App that challenges you to eat more vegetables

Scientists have come up with an innovative approach to tackling Australia’s poor vegetable intake, with the launch of a new app that challenges people to eat more veggies.

Using a gamified approach, CSIRO’s new VegEze app aims to motivate Australians to add extra vegetables to their daily diets and form long-term, healthier habits through a 21-day ‘Do 3 at Dinner’ challenge.

CSIRO nutritionists will also study how effective the app’s game-like nature is at helping transform people’s eating patterns, as part of a broader research study.

“We need a fresh approach to improve Australia’s vegetable consumption and overall diet quality,” CSIRO Senior Principal Research Scientist Professor Manny Noakes said.

“Our research found two out of three Australian adults are not eating enough vegetables, especially as part of their evening meal. It’s time to find more engaging, effective approaches to help break these entrenched diet habits.”

Challenging users to eat three different vegetables at dinner every day for 21 days, the VegEze app helps people track their intake and tally up vegetable serves, with daily reminders and rewards to help people stay motivated and on-track.


“Committing to eating more vegetables every day is one of the most important ways we can improve our health today. Boosting your intake can be as easy as having three types of vegetables taking up half of your dinner plate,” Professor Noakes said.

“After just a few weeks using the app every day, users should feel more confident in adding more vegetables to their menu and notice some positive changes to their health and wellbeing.

“The beneficial nutrients and fibre from vegetables can help improve digestion, and fill you up – which can help reduce eating too much unhealthy junk food.”

Since May 2015, CSIRO has studied the dietary habits of more than 191,000 adults for its Healthy Diet Score research.

Eating three types of vegetables as part of the evening meal was found to be a key marker in having a better diet, but further research of 1068 adults showed some Australians were being held back from eating more vegetables by low awareness, lack of time and low confidence.

To help people overcome these barriers, the VegEze app features educational resources such as a visual guide to specific vegetable serve sizes, vegetable recipes, nutritional information and motivational rewards.

Information from app users will feed back into CSIRO’s study of Australians’ vegetable consumption, while helping to analyse the app’s effectiveness as an education initiative to improve Australia’s poor vegetable score card.

VegEze has been developed in partnership with Hort Innovation.

Hort Innovation chief executive John Lloyd said the vegetable consumption findings from the initiative will help Australian farmers cater to the needs of consumers.

“Consumer preferences are changing all the time – now it’s pre-packed convenience foods, as well as veggies such as kale and sweet potato. In the not too distant future it could be something else consumers are enjoying,” Mr Lloyd said.

“Research such as that generated from this VegEze initiative helps growers stay ahead of trends, while also encouraging Australians to eat well using a wide selection of vegetable options.”

The technology was developed in Australia in collaboration with digital health solution provider SP Health.


Probiotic dairy products for children

The market for children’s products is increasing rapidly with the trend towards smaller families, combined with higher disposable incomes, and parents are looking for foods that are healthy as well as tasty and convenient. At the same time, the awareness of probiotics – good bacteria – is increasing, as more and more scientific data on the correlation between digestive health and overall health is published, creating new opportunities for the innovative dairy producer.

Since Chr. Hansen acquired the world’s best documented probiotic strain named LGG a year ago, its expert scientists have spent time on integrating the unique strain into its large collection of dairy cultures, identifying the best matches and looking into new product ideas to benefit the global dairy industry and consumers worldwide.

Now they are proud to present ProKids, a concept solution for a tasty probiotic children’s drinking yogurt. It is Chr. Hansen’s newly developed freeze-dried DVS culture, nu-trish GY-1, which contains the LGG probiotic strain together with a compatible yogurt culture, and a proven recipe that make up the backbone of the ProKids concept.

Filling a hole in the market

“We have brought out the best of the LGG probiotic strain by combining it with a carefully compounded yogurt culture. The result is a very mild, tasty yogurt drink with a high cell count of live probiotic bacteria that will appeal to young taste buds and health conscious parents,” said Dorte Eskesen, Global Marketing Manager Fresh Dairy.

“With the ProKids concept, which is available worldwide and can be merged into the dairy’s own brand portfolio, we are filling a hole in the dairy market. We believe there is an untapped potential for functional dairy products specifically for children. The LGG strain has been studied in more than 300 clinical studies and described in more than 1100 scientific publications. A strong research focus on children and their health makes the LGG probiotic strain the natural choice for a kid’s product.”

Renewed awareness and perception of probiotics

“We like to see ourselves as drivers of innovation in the dairy industry and with this concept we believe to have a created a new opportunity in the dairy market at a time when the relationship between our gut flora and general health is resonating with more and more health conscious consumers and renewing the awareness and perception of probiotics,” said Eskesen.

