Diets lacking in essential vitamins and minerals

New research led by University of Illinois with CSIRO, the International Food Policy Research Institute and others shows that unless we act now in making vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and pulses more available and affordable, serious micronutrient inadequacies will persist globally along with continued undernutrition in the poorest regions of the world.

An analysis of the trajectory of diets across the globe from now until 2050 has been published today in Nature Sustainability.

It shows worldwide our diets are lacking in vitamins and minerals essential for proper growth and development.

Widespread inadequacies in calcium, vitamin D, vitamin E and folate are likely to continue into the future.

For some of the poorest countries in the world, the study projects continued inadequacies in iron, zinc, and vitamins A and K.

The World Health Organisation estimates more than two billion people suffer from ‘hidden hunger’ or micronutrient deficiency.

The effects of severe micronutrient deficiencies include stunting of growth, a weaker immune system and impaired intellectual development.

The study found that while micronutrients are lacking, nearly all countries in the world have more than adequate carbohydrate and protein available.

CSIRO Nutrition Systems Scientist Dr Jessica Bogard is one of the authors of the study. She said the findings reinforced the importance of encouraging a shift from carbohydrate-rich staples to a more diverse diet worldwide.

“Global food security is not just about providing adequate calories,” Dr Bogard said.

“A person can consume too many calories but still be malnourished.”

Not surprisingly, in Australia like many high-income countries, overconsumption is a concern, with diets above the recommended intake for alcohol, saturated fat and added sugar.

A 2017 study by CSIRO found that four out of five Australian adults were not eating enough fruit and vegetables in order to meet Australian Dietary Guidelines.

The biggest factors affecting food and nutrition security in the future, according to this new research, are climate change, increasing incomes and evolving diets.

“A change in the climate combined with a change in people’s diets, as they begin to earn more, will ultimately impact on our agricultural systems and what gets grown where,” Dr Bogard explained.

“Improving farm productivity and economic growth alone is not going to be enough to achieve nutritional security now and into the future; we must refocus our efforts on dietary quality rather than quantity.”

In all countries, including Australia, the authors recommend better aligning agriculture with nutritional needs by investing in the availability and affordability of nutrient-rich foods, including vegetables, fruits, pulses, nuts and seeds.

In many developing countries this must also include a focus on nutritious animal-source foods. Complementary interventions throughout the food system such as reduced waste, and efforts to promote healthy food environments will also be needed.

Why people find it hard to maintain a healthy diet

With almost two in three Australian adults overweight or obese, a new CSIRO report has analysed the five main diet related personality types of more than 90,000 Australian adults to gain a comprehensive picture of why many people find it hard to maintain a healthy diet.

In what is Australia’s largest-ever diet and personality survey, food cravings were found to be one of the most common reasons diets get derailed.

“For anyone who has found eating to lose weight difficult, your personal Diet Type, daily habits and lifestyle factors could provide the answer to why some weight loss methods haven’t worked for you in the past,” the report’s co-author, CSIRO Behavioural Scientist Dr Sinead Golley said.

CSIRO’s report focussed on the five most common diet personality types across the surveyed population, and looked at the major stumbling blocks for each personality type.

For the second-most common personality type, the ‘Craver’, the report found resisting certain delicious foods is a significant challenge.

“One in five Cravers have tried to lose weight more than 25 times and they say that chocolate and confectionery are the biggest problem foods to resist,” Dr Golley said.

“On the other hand, people with the most common diet personality type – known as the ‘Thinker’ – tend to have high expectations and tend to be perfectionists, giving up when things get challenging.”

Dr Golley said they also found some interesting food personality trends across generations.

“Baby boomers and the older, silent generation (aged 71 years and over) were more likely to be Socialisers and Foodies – suggesting lifestyle and social connections influence a person’s eating patterns at different stages of life – while millennials and Gen X were more likely to be Cravers, Thinkers and Freewheelers,” she said.

“We also found younger people commonly used fitness trackers and apps to lose weight, while older generations turned to diet books and support groups.”

Dr Golley said CSIRO’s online Diet Type survey can provide behavioural insights to increase a person’s potential to successfully lose weight.

“If you’re frustrated by unsuccessful weight loss attempts, having a better understanding of your personal triggers and diet patterns can be the crucial piece of the puzzle,” she said.

The five most common diet personality types found across the surveyed population, including differences in weight status, diet behaviour, gender and generation, were:

  • The Thinker (37%) is the most common Diet Type. Predominantly women (86%), Thinkers tend to over-analyse their progress and have unrealistic expectations. This can result in a sense of failure and derail a diet.
  • The Craver (26%) One in four respondents is a Craver and finds it hard to resist temptation. More than half of all Cravers (58%) are obese.
  • The Socialiser (17%) Food and alcohol play a big role in the Socialiser’s active social life, so flexibility is key to maintaining a healthy diet.
  • The Foodie (16%) Foodies are most likely to be a normal weight. Passionate about food, this type has the healthier diet with a high variety of vegetables in their diet. Alcohol makes up one-third of their discretionary food and beverage intake.
  • The Freewheeler (4%) Spontaneous and impulsive eaters, Freewheelers have the poorest quality diet. With a higher proportion of men in this group, Freewheelers avoid planning meals and over half (55%) are obese.

Intermittent fasting leads to new flexi diet

CSIRO has launched a new diet that includes intermittent fasting three days a week.

The weight loss program is based on research carried out by CSIRO scientists which found that fasting can be an effective way to lose weight and stay healthy.

Participants in the 16 week trial lost an average of 11kg and saw improvements in cholesterol, insulin, glucose and blood pressure.

“This was the largest study exploring the effects of an intermittent fasting style of diet on weight loss, health and nutrient status,” CSIRO Research Dietitian Dr Jane Bowen said.

“In addition to improvement in weight loss and overall health, we also observed psychological improvements, with participants indicating better control over eating habits.”

Intermittent fasting (and the similar style – alternate day fasting) has recently gained scientific and consumer interest.

The research combined intermittent fasting with meal replacement shakes and a ‘Flexi’ day where participants had one day a week to enjoy the food or drinks they love.

Traditional diets rely on energy to be restricted every day in order to achieve weight loss, which can be difficult for people to maintain long term.

A number of relatively short studies have shown that intermittent fasting results in equivalent weight loss and metabolic improvements, including loss of fat mass, blood pressure, glycemic control and markers of cardiovascular disease risk.

