is some evidence curcumin lessens the severity of side-effects from radiation therapy such as radiation-induced dermatitis and pneumonitis (inflammation of lungs), but not the cancer itself.


Research shows not all curcumin we take orally is absorbed. This has led to the use of other things such as lipids (fats) and piperine (found in black pepper), to help it absorb into our system.

High intakes (up to 12 grams a day) of curcumin can cause diarrhoea, skin rash, headaches and yellow-coloured faeces. Looking at the Indian population, they consume about 100mg of curcumin a day, which corresponds to 2 to 2.5 grams of turmeric per day.

Consuming turmeric as part of a balanced diet is probably good for you. Injecting it definitely isn’t.


But they also consume these amounts over relatively long periods of time (typically their lifespan). There are reports of lower cancer rates in the Indian population and this has been linked to turmeric consumption, but there are no longer term trials proving this link.

It appears that in order to receive benefits from high doses over a short period of time, people are now resorting to injecting turmeric intravenously. There is no evidence to support the benefits of high doses of turmeric or IV injections of turmeric at all.

In fact, at very high doses, curcumin’s predominant activity switches from antioxidant to pro-oxidant, which means rather than preventing cells from damage, it promotes cell damage and has also been reported to cause tumours in rodents.

Although curcumin is showing some encouraging effects in reducing markers of inflammation in humans, the majority of the pharmacological effects of curcumin are in lab studies or animal experiments. Until there are more high quality randomised controlled trials conducted to confirm the benefits of curcumin or turmeric, it’s best to consume turmeric orally as a spice as part of a healthy, nutritious diet.

Gunveen Kaur, Lecturer In Nutritional Sciences, Deakin University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Top image: Sutterstock

Integrated cleaning line bears fruit

Emblème Canneberge was started in 2016 by several Canadian growers to add value by offering frozen cranberries of exceptional quality. To equip their world-class production facility, they turned to Key Technology for a cranberry cleaning line. This integrated solution removes foreign material (FM) such as sticks, leaves, fines and stones, as well as berries that are too small, soft or rotten, while good fruit is washed and dried to a humidity of less than one percent.

“We selected Key Technology because they have the most experience in our industry and the best reputation. All of our customers have very high standards in the specifications of the berries they want, and Key helps us achieve those high standards,” said Vincent Godin, President of Emblème. “Our cleaning line removes foreign material as well as rotten cranberries, which would impair the quality of the good fruit in the freezer if not removed. This line is also very efficient at removing water to produce free-flowing product that’s easy to separate after freezing for further processing.”

Leveraging Key’s expertise in product handling and processing, this integrated cleaning line uses a variety of mechanical processes to elevate Emblème’s product quality while maximizing yield and consistently feeding downstream equipment. The Iso-Flo scalping shaker, air cleaner and Iso-Flo fines removal shaker eliminate unwanted FM from the product stream. The recently updated brush washer removes small, soft and rotten berries at the same time it washes good berries. The Iso-Flo dewatering shaker with air knives dries the good berries so they freeze efficiently and are easily processed later.


“We wanted an integrated line because having one source ensures the fit and function. Key built each machine so one drops product smoothly into the other. Because they are made to work together, installation and start-up was easy and the line runs efficiently,” explained Godin. “High efficiency is incredibly important to us, because we run two shifts a day, seven days a week during our six-week harvest to process 26 million pounds of product on this cleaning line.”

Built for rugged reliability and superior sanitation using Key’s versatile Iso-Flo vibratory design, the cleaning line at Emblème maximizes equipment uptime and hygiene.

The stainless steel shaker beds feature a rotary polish and continuous welds that are ground smooth within the product zone to resist bacterial attachment and improve food safety. Integrated scallops and stiffeners, limited surface laminations, sealed isolation springs and large access doors for easy cleaning further contribute to superior sanitation. “Almost everything on these Key shakers is made of stainless steel. This limits rust in our very wet environment and makes the equipment very easy to clean,” said Godin.

Iso-Flo shakers use independent frame-mounted drives and spring arm assemblies that distribute energy equally to all parts of the shaker bed in a controlled natural-frequency operation. This operating principle minimizes the vibration that is transferred to structural support and the floor, which cuts the cost of installation, reduces energy use and offers quiet operation. Key’s contoured StrongArm spring arms, made with propriety composite material, offer an operational life that is up to twice the life of traditional straight spring arms. The stainless steel Iso-Drive adds to Iso-Flo’s extreme dependability, reducing maintenance and improving performance and uptime.