“We are proud to have thoroughly studied and integrated the probiotic strain LGG into our culture collection, which holds more than 30,000 strains and keeps growing. We believe that there are vast opportunities for the LGG brand going forward considering Chr. Hansen’s wide geographic reach and deep technical knowledge and look forward to bringing other exciting concepts to the market in due course,” said Lars Bredmose, Senior Director, Fresh Dairy.

App addressing childhood obesity in regional Victoria

Australian tech company, Oxil has officially launched the Challenger App and jumped into the deep end from the get-go by including over 1000 students in South West Victoria.

The simple to use app was developed with the purpose of improving health and wellbeing of adolescent children by enabling them to track food intake, level of activity and potentially, break bad habits.

“Most health apps focus on either nutrition, fitness or mental health – but not on all three. We wanted to give students the ability for instant and accurate feedback about what’s going on in their body,” said Archie Whiting, Managing Director of Oxil.

The ‘Challenge’ aspect comes in the form of competitions where users can challenge friends or family using the app, reaping rewards and points for newly acquired good habits.

Prior to its official launch, a local focus group in Hamilton were given a special trial to test the Challenger App to reduce childhood obesity and improve the overall well-being in adolescents’ aged 10 -16 in their schools.

Dubbed “The Greater Hamilton Challenge’ it involves 6 regional schools and 1000 students with the one goal – to tackle the alarming obesity issue common to this particular part of Victoria.

A 2015 Deakin Report suggested that across five shires of Victoria’s Great South Coast, including Southern Grampian Shire, 37% of boys and 38% of girls in grade 6 were overweight or obese.

Additional research out of Deakin University and GenR8Change suggests up to 50% of primary school-aged children are overweight and/or are obese.

“Sugar is the new tobacco. Our children’s health is at risk and the experts are telling us that this could be the first generation to experience a shorter lifespan than generations before,’ says Dr. Andrew Hirst, Principal of The Hamilton and Alexandra College.

All participants were pleased with the final results with one of the school captains chanting at a school assembly: “Keep swiping, keep eating. Stop typing, start meeting.”

What makes the Challenger App highly engaging is the use of modern technologies, such as Gesture-based surveying, Machine learning for identifying habits, Intuitive & Suggestive algorithms, and Instant Feedback to the students so they can learn about the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.

Oxil is now officially inviting other regions to the challenge, visit to register for early access.



Green vegetables linked with better heart health

Getting more greens into your diet could cut your risk of heart disease and stroke by as much as 40 per cent, according to new research from Edith Cowan University.

Researchers from ECU’s School of Medical and Health Sciences studied the diets of more than 1000 Western Australian women, focusing on nitrate intake derived from vegetables.

They found that over a 15 year period, those women who had the highest intake of nitrate from vegetables had up to a 40 per cent lower risk of dying from heart disease or stroke.

Getting enough greens

PhD student Lauren Blekkenhorst, said the research was built on her previous study that collated data from around the world on the measured nitrate concentration in commonly eaten vegetables.

Nitrate is a compound that is naturally present in the environment and is essential for plant growth.

“We found that leafy green vegetables, such as spinach, lettuce, and kale had the highest amounts of nitrate, followed by radish, beetroot, and celery,” she said.

“People get roughly 80 per cent of their average nitrate intake from vegetables so they are the primary source.”

How much is enough?

Ms Blekkenhorst said about 75 g per day (1 serve) of green leafy vegetables would provide enough nitrate to achieve these health benefits.

“This is about one cup of raw vegetables which shouldn’t be too hard for all of us to eat daily,” she said.

How does it work?

Lead researcher, Dr Catherine Bondonno, said that the bacteria living in our mouths were critical for the cardiovascular health benefits observed.

“The bacteria living on our tongue break down the nitrate that we eat into another compound called nitrite. Nitrite and other breakdown products play a key role in regulating our blood pressure,” she said.

“This is the underlying mechanism that is resulting in the long-term improvements in heart health.”

The study ‘Association of dietary nitrate with atherosclerotic vascular disease mortality: a prospective cohort study of older adult women’ was recently published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. ‘Association of vegetable nitrate intake with carotid atherosclerosis and ischemic cerebrovascular disease in older women’ was recently published in the journal Stroke.