Few studies have compared the effects of intermittent fasting and continuous energy restriction longer term.

The CSIRO study took a novel look at using meal replacements as part of an intermittent fasting regimen to measure the effects of intermittent fasting for weight loss on nutritional status.

The new Flexi diet has been launched today in collaboration with industry partner and creators of the Impromy weight loss program, Probiotec.

“Losing weight can be challenging with results often limited by an individual’s ability to stick with a diet,” Dr Bowen said.

“The Flexi program offers a flexible alternative to traditional diets, which could help Australians to fit a weight loss diet around their busy, social lifestyles.”

The “Flexi” program includes a recipe book and a website that includes personalised meal plans, progress tracking tools and a tailored virtual consultation designed by CSIRO dietitians and behavioural scientists.

As dieters progress through the program towards their goals, meal plans can be modified to incorporate more whole foods for a long term approach to weight maintenance.

The Flexi program is available now in pharmacies.

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.
from www.shutterstock.com

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.
from www.shutterstock.com

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: www.blogchef.net

Paleopups and paleopussies: is a paleodiet for your pet a step too far?

Will 2016 be the year the world finally lost interest in the paleodiet? Believe it or not, it’s already happened! ‘Peak-paleo’ passed without notice way back in January 2014.

We’re often a little behind the global trends down-under, so Australia’s own peak-paleo occurred almost two years after the rest of the planet. This might explain why the media here still bends over backwards to give celebrity chef Pete Evans and other prominent paleodieters so much limelight.

Still, it’s been a steady decline in interest ever since, and the paleodiet, like the real Paleolithic Era before it, is on the slow road to extinction. But whose to blame for its failure to convince us it holds the answers to all our health and lifestyle needs?

I genuinely believe there is something to the idea that we can learn from our evolutionary past about how to live today. It’s just that the paleodiet fad with its mix of blatant buck making and oddball conspiracy theories has hijacked any science there may have been behind it.

We can point the finger at the high priests of the paleodiet cult themselves who are, afterall, just another segment of the food industry. A sector made up of self-appointed nutrition, health and evolution experts with a disdain for science and the people who conduct it.

In their seemingly ever desperate quest to sell us stuff straight out of the Stone Age, paleodieters have come up with some rather creative food lines.

As we all know, artificially sweetened soft drinks were all the rage in the Paleolithic. Archaeologists have discovered hundreds of fossilised soft drink cans from ancient sites all around the globe.

And remember the furore when the paleopilgrims told us to start feeding our newborns paleo baby formula? There we even calls for paleoparents to be put in jail.

Now we’re told that our pets should be paleopuppies and paleopussies because, as one prominent website puts it, “the consequences of the modern lifestyle are largely the same in pets as in humans”.

In their usual glib way, the advice they dish out for pets is as ill-informed as it is for humans: “A good place to start your research is by looking up what your pet eats in the wild, and slowly introducing those foods into its regular diet, making sure to keep a close eye out for any digestive symptoms”.

Through the process of evolution over thousands of years all of the animals we have domesticated, from dogs and cats to sheep, pigs and goats have changed from their wild ancestors.

Take dogs, the first animal we domesticated from wolves during the Paleolithic, perhaps as far back as 40 thousand years ago, and at several places at different times.

Ever since, they’ve been evolving alongside us to live as we do and to eat a diet a lot like our own. Some scientists even think dogs were responsible for domesticating us!

Studies of the dog genome have shown that domestication affected two main kinds of genes: ones affecting dog behaviour and the nervous system and genes involved in digestion and diet.

Through a combination of artificial and natural selection dogs have evolved to eat starch, unlike wolves, which have a largely carnivorous diet. Dogs have five times as many copies of the AMY2B gene which is dedicated to producing starch digesting enzymes in their pancreas.

If we study the various dogs breeds around the globe there’s also a clear pattern where larger numbers of copies of AMY2B are found in locations where agriculture spread during prehistory. The dogs bred by farmers are the best at eating and digesting grains and they have the genes to back it all up.

Dogs eat starch, wolves don’t, but starch from grains is simply not allowed on the paleodiet for humans or pets.

Cats on the other hand have a completely different history of domestication compared to dogs. Cats were domesticated much later, with the earliest examples of moggies found just 10 thousand years ago in Cyprus.

Most of the 30-40 cat breeds seen today were only bred during the last 150 years and before this surge in cat popularity there were only around half a dozen cat breeds recognised globally.

With dogs though, some breeds are thousands, other perhaps even tens of thousands, of years old. They have a very deep ancestry back into the mists of prehistory.

The much younger age for cat domestication means that unlike dogs their diet is much more like their wild precursors. This explains why cats are much more carnivorous than their canine house mates.

The big problem in advocating paleopet food is that our pets are no longer wild animals. If we attempt to replicate their evolutionary past, in complete ignorance of how they lived and ate, we might be doing them a lot more harm than good.

The Conversation

Darren Curnoe, Chief Investigator and Co-Leader of Education and Engagement Program ARC Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage, and Director, Palaeontology, Geobiology and Earth Archives Research Centre, UNSW Australia

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

 

Image: Wikimedia Commons – Craig, Hugh, CC BY-SA

Olympian Klim helping kids eat more calcium

Ahead of World Osteoporosis Day on October 20, gold medal swimmer Michael Klim is jumping into the kitchen to highlight research showing kids and teens are missing out on calcium in daily meals – putting their bones at risk as they grow.

Previously unreported data from the most recent Australian Health Survey research from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows our children are running the risk of serious bone damage.

Over half of the Australian population aged two years and over had inadequate usual intakes of calcium. In addition, more than half of girls aged 9 to 11 years and 45 per cent of boys aged 9 to 11 years had inadequate usual intakes of calcium.

As kids grow, so should their dairy intake to ensure they are getting enough calcium.

Klim said his online recipes and videos were handy for busy mums but also ideal for kids and teenagers to make themselves.

“Dairy is just a part of life for me – milk is Klim spelt backwards! Seriously, though, I’ve always loved milk and cheese and yoghurt – can’t get enough,” Klim said.

“I was lucky growing up because I had experts to help with my diet. They always highlighted the important role milk, cheese and yoghurt play in both building bones and fuelling my body with the energy it needed to get through the day. Now, as a dad, I just want to get a healthy meal on the table, and these recipes are designed to do just that,” Klim said.