“We measure success on our cleaning line by three criteria. One is the final moisture content of the product, which needs to be less than 1 percent. Second is FM removal – we want to remove as much FM as possible at the same time we limit good product removal in order to maintain a high yield. Third, we want to achieve these objectives while processing an average of 80,000 pounds of product per hour,” said Godin. “Our cleaning line from Key does all this and more.”

“We’re in business to add value. We add value when we clean and condition the fruit. We add value when we freeze clean product, and we add value when we size and sort frozen product,” explained Godin.

“We’re installing our sizing and sorting line now. It features an Iso-Flo mechanical size grader and a VERYX digital sorter, both from Key,” concluded Godin. “It’s always good to stick with a great supplier when you’ve got one. Key helps us maintain our high quality standards and reach the product specifications that our customers want.”

Food & beverage manufacturing is the future

With a heritage approaching 60 years, SMC Australia is already looking to the next 60. Food & Beverage Industry News spoke to the company’s Managing Director Wayne Driver about the challenges his company will be facing.

It’s never easy saying goodbye to a good client. This year, SMC Australia is set to say goodbye to Toyota and Holden as both companies shut down their Australian manufacturing plants. At the same time, the company is seeing many of its mining clients slow down, with the buzz in this space dwindling.

For a company with six decades of experience, and subsidiaries in more than 55 countries, this changing of the tides is nothing new.

As Managing Director Wayne Driver told Food & Beverage Industry News, this shift presents an exciting opportunity to dedicate its resources at tackling challenges in the food processing industry.

“Historically, we have been strong in the mining industry but obviously with the mining boom over, the area that is growing is food and packaging,” said Driver. “We’re able to focus more energy and resources in supporting the food and packaging industry and that’s certainly an area we’re very much focused on.”

While there are a number of new innovations on the horizon, according to Driver, the Australian arm of the company will be very much at the forefront when it comes to new developments.

“SMC’s R&D centre in Japan is focused on product that is lightweight, has a much smaller footprint and is focused on energy saving along with a number of other innovations,” said Driver.

He noted that the company’s plans include the pursuit of food and packaging industry robotics; seeing more OEMs integrating robots into their machinery; setting up R&D centres in China, the US, UK and Germany; and extending its electric actuator range.

“Although historically we are a pneumatics company, over the years we have been known more for electronics, serial communications and various protocols,” he said.

“So it’s a very dynamic industry in which we operate and it’s good to have the backing of the R&D centres as well as engineers in Sydney and Auckland to be able to keep up with demands in the market place.”

Companies like SMC are very much on the frontline in terms of coping with the disruption that the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) will bring. When asked how it will affect SMC, Driver was upbeat.

“It is definitely the way of the future,” he said. “While some companies are focusing on the IIoT industry mainly at an academic and university level, SMC is concentrating on it at a practical level, the product level and how it can be integrated and used with our customers.”

Wayne and Peter Driver
Managing Director of SMC Australia, Wayne Driver (left) and his father, the company’s founding Managing Director, Peter Driver.


Another area for growth for the company is protein – the red meat and white meat areas – where, he said, “automating a number of processes from manual brings more throughput for the meat company and obviously more work for us”.

Asked whether food and beverage manufacturing will be the next mining industry, Driver said: “I think certainly mining will always be there. It’s going through a cyclical phase at the moment. There will be projects that will come online again in the future. I think the beauty of SMC is that, because we have such a diverse customer base, we’re well positioned for when the mining picks up again. We can be very responsive to that while also growing in the food packaging industry.

“Food and packaging will continue to grow, because let’s face it, we all have to eat and while Australia only has a small domestic market, the majority of OEMs in ANZ can only grow their businesses by exporting.”

Driver noted that it’s important that the company has a competitive advantage. He said innovation in ANZ is paramount, and that SMC wants to help companies be more efficient and reduce their costs and improve energy efficiency.

“I think mining will always be there and it will bounce back, but at the same time, it’s good to be in both markets,” he said.

As to whether there was one industry that currently SMC was not involved with but would like to expand into, Driver said that it’s not so much about particular markets but more about overall opportunities.

“SMC is always looking at other opportunities in the market and it’s important that if we do look at that, we weigh up what is involved before entering certain markets,” he said.

“There are some markets we will decide that are not strategically appropriate and given the company’s growth at this time, there is nothing on the immediate horizon that we are looking at expanding into. But if we do find something of interest, it will be at the appropriate time and with the right resources.”