Healthy eating for shift workers

Working the graveyard shift or even pulling an all-nighter is an everyday reality for many employees in industries like entertainment, healthcare, security or transportation. This can be challenging for anyone. It is also hard to feel revitalized or rested enough to head back to work the next day – not to mention doing it again and again in shift work. So it is no wonder some describe the feeling like ‘a zombie chasing a caffeine drip’.

Although many shift workers say that they are used to working overnight, staying awake and inverting sleep patterns can lead to a number of negative consequences in the long run. In fact, it is common for shift workers to get shift work sleep disorder (SWSD)[1], which is characterized by insomnia. SWSD sufferers may constantly feel tired even when they have had enough time to rest. They are also more prone to making mistakes and causing accidents

Furthermore, night shift workers tend to turn to convenient food options (e.g., chocolate bars, sugary cupcakes) when they need an energy boost to stay alert and get them through the wee hours of the morning. However, such snacks may not provide enough nutrition or the healthy energy that someone staying up late often would need.

Yes, reaching for a night snack, especially a sweetened one, can help to offer a quick energy boost but it may also be bringing on precisely the kind of lethargic feeling that the night shift workers are trying to avoid. This is because sweet confectionary products, including cakes, chocolates and cookies, tend to contain a high ratio of conventional sugars and thus high glycaemic carbohydrates – the main culprits of the energy spikes and crashes.

It is especially important for shift workers, who already have to endure demanding sleep patterns, to eat healthily. Christian Philippsen, Managing Director for BENEO in Asia Pacific, explores how food manufacturers can cater to consumers seeking healthier snack options – snack food that provides sustained energy release without the subsequent energy crash.

Crashing from a sugar high

Many confectionery products are sugar laden and highly processed. They also often carry a large amount of high glycaemic carbohydrates that are digested very quickly, resulting in a fast and high release of glucose – the body’s main energy supply – into the bloodstream, thus causing an energy ‘spike’.

For night shift workers, these sugar spikes cause their blood glucose and insulin levels to rise, leading to an initial energy ‘boost’. However, these glucose stores are quickly depleted, causing a drop in blood glucose levels even below baseline, which translates to an energy ‘crash’, which is the sluggish feeling that people often feel after a meal.


Consumers choosing to eat healthier

 The benefits of all things healthy is impacting the consumer market in ways that could only be imagined a decade ago. Consumers these days are making an effort to eat healthier either to look or feel better or for health reasons. According to a Nielsen study, 60 percent[2] of consumers in Asia Pacific are choosing to eat less sugar and 54 percent are opting for more fresh or natural food.

Avoiding the ‘sugar crash’

Successful food manufacturers in tune with the market are offering consumers healthier options in view of demand trends. They are designing products that are suitable for low glycaemic dietary plans by incorporating functional carbohydrates such as BENEO´s Palatinose (generic name: isomaltulose), which can be used to fully or partially replace sucrose or other high glycaemic carbohydrates, for slower energy release.

Palatinose has a unique physiological profile that helps support healthy nutrition – especially with regards to blood glucose management. Although Palatinose is classified as a sugar, it has a special molecular structure that enables it to be seen as a “good” sugar.  Its uniqueness lies in the fact that it is hydrolysed four to five times more slowly by the enzymes in our small intestine as compared to high glycaemic sugars, yet it provides the body with the full amount of energy (4kcal/g).    This results in a low glycaemic sugar that is fully digestible – thus making it ideal for providing sustained energy with gentler blood sugar levels that provide long-term benefits for glucose control, body composition and weight management.

Palatinose can be easily incorporated into various types of food and drinks. Derived from natural beet sugar, it has a sugar-like, mildly sweet taste and can be used in the development of a wide range of great tasting and healthy snack products, from cereals and baked goods, to dairy products and sports and energy drinks.

Getting through the graveyard shift

 Working the night shift is definitely not an easy task, and it can be one of the most challenging experiences when people have to do it for a long period of time. Nevertheless, we will continue to need shift workers, especially in today’s urbanising society and having cities that never sleep.

Shift workers need to get enough rest in the off hours, and watch what they eat. Food products that allow for slow, sustained energy release – such as those made with Palatinose and low in high glycaemic carbohydrates – are ideal. This way they help avoid the consequences of the extreme blood sugar peaks and dips, and can provide access to sustained energy release mechanisms and improved metabolic balance. Palatinose equips food manufacturers with the opportunity to formulate innovative snacks that not only taste great, but provide consumers with a healthier energy source.

[1] Shift work sleep disorder – WebMD

[1] We are what we eat – The Nielsen Company, 2015

Aussie company develops breakthrough healthier noodle formula

Australian company Holista CollTech and US-based Holista Foods have developed a noodle formula with a low Glycemic Index, which may help fight obesity.