“So with The Dairy Kitchen recipes we are bringing some of that expert nutrition knowledge and combining it with a love of good, easy food that even the fussiest kids and teenagers will want to eat.

“I’m no great chef, but even I can knock up these recipes in record time!”

Dairy Australia dietitian Amber Beaumont helped develop the family friendly recipes and urged parents not to forget about bone health as the fight against osteoporosis starts in the younger years.

“Childhood and the teen years are critical for building strong bones for the future with bones reaching their peak density from around the age of mid 20s to 30,” Beaumont said.

“The Australian Health Survey reveals that an astonishingly high percentage of children aged nine to 16 years, particularly girls, are not getting their daily calcium requirements.

“Dairy foods are the richest source of calcium in the Australian diet.  It’s important for parents to check whether their kids are getting enough calcium as the dietary guidelines recommend a different number of serves for different age groups,” Ms. Beaumont said.

As well as calcium, dairy products provide a whole package of bone-building nutrients including protein, potassium and zinc.

Aussies diets leave a lot to be desired: CSIRO

The 2016 CSIRO Healthy Diet Score report, released today, canvassed the dietary habits of more than 86,500 adults across the country over a 12-month period.

An early snapshot of the survey results released in August 2015 awarded the nation’s diet a score of 61 on a 100-point scale.

With almost 47,000 additional surveys completed since then that figure now stands at just 59 out of 100, confirming that Australian diets are worse than first thought.

“We have an image of being fit and healthy, but with a collective diet score of 59/100 that image could be very different unless we act now,” CSIRO Research Director and co-author of the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet, Professor Manny Noakes said.

According to the 2016 Healthy Diet Score, 80 per cent of respondents received an individual score below 70, which is a benchmark figure.

2016 CSIRO-HDS_Aussie diets fail the test

 

“If we can raise our collective score by just over 10 points, we help Australia mitigate against the growing rates of obesity and lifestyle diseases such as heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and a third of all cancers, Professor Noakes said.

“All people need to do is halve the bad and double the good. In other words, halve the amount of discretionary food you eat and double your vegetable intake.”

People across Australia, in all occupations and age groups were invited to participate in the online survey between May 2015 and June 2016.

CSIRO researchers have used this information to create a detailed picture of the country’s eating habits.

The closest we get to meeting Australian Dietary Guidelines is the fruit food group where 49 per cent of respondents meet the recommended intake.

That means one in two of us still have room to improve.

But of greater concern is dietary performance in regard to discretionary, or junk foods.

Just 1 per cent of Australians are abstaining from junk food, while more than one third admitted to eating more than the recommended maximum allowance.

“We find that there is often a tendency to under-report on certain types of food, so in all likelihood that figure is even higher,” Professor Noakes said.

The report showed that women have better nutritional levels than men (60 v 56/100).

Construction workers were among those with the poorest diets, while public servants, real estate agents and health industry workers reported some of the healthiest eating patterns.

The 2016 CSIRO Healthy Diet Score also tracked food avoidance in diets for the first time, and found that approximately one in three Australian adults are avoiding one or more foods such as gluten, dairy or meat.

To get involved CSIRO is asking people to undertake The Healthy Diet Score – a free online assessment which evaluates diet quality and identifies individual areas of improvement, as well as providing a personal diet score out of 100.

“It is never too late to eat better and increase your score, and the nation’s,” Professor Noakes said.

“We encourage people to also take the test regularly to ensure they are improving their eating behaviour and overall health and wellbeing.”

 

2016 CSIROHDSAustralias average intake of discretionary foods exceeds

A dietitian puts extreme ‘clean eating’ claims to the test – and the results aren’t pretty

“Clean eating” is associated with the healthy lifestyle and body beautiful that is promoted by many online bloggers. While the term is heavily used in social media, there has never been any agreement on what it really means or any comprehensive studies examining the potential benefits of a clean eating lifestyle as a whole.

However, the core principles that the big names in this movement champion appear to be: eliminate processed food; reduce salt intake; eat more vegetables; choose whole grains; eliminate refined sugar; reduce alcohol. For some, you also need to be gluten, dairy, and soya free and to eat raw (depending on how militant you are, food has to be entirely uncooked or only mildly heated). And if you want to be completely “clean” you should probably be vegan, too. Quite a list, then.

And there are also some big players online – including Food Babe, who was voted by Time Magazine as one of the 30 most influential people on the internet – who have significantly influenced this trend.

While some of the principles of clean eating are in line with the best available evidence for losing weight or preventing ill health – such as eating plenty of fruit and vegetables, sticking to wholegrains and limiting processed food – there are plenty of others that don’t stand up to scrutiny. It has been repeatedly proven that dietary restrictions such as a dairy-free diet or gluten-free diet are nutritionally substandard and studies have linked the introduction of a gluten-free diet with increased levels of psychological distress in coeliacs including depression and anxiety.

Some people find it difficult to understand why dietitians and doctors are against the clean eating phenomenon when there are still people eating burgers for breakfast and obesity is on the rise. However, some clean eating is sensationalist promotion of non-evidence based, and extremely restrictive, lifestyles that demonise everyday food essentials. And that can lead followers into having a sense of shame and failure for not eliminating “unclean” foods 100% of the time – so you can see where the negativity from healthcare professionals stems from.

There is significant research disproving many of the principles of the diet. Below are some of the big claims and why they don’t stack up.

Clean eating can cure disease

Some clean eating bloggers claim to have cured themselves of diseases. The kinds of medical conditions that clean eating is supposed to cure are often conditions that are not well understood, such as chronic fatigue, which leaves sufferers desperate for a solution. And where there is desperation there is always someone willing to sell help – however unscientific.

One of the big names in clean eating who believes her diet controls her PoTS – where standing up causes a drop in blood supply to the heart and brain and the heart races to compensate – intestinal issues and headaches through her method of a dairy free, gluten free vegan diet is Deliciously Ella. PoTS, however, has no proven link with food except that a higher salt intake is recommended to help keep blood pressure up. Having too little salt in the diet can exacerbate the problem. The reason that Ella is so much better now is much more likely to be age-related as we know that for 80% of sufferers, symptoms disappear between the ages of 19-24. Ella was diagnosed aged 19 in 2011 and has been blogging about diet for four years.

One thing diet may have helped with though is Ella’s gastroinestinal issues. Her method of eating has a diet that is very low in fermentable carbohydrates or FODMAPs which have been robustly proven to be a cause of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) which affects up to one in five people.

Clean eating makes you happy!

Many of the clean eating bloggers promote themselves as a model of how you could look if you follow their lifestyle. But it is important to remember that it is their job to look the way they do. If you have a full-time job and a busy life, the chances of you cooking every meal from scratch, never having to grab a sandwich from the supermarket for lunch and being able to work out for two hours a day are very slim. If you try to model your life on theirs you are more than likely to end up feeling like a failure because it is simply not realistic.

Interestingly, many clean eating bloggers claim to have been depressed before clean eating. There has been lots of research into dietary treatments for depression by increasing an amino acid called tryptophan which is a precursor for serotonin production in the brain, which in turn influences good mood. To date, no trial has conclusively proven that increasing dietary tryptophan improves serotonin production or depressive symptoms but a diet in line with clean eating actually has the potential to be low in essential amino acids such as tryptophan.

What is more likely is that all the attention and apparent public approval received for losing weight and improving their appearance has temporarily improved their self-worth.

Clean eating is a good way to lose weight

Clean Eating Alice, 23, is another big name in the game. Alice isn’t vegetarian but her diet is very low in carbohydrate. She claims that her diet and exercise regime has immeasurably improved her health and happiness. It was reported that through her version of clean eating and intensive exercise, she dropped 2st 7lb (16kg) and reduced her body fat percentage from 30% to just 15%.

Alice’s reported body fat percentage is concerning. The minimum essential fat for a woman is between 10-13% – we need this amount to maintain our immune system and maintain healthy hormone levels. Many professional athletes will have a body fat percentage of up to 20% with the normal healthy level around 25%. So holding herself up as a realistic and achievable role model is highly misleading.

Clean eating is good for gut health

The Helmsley Sisters were some of the first to bring the clean eating trend to our attention. Their philosophy aims to help people with their digestion and relationship with food, and teach the importance of gut health. Their recipes eliminate gluten, grains and refined sugar (and minimise natural sugars). However, the majority of people tolerate gluten very well – the exceptions are for people with conditions such as coeliac disease – sugar is absorbed so efficiently it has no impact on digestion and grains provide high levels of prebiotics to feed the good bacteria in your gut. The best thing for gut health is a good, balanced diet.

Clean eating prevents ageing

You need protein for that.
Shutterstock

Many bloggers state that clean eating will keep you looking youthful. There is some compelling evidence that antioxidants found in fruit and vegetables can prevent premature skin ageing.

You do, however, also need plenty of good quality protein to maintain the integrity of your skin and therefore extreme clean eating could easily undermine the benefits of the antioxidants.

Clean eating will detox your body

Detox diets are all the rage and the clean eating crew all have their own version of a detox diet. Fortunately, no one needs a detox diet because our liver and our kidneys are always already doing this. Everyone would agree that excessive consumption of highly processed food with lots of additives is not a healthy way to eat. However, neither is following a highly restrictive diet for any amount of time and there is certainly no health benefits associated with “detoxing”.

Some clean eaters promote an alkaline diet to prevent excess acidity in the body. Ironically, our stomach acid is only slightly less acidic than battery acid so anything you eat will be immediately placed into a highly acidic environment where the pH is tightly controlled. You cannot manipulate your body’s pH through diet (as the below tweet suggests) and you don’t need to try.

Clean eating makes you healthier

There are even more extreme examples of clean eating out there including Freelee The Banana Girl who promotes a raw vegan diet of 15 bananas, 40 pieces of fruit and a couple of kilograms of potatoes a day. She claims that eating this way has cured her weight issues, depression, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue, poor digestion and acne.

It is hard to pin down the most concerning thing about this diet but the fact that Freelee is consuming 6.5 times more potassium than is recommended and encourages others to do so is a big one. She even consumes 30% more potassium than is shown to cause excess potassium in the blood, which can lead to deadly changes in heart rhythm. That said, whether or not she is absorbing any of the nutrients in her food due to the amount of fibre she is taking in is questionable and if her bowel habits are normal and healthy it is a medical miracle.

Anyone can call themselves a nutritionist and there are many quick courses that give a false air of credibility. There are also no regulations around what people can and can’t recommend as being healthy. It should be very hard to maintain a voice of authority in an area in which you are totally unqualified and in a world where your self worth depends on “likes” and “views” and “followers”.

An obsession with clean eating and the shame that is often associated with eating foods considered to be dirty can also lead to mental health issues such as orthorexia, an eating disorder associated with obsessive healthy eating. Emmy Gilmore, clinical director of eating disorders clinic Recover, even suggested in a recent BBC documentary that many UK clean eating bloggers had sought help from her clinic. So rather than watch videos of supposedly physically healthy girls as gospel, it’s better to develop healthy eating habits that come from sound scientific advice and which balance all the nutrients your body needs.

And if you’re seeking professional advice, find a nutritionist with a degree or a registered dietitian – it’s a protected title so you can be certain that the advice you’re given will be scientifically robust.

The Conversation

Sophie Medlin, ‎Lecturer in Nutrition and Dietetics, King’s College London

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

Both statins and a Mediterranean-style diet can help ward off heart disease and stroke

If you’ve ever have the misfortune of a heart attack or are considered at risk of heart disease or stroke, your doctor will probably prescribe a statin drug, such as atorvastatin (Lipitor), to lower your blood cholesterol levels.

Recent reports of an Italian study have suggested adhering to a Mediterranean-style diet may actually better protect people from a heart attack or stroke than taking a statin.

Such a claim can’t really be made. To do so, we’d need a trial in which a large number of well-matched participants were randomly given either statins or a Mediterranean-style diet, and followed faithfully to see the comparative results.

Such a trial is unlikely to occur, as withholding medication from people at risk of heart attack or stroke would be regarded as unethical.

But I also suspect ethics committees would be unlikely to recommend anyone avoid following the healthy features of a Mediterranean-style diet, which so many studies have shown to be protective.

Positive points accrue for protective foods such as fruits and vegetables.
Sven Scheuermeier/Unsplash, CC BY

The Italian study and statins

The recent Italian study randomly enrolled more than 25,000 people, about 1,200 of whom reported a prior history of heart attack, stroke or blocked arteries at enrolment. Each person recorded their usual diet over the next seven years. Researchers recorded deaths from any cause.