The noodles developed by Holista’s Buffalo, New York-based U.S. subsidiary of Holista Foods Inc., recorded a GI reading of 38 in independent tests conducted by Glycemic Index Laboratories, Inc, Toronto, Canada. The global average GI reading for noodles is 60.

The GI reading indicates the rate in which foods containing carbohydrates raise blood sugar levels in humans, with a lower score indicating healthier food. More than 100 million adult Americans suffer from diabetes or prediabetes, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. 11 million Canadians are living with the disease.

The Diabetes Canada has endorsed Holista Foods’ low-GI noodle formula as having met the latter’s dietary guidelines. Holista Foods is allowed to display the Diabetes Canada logo on its product.

In addition to the low GI reading of 38, each 85 gram serving of noodles contains 11 grams of protein, three grams of fibre, zero sugar, low sodium, low cholesterol and clean label ingredients (no artificial ingredients or preservatives) and cooks in just three minutes.

Holista Foods will showcase the low-GI noodles at the 2017 Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo in Chicago, Illinois, from October 21-24, and at the 2017 Diabetes Canada/CSEM Professional Conference in Edmonton, Alberta, from November 1-4.

According to market research group Statista, nearly half the world’s wheat is consumed as noodles, with China and Indonesia topping the list while a quarter is consumed as bread. The U.S. noodle market is worth US$270 million. The World Instant Noodles Association reports that global demand for instant noodles has declined from 106 billion servings in 2013 to 97.5 billion servings in 2016 as consumers continue to reduce the amount of processed foods, especially carbohydrates, from their diet.

The availability of low-GI noodles will provide consumers with a healthier option that does not compromise the taste and texture of the product. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit report on “Tackling obesity in ASEAN (South-East Asian Nations)”, a low-GI diet was found to be the most effective among food-based interventions.

Holista Foods, headed by CEO, Ms Nadja Piatka, who has supplied healthier baked goods to major fast-food chains such as McDonald’s and Subway, had announced in September 2016 its research efforts to develop the world’s first low-GI noodles using Holista’s low-GI ingredient, a patented formula that includes extracts of okra, dhal (lentils), barley and fenugreek.

Holista, a research-driven biotechnology and food ingredients company with operations in Australia and Malaysia, said it expects to conclude the first order for its low-GI noodles by November 2017.

In January 2016 Holista unveiled PANATURA(R)GI a patented formula co-developed with Veripan AG of Switzerland that achieved the world’s lowest GI reading for clean-label flour-based bread. This product is in the late stage of commercialisation.

Holista Foods is also researching to develop low-GI mixes for muffins, cakes, cookies and pancakes. Holista has also commenced research on a low-GI formula for sugar.


Australia facing $22 billion obesity bill by 2025

Today, on World Obesity Day, the World Obesity Federation along with global health leaders, including the Lancet and the World Health Organization, is shining the spotlight on the staggering costs and continued impact of obesity, including new data showing the continued increase in childhood obesity and the financial consequences of untreated obesity at all ages.

Untreated, obesity is responsible for a significant proportion of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) including heart disease, diabetes, liver disease and many types of cancer.  The global annual medical cost of treating these serious consequences of obesity is expected to reach $1.5 trillion per year by 2025[1].  In Australia the annual cost of treating these consequences is estimated to reach $22 billion, or cumulative costs of $163 billion between now and 2025.

In contrast, new figures from World Obesity Federation suggest that by spending just $4.4 billion to reduce the prevalence of obesity from 34% to 29% in Australia will help to avoid many of these consequences and their associated costs.

The World Obesity Federation data demonstrates how investing in the prevention, management and treatment of obesity is a cost-effective action for governments and health services. Investment can also help to achieve the 2025 targets set by the World Health Organization to halt the rise in obesity and to achieve a 25% relative reduction in mortality from NCDs. The World Obesity Federation are using World Obesity Day, 11th October, to urge governments, health service providers, insurers and philanthropic organisations to prioritise investment in tackling obesity.  This means 1) investing in treatment services to support people affected by obesity, 2) early intervention to improve the success of treatment and 3) prevention to reduce the need for treatment.

The President of the World Obesity Federation, Professor Ian Caterson, said, “Obesity is now a worldwide epidemic which absorbs a vast amount of our healthcare resources.  The annual medical costs of treating the consequences of obesity such as diabetes and heart disease is truly alarming.  We are using World Obesity Day this year to emphasis the cost-savings of tackling obesity now rather than waiting to treat the co-morbidities later.  Continual surveillance by World Obesity has shown how obesity prevalence has risen dramatically over the past 10 years and with an estimated 177 million adults suffering severe obesity by 2025, it is clear that Governments need to act now to reduce this burden on their national economies.”