Participants’ diets were given a score out of nine, based on how many features of a healthy Mediterranean-style diet they followed. Those with higher scores had a 37% lower risk of premature death compared with those with lower scores.

These results were controlled for confounding factors, including age, sex, smoking, exercise, energy intake, waist-to-hip ratio, blood pressure, blood cholesterol levels and diabetes.

The benefits of statins on various levels of heart health have also been extensively researched. A recent randomised controlled trial compared statins with a placebo in 21 countries in 12,705 people who were at higher-than-average risk of heart disease.

Over the more than five years of this study, those on statins had a 23% reduction in heart attack, stroke or heart-related death compared with those on placebo. There were no differences in diabetes or cancers, but those on statins were 20% more likely to have muscle symptoms, such as weakness or pain, and 18% more likely to have cataract surgery.

Adding nuts to the Mediterranean diet scores more points.
from shutterstock.com

The Mediterranean-style diet

There is no one Mediterranean diet, nor does every Mediterranean country have a diet that ticks every healthy box. However, dozens of studies have defined the features of what makes a Mediterranean dietary pattern healthy.

Primarily, the diet needs to be based on whole or minimally processed foods. Positive points accrue for protective foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, wholegrains, fish, olive oil and modest amounts of alcohol consumed with meals. High intakes of red and processed meats, sugary foods and drinks, refined grain products and fast foods all score negative points.

The benefits of certain Mediterranean diets were first publicised in the 1960s. Researchers found that rates of death from heart disease were three times higher in Northern European countries (top score to Finland) compared with four groups studied in Southern Europe.

These studies have continued for 40 to 50 years, along with others noting changes in populations as well as how eating patterns affect heart disease rates in different areas of Italy.

During the 1990s, the Lyon Heart Study began. This was a long-term study designed for participants who had already had a heart attack. It produced results so favourable for the benefits of Mediterranean eating patterns compared with the standard diet advice usually given that it was stopped early. Results four years later confirmed the original benefits of the Mediterranean eating pattern.

Adding extra olive oil to the Mediterranean diet has extra health benefits.
from shutterstock.com

Even more dramatic results were claimed from the HALE study in Europe. Conducted between 1988 and 2000, the trial involved 2,340 older men and women in 11 European countries.

Those who followed a Mediterranean-style diet and a generally healthy lifestyle – no smoking, moderate alcohol intake and regular physical activity – had more than a 50% lower rate of death from any cause.

A more recent trial in Spain of people who had not had a heart attack but were considered at high risk has confirmed the value of a Mediterranean eating pattern.

One-third of its 7,500 participants were asked to follow a Mediterranean eating pattern and add extra olive oil; another third followed the same basic diet but were given extra tree nuts. The remaining third were asked to follow a low-fat diet, although this section of the study failed as the participants barely changed their fat intake.

The study found adding extra olive oil or nuts to the basic Mediterranean eating style conferred many benefits for heart health. This study also showed that the higher the intake of saturated fat in each group, the worse the results.

Whether the Mediterranean diet can outdo statins may be up for debate. However, there’s no doubting the strong evidence for a Mediterranean eating pattern for everyone. Even for those on statins, a healthy Mediterranean eating pattern has been shown to bring extra benefits.

The Conversation

Rosemary Stanton, Nutritionist & Visiting Fellow, UNSW Australia

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

 ‘Slimtember’ raising money for kids with Type 1 Diabetes

The CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet has launched a new initiative, ‘Slimtember’, a four-week campaign encouraging Australians to start eating better and losing weight, while helping to raise money for a great cause.

A portion of the funds raised through Slimtember will be donated to JDRF Australia (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) to help treat and cure Type 1 diabetes in children. The campaign commences on 5 September and registration opens today.

According to CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet Online, September is an ideal time to shed any excess weight accumulated over winter and the opportunity to contribute to a worthy charity might help to double the motivation to act now. It is hoped that everyone who wants to improve their health and lose weight – including work colleagues, families, friends and individuals, will get on board with the campaign.

“We believe Slimtember will provide extra motivation for Australians to eat healthier and lose weight and also raise funds for a worthy cause,” said Professor Manny Noakes, CSIRO Research Director for Nutrition and Health and the co-author of the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet.

According to JDRF Australia CEO, Mike Wilson, Type 1 diabetes currently has no cure and represents 95 percent of all diabetes cases amongst children.

“Both children and adults with T1D need to stay fit and healthy like everyone else. While Slimtember can’t stop T1D, it can help fund vital medical research. It is the support of the public through initiatives such as Slimtember that can make a real difference,” said Wilson.

To join the Slimtember campaign, participants need to register at www.slimtember.org. Registration costs $69 with $10 of the signup fee donated to JDRF Australia.

To help them succeed in the four week challenge, registered participants will be sent a ‘Slimtember’ kit.

 

Australians failing to meet dietary guidelines

Most Australians do not meet the minimum recommended serves for the five major food groups, according to new figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

The report shows that Australian diets are not in line with the 2013 Australian Dietary Guidelines, which recommend minimum serves for vegetables, fruit, dairy products, lean meats and alternatives, and grain-based foods.

ABS Director of Health, Louise Gates said that adults and children over eight consumed an average of 2.7 serves of vegetables, rather than the 5 serves recommended by the Australian Dietary Guidelines, according to the latest results from the 2011-12 National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey.

“Less than 4 per cent of the population consumed enough vegetables and legumes or beans each day,” said Ms Gates.

“One in 10 was meeting the guidelines for dairy products, while one in seven consumed the minimum number of serves of lean meats and alternatives per day.”

“Among the five food groups, fruits and grains had the best compliance, with nearly one in three people consuming the minimum recommended number of serves for each group. However, one-third of the fruit serves was from juice and dried fruit, and two-thirds of the grains and cereals were from refined grains rather than whole grain or high fibre sources,” said Ms Gates.

The report also found that over one-third of the population’s total daily energy intake came from energy-dense, nutrient-poor ‘discretionary foods’ (such as sweetened beverages, alcohol, cakes, confectionery and pastry products).

Sustainable diets: What you need to know in 12 charts

We are what we eat, and what we eat has a profound impact on the planet.

When people think about food and sustainability, they typically focus on how the food is produced. Is it, for example, locally sourced, GMO-free, pasture-fed, organic or certified? Just as important, however, is the question of what is eaten.

What we eat is rapidly changing around the globe, as people converge toward diets high in calories, protein and animal-based foods. A new WRI paper, Shifting Diets for a Sustainable Food Future, explores these changes and the challenges they pose for food security and a sustainable future. It shows that just small shifts in the choices consumers make can have a huge impact in reducing agriculture’s resource use and mitigating environmental problems—the average American, for example, could cut their diet’s environmental footprint in half just by eating less meat and dairy. To help shift people to more sustainable diets at a large scale, the paper introduces the Shift Wheel, which harnesses marketing and behavior change strategies already used by the food industry to influence consumer purchasing.

Here’s what you need to know in 12 charts:

We need to close a big food gap.

The world needs to close a 70 per cent “food gap” between the crop calories available in 2006 and the expected calorie demand in 2050. This gap stems primarily from population growth and changing diets. Global population is projected to grow to nearly 10 billion by 2050, with two-thirds of people living in urban areas.

16_Shifting-Diets-Blog-Graphics_01v3

Global diets are shifting toward overconsumption.

As nations urbanise and incomes rise, their citizens diversify their diets and consume more calories and more animal-based foods such as beef, dairy, pork, chicken, eggs and fish. Demand for animal-based food is expected to rise by 80 per cent between 2006 and 2050, with beef specifically increasing by 95 per cent. Some of this growth in demand will support health and welfare gains, but much of it will be driven by overconsumption of food.

16_Shifting-Diets-Blog-Graphics_02av4

caloriesgraphic

All regions already consume more protein than average dietary requirements—with highest consumption in wealthy regions.

Global average per person protein consumption exceeded dietary requirements in all regions in 2009, with each person consuming on average about 68 grams per day— one-third higher than the average daily adult requirement. In wealthy countries, protein consumption was higher still. For example, the average American man eats nearly 100 grams of protein per day, almost double the amount of protein he needs (56 g).

proteingraph1

In fact, the gap between the average American’s daily protein needs and amount they’re already getting from plant sources is less than the equivalent of one chicken breast (4 oz, 35 g of protein).

proteinchart2

Animal-based foods are generally more resource-intensive and environmentally impactful to produce than plant-based foods.

Beef production requires 20 times more land and emits 20 times more greenhouse gas emissions per unit of edible protein than common plant-based protein sources such as beans, peas and lentils. Chicken and pork are more resource-efficient than beef, but still require three times more land and emit three times more greenhouse gas emissions than beans. When it comes to resource use and environmental impacts, the type of food eaten matters as much, if not more, than how that food is produced.

plantgraph1

The biggest beef is with beef.

Beef is extremely inefficient to produce, as cattle consume a huge amount of calories and protein in order to produce a relatively small amount of calories and protein for human consumption (sheep and goat are similarly inefficient converters of feed to food, but are eaten on a much smaller scale globally). As a result, beef production requires large quantities of land and water per unit of protein or calorie consumed.

calories2

One-quarter of the earth’s land (excluding Antarctica) is used as pastureland, and beef accounts for one-third of the global water footprint of farm animal production. Beef also has a disproportionate impact on climate change. Ruminants, of which cattle are the most common, accounted for nearly half of all agricultural production-related greenhouse gas emissions in 2010. If cattle were able to form their own nation, they would rank third behind China and the United States among the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitters.

beef2

You don’t have to become a vegetarian or vegan to make a difference.

The average American could cut their diet-related environmental impacts by nearly one half just by eating less meat and dairy. Working with the French agricultural research institutions CIRAD and INRA, we modelled the effects of several diet scenarios. When applied to the average American diet in 2009, the ambitious animal protein reduction scenario (which cut people’s meat/dairy/fish/egg consumption in half) reduced per person land use and agricultural greenhouse gas emissions by nearly one-half—or almost as much as the vegetarian scenario (which eliminated meat and fish, but increased dairy consumption relative to the average American). The beef reduction scenarios reduced per person land use and greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent (replacing one-third of beef consumption with other meats or legumes) to 35 percent (reducing beef consumption by 70 percent, down to the world average level).

diet1

Small shifts in diet choices can make a huge impact globally.

When applied globally to populations overconsuming protein or who are high consumers of beef, the ambitious animal protein reduction and beef reduction scenarios could spare between 310 and 640 million hectares (766 million to 1.6 billion acres) of agricultural land, respectively. For the ambitious animal protein reduction scenario, the land spared is roughly two times the size of India. This is more than the entire area of land converted to agricultural use over the past 50 years. The corresponding avoided land use change-related greenhouse gas emissions was 168 billion tons of CO2 equivalent—more than three times total global emissions in 2009! As a result, reducing consumption of animal-based foods among the world’s wealthier populations could free up significant amounts of land—possibly enabling the world to feed 10 billion people by 2050 without agriculture further expanding into forests.

diet2

How consumers can shift their own diets.

To make sustainable diet choices easier for consumers, WRI introduces a new protein scorecard ranking foods from lowest (plant-based foods) to highest impact (beef), based on associated greenhouse gas emissions per gram of protein. Encouragingly, some of the lowest-impact foods are also the cheapest to buy.

proteinscore

Shifting billions of people’s diets requires larger, systemic changes.

Efforts to shift diets in the past have largely depended on information and education, including calling for people to become vegetarian or vegan. These efforts haven’t reached scale because they don’t work in step with how people purchase and consume food. Instead, we need to engage leaders in the food sector to experiment with new approaches that increase the share of plant-based protein in consumer choices.

WRI and partners reviewed more than a dozen successful consumption shifts that have already occurred and created a “Shift Wheel.” The Shift Wheel comprises four complementary strategies: minimise disruption, sell a compelling benefit, maximise awareness and evolve social norms. As a next step, WRI will partner with the food service industry to test the Shift Wheel and scale successes.

shiftwheel

This article was posted on the World Resources Institute blog. See the original here.

The influence of protein source on gut microbiome

A study published in the latest edition of The Journal of Nutrition found that a soy diet contributed to a more diverse microbiota than a diet from milk protein sources.

The study, conducted by Elaine Krul, Ph.D., Senior Technical Fellow, DuPont Nutrition & Health, is one of few to evaluate the impact of protein source on the composition of the gut microbiota and provides insight on how including soy protein in the diet can further support cardiometabolic health. .

“It has been suggested that increased microbial diversity in the gut microbiome is a marker of cardiometabolic health, where individuals with low richness have a higher incidence of dyslipidemia, adiposity, weight gain, insulin resistance and inflammation,” said Krul. “Adding lean, high-quality plant proteins such as soy to the diet could be a good strategy for individuals seeking products to support health and wellness goals, including weight management with added cardiometabolic benefits.”

In the study, titled “Soy Protein Compared with Milk Protein in a Western Diet Increases Gut Microbial Diversity and Reduces Serum Lipids in Golden Syrian Hamsters,” diets mimicking the composition of a typical Western human diet containing either milk protein isolate or one of three differently processed DuPont Danisco soy proteins were investigated for their effects on blood cardiometabolic measures, microbiota composition in different sections of the gut, and expression of genes in the liver that are involved in lipid metabolism. The study was conducted in hamsters, an appropriate model for human cholesterol metabolism. The soy-fed hamsters had a more diverse microbiota than those fed the milk diet. Gut microbiota profiles from all soy-fed groups were more similar to each other and showed significant differences in abundance of several key microbial families compared to those in the milk-fed group.

In addition, significant reductions in the concentrations of total cholesterol, triglycerides and atherogenic lipoprotein particles were observed with consumption of soy protein compared to milk protein diets. This adds to the existing evidence supporting the beneficial effects of soy protein to reduce cholesterol and improve fatty acid metabolism.

While DuPont Nutrition & Health has been active over the years in examining the role probiotics play in promoting a healthy microbiome, this is the first study the company has supported that explored the role that protein may play in that regard. “The heart health benefits of soy protein are well-established through numerous clinical and preclinical studies. These results provide insight on how including soy protein in the diet can further support cardiometabolic health through modifying the composition of the microbiome,” added Krul.

DuPont Nutrition & Health continues to explore the impact of changes to the composition of the microbiome and how that impacts health and wellness.  This will help to meet the increasing market interest in incorporating probiotics into protein-containing foods, particularly protein supplements and dry beverages.

Coca-Cola Health Funding hits Sour Results

Coca-Cola is funding a campaign to focus the discussion about obesity in Australia on exercise, shifting away from dietary intake as the solution to the health epidemic. 

In August last year, Coca-Cola's global boss promised to publish all financing of health groups after revelations of astroturfing activities by the New York Times.

In the United States alone, it was revealed that Coca-Cola had given $US21.8 million ($30.5 million) to fund research and $US96.8 million to fund what it calls "health and wellbeing partnerships" in the United States.

EIM Australia was launched in 2011 at the General Practitioner Conference and Exhibition in Sydney with a presentation by EIM global executive council member Steven Blair, who as vice-president of the Global Energy Balance Network was involved in a funding controversy that engulfed Coca-Cola in the US last year.

Dr Blair, who has said there is "virtually no compelling evidence" that fast food and sugary drinks caused obesity, has received more than $US3.5 million ($4.9 million) from Coca-Cola since 2008, according to The New York Times.

Mrs Hobson-Powell said ESSA was not aware of Dr Blair's relationship with Coca-Cola at the time.

Dr Blair was most recently in Australia in October, as keynote speaker at an Australian Physiotherapy Association conference where he claimed that undue focus on diet could lead to flawed strategies for tackling obesity.

He presented a similar argument during a guest lecture to students at the University of Queensland's faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences.

Timothy Olds, a professor of health sciences at the University of South Australia, also appears on Coca-Cola's funding list as one of 12 scientists who received a combined $US6.29 million ($8.8 million) grant to conduct an international study into the relationship between lifestyle and environment and childhood obesity.

Dr Olds said the University of South Australia received about $400,000 for his part in the research, which discloses Coca-Cola's involvement.

A spokeswoman for Coca-Cola South Pacific said it would reveal all its Australian grants and gifts "in the coming months".

"This is a lengthy process as we are currently compiling details of the projects we have supported dating back to 2010," she said.

The spokeswoman said CCSP was "proud to support Exercise is Medicine Australia from 2010-2013.

The sponsorship agreement with Exercise & Sports Science Australia provided funding for ESSA to resource an EIM Australia project development officer whose responsibility it was to set up and implement the program in Australia.

"Coca-Cola South Pacific funding stopped in 2013 because the project was complete."

Cranberry market growing in Australia, albeit slowly

Ocean Spray was formed in 1930 and since then, the cranberry cooperative has grown to encompass more than 700 grower families all across North America.

While cranberries cannot be grown commercially in Australia, the US-sourced cranberries are still a ‘new’ product with the future for the little red fruits quite a bit brighter these days with their addition to a variety of snacking options.

According to Elissa Booth, General Manager of Ocean Spray Australia, Australia’s US-sourced cranberry stocks are used in a variety of Ocean Spray new products.

“Ocean Spray has been in Australia since 1995 and the variety of cranberry we use here is less sweet and more austere, which is why it goes well with fruit flavours.”

“The top-selling SKUs in the Ocean Spray portfolio are Cranberry Classic Juice Drink, Craisins Original Dried Cranberries, and Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce,” noted Ms. Booth.

“In 2015, Ocean Spray launched Craisins Reduced Sugar Dried Cranberries with 50 per cent less sugar than our Original Dried Cranberries, which is one of the leading new products in dried fruit.”

“We have also launched a new line of Ocean Spray Low Sugar Juice Drinks that are naturally sweetened primarily with stevia, and contain only 10 calories per serve.”

Craisin market growing down under

Australians’ appreciation for this iconic North American fruit is expanding, if the latest figures are to be believed.

“We have a growing market here in Australia, with a growth rate of about 5-10 per cent per annum,” said Ms. Booth.

“At the moment, the main area where cranberries are used is in baked goods, juices, yoghurts and in cereals.”

As for Ocean Spray, their recent release of a number of dried cranberry combinations has been used in snacking options like Greek Yoghurt, Milk Chocolate and Trail Mix ready-to-eat packets.

This is a sector where Ms. Booth sees the biggest growth potential.

“The snack pack size of Ocean Spray Craisins Dried Cranberries is available in Coles stores nationally.  We are exploring other opportunities for distribution.”

Over the past 12 months, according to Ocean Spray figures, retail grocery dried cranberry segment sales are growing at +5.2 per cent for the latest 52-weeks ending 29.11.15 (Value Sales, Coles & Woolworths Grocery Sales). 

“Ocean Spray Craisins Dried Cranberries are the dried cranberry brand leader with 72 per cent value share and are driving the majority of the Dried Cranberry Segment growth.”

While Craisins used are often enjoyed on their own as a delicious snack right out of the bag, their versatility, vibrant taste and colour makes them suitable as a topping or ingredient in a variety of sweet and savoury dishes. 

“Craisins are often used as a topping on yoghurt, muesli, and fruit salads, blended into smoothie, and green or grain salads, or used in baked goods such as muffins, breads and biscuits for a little extra burst of colour and flavour.  Craisins dried cranberries are a good source of fibre and a convenient serving of fruit,” noted Ms. Booth.

Craisin health benefits coming to the fore

“Not only are cranberry products great for the taste buds, but they can also be part of a healthy balanced lifestyle to help promote good health,” said Ms. Booth.

“There is more than 50 years of evidence supporting the role of cranberries in helping to fight reduce the risk of Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs).”

“Research suggests that reducing the risk of recurrent UTIs with cranberry juice can be a nutritional approach to reduce the use of antibiotics and prevent increased resistance – a phenomenon whereby viruses and bacteria are able to resist the effects of antibiotics.”

“Additionally, studies reveal that drinking low–calorie cranberry juice twice a day can assist in lowering the risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke when consumed as part of a healthy balanced diet, while there is also new evidence that reduced sugar dried cranberries could improve sugar levels in adults with type 2 diabetes compared to other commonly consumed fruits like bananas.”

Food standards body close to finalising labelling review work

An independent review into food labelling has received hundreds of submissions and involved several rounds of consultation, including public meetings with the food industry.

Food Standards Australia & New Zealand (FSANZ) concluded that the dietary intakes of trans fats in Australia and New Zealand were likely to remain below World Health Organization limits and that mandatory labelling was not warranted.

Another review recommendation was that total and naturally occurring dietary fibre content should be shown on NIPs. FSANZ looked into this recommendation by reviewing the science on ‘naturally occurring’ dietary fibre.

Consumers were also asked how they understand dietary fibre content and estimated how much it would cost consumers and industry to have dietary fibre information on all foods.

New review standards were also introduced, as FSANZ was able to implement the ability to allow voluntary potassium claims to be made on food labels.

The review recommended that Australia’s existing mandatory country of origin labelling requirements for food be extended to cover all primary foods. FSANZ examined the requirements and extended country of origin labelling to unpackaged beef, veal, lamb, hogget, mutton and chicken in July 2013.

FSANZ also looked at the remaining primary produce that didn’t need to display country of origin information on the label, for example goat meat.

By the end of 2016, FSANZ expects to complete work on its final two recommendations.

These include expanding the ingredient list on food labels so that the terms ‘added sugars’, ‘added fats’ and/or ‘added vegetable oils’ are used followed by a bracketed list with the names in addition to reviewing the requirement that a food has been irradiated. 

Science sells a sweet deal to sober up on sugar

Researchers have identified a hormone that can suppress sugar and alcohol cravings in mice.

According to a study recently published in the journal Cell Metabolism, the hormone can send a signal to the brain to reduce the appetite for sugar.

Scientists tested the theory by injecting the hormone into mice then giving them a choice between a balanced diet and a sugar-enriched diet.

By genetically modifying the two sets of mice, distinct differences were observed between a group that did not produce FGF21 and those that had over 500 times the normal levels of the hormone.

According to report co-senior author Dr Steven Kliewer, “The findings raise the possibility that FGF21 administration could affect nutrient preference and other reward behaviours in humans.”

Results were also consistent when applied to alcohol-laced water, indicating that the hormone could be used to treat alcoholism.

“These findings suggest that additional studies are warranted to assess the effects of FGF21 on sweet and alcohol preference and other reward behaviour in humans,” Kliewer said.

Whilst the hormone does not supress the craving for complex carbohydrates such as cake or pastries, it could assist diabetics and obese people with controlling their sugar levels.

Australians making the switch to gluten as gluten-free labelling increases

A nationwide survey conducted by the CSIRO has found that a greater number of people are making the choice to go gluten or wheat-free as consumer foods are increasingly labelled as either gluten or lactose free. 

In recent decades, the focus on ‘bad’ dietary factors has shifted to gluten: a protein found in cereal grains such as rye, barley and oats. For consumers diagnosed with a wheat allergy, the avoidance of wheat and other gluten-containing foods is essential. 

Food billed as “gluten-free” isn’t necessarily healthier. Gluten-free products can be high in calories, fat and carbohydrates, leading some people to gain weight when going gluten free. 
With coeliac disease, the body’s immune system reacts to consuming gluten by damaging the lining of the small intestine, which interferes with the body’s ability to absorb nutrients. Gluten intolerant or sensitive people experience negative reactions to gluten, but do not actually have coeliac disease. 

To add to the confusion, you can also have a wheat allergy, which is an aversion to wheat itself, so a gluten-free product may not necessarily be OK for those with a wheat allergy. With so many different causes, conditions and symptoms, diagnosis is extremely hard, and there is a lot of misinformation about gluten.

The data collected revealed that as many as 1 in 10 Australian adults, or approximately 1.8 million people, were currently avoiding or limiting their consumption of wheat-based products –with women more likely to be avoiding wheat on average than men. 

According to current Australian Dietary Guidelines, both grain and dairy based foods are an important part of a balanced diet through contributing to the daily dietary fibre and calcium intake of both adults and children.

“Our findings, plus the extraordinary rise in popularity of the gluten-free diet in Australia and elsewhere, suggest that, apart from the coeliac disease and wheat allergy, other conditions associated with the ingestion of wheat are emerging as health care concerns. Currently, the driver of most of the research activity in this area is the concept of non-coeliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS),” CSIRO said on it’s blog website.

CSIRO believes that the significant proportion of Australians undertaking restrictive diets may pose the potential danger of associated nutritional imbalances. A majority of symptomatic respondents appeared to be bypassing conventional medical advice in their decision to go wheat-free, raising the potential risk of a clinical condition going undetected. 

 

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