Johanna Ralston, Chief Executive Officer of the World Obesity Federation said, “Addressing obesity now rather than treating the consequences is clearly going to be lifesaving and cost-saving, and an effective means for governments to meet their NCD targets.  There is now a real urgency to integrate obesity services into universal health coverage programmes.  The World Obesity Federation is here to help governments to meet this challenge.”

On World Obesity Day, the Lancet will be publishing new estimates of child and adolescent trends in obesity and undernourishment, produced by the World Health Organization.“We expect to see that child obesity is still rising in low and middle-income countries, with the absolute numbers of overweight children expected to exceed the numbers of undernourished children within the next few years”, said Dr Tim Lobstein at the World Obesity Federation. “If this is borne out, then governments and development agencies will have to tackle undernutrition while also tackling obesity, and will need ‘double-duty’ policies to provide the best nourishment for healthy growth.”

[1] WOD 2017 data. World Obesity Federation projections.

NZ’s Bad Taste Food Awards open for nominations

Consumer NZ wants nominations for its Bad Taste Food Awards which highlight New Zealand food companies marketing their products as better choices than they really are.

Consumer NZ chief executive Sue ChetwinChetwin says Consumer NZ’s research regularly uncovers foods masquerading as nutritionally superior options, from gourmet salt to sugar-laden breakfast cereals.

“We’re inviting consumers to join us in naming and shaming food marketers’ claims to put pressure on companies to clean up their act,” she says.

This is the second year Consumer NZ has run the awards. In 2016, Nutri-Grain was among the winners, singled out for being marketed as a healthier option even though it was more than a quarter sugar.

Other winners included 98 percent almond-free almond milk, Gatorade and Powerade sports drinks with their sizeable sugar hits, and Heinz Little Kids Fruit & Veg Shredz, which were nearly 70 percent sugar.


Breakfast really is the most important meal – researchers

Skipping breakfast is associated with an increased risk of atherosclerosis, or the hardening and narrowing of arteries due to a build-up of plaque, according to research published  in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Eating a healthy breakfast has been shown to promote greater heart health, including healthier weight and cholesterol. While previous studies have linked skipping breakfast to coronary heart disease risk, this is the first study to evaluate the association between breakfast and the presence of subclinical atherosclerosis.

“People who regularly skip breakfast likely have an overall unhealthy lifestyle,” said study author Valentin Fuster, MD, PhD, MACC director of Mount Sinai Heart and editor-in-chief of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. “This study provides evidence that this is one bad habit people can proactively change to reduce their risk for heart disease.”

Researchers in Madrid examined male and female volunteers who were free from cardiovascular or chronic kidney disease. A computerized questionnaire was used to estimate the usual diet of the participants, and breakfast patterns were based on the percentage of total daily energy intake consumed at breakfast. Three groups were identified – those consuming less than five percent of their total energy intake in the morning (skipped breakfast and only had coffee, juice or other non-alcoholic beverages); those consuming more than 20 percent of their total energy intake in the morning (breakfast consumers); and those consuming between five and 20 percent (low-energy breakfast consumers). Of the 4,052 participants, 2.9 percent skipped breakfast, 69.4 percent were low-energy breakfast consumers and 27.7 percent were breakfast consumers.

Atherosclerosis was observed more frequency among participants who skipped breakfast and was also higher in participants who consumed low-energy breakfasts compared to breakfast consumers. Additionally, cardiometabolic risk markers were more prevalent in those who skipped breakfast and low-energy breakfast consumers compared to breakfast consumers. Participants who skipped breakfast had the greatest waist circumference, body mass index, blood pressure, blood lipids and fasting glucose levels.

Participants who skipped breakfast were more likely to have an overall unhealthy lifestyle, including poor overall diet, frequent alcohol consumption and smoking. They were also more likely to be hypertensive and overweight or obese. In the case of obesity, the study authors said reverse causation cannot be ruled out, and the observed results may be explained by obese patients skipping breakfast to lose weight.

Australian alcohol consumption a key to reducing cancer deaths

New research has found that reducing alcohol consumption at the population level would lead to a reduction in cancer deaths in Australia.

The study found that there would be a significant preventive effect on liver, head and neck cancer deaths, particularly among men and older age groups as a result.

Published today by the Centre for Alcohol Policy Research (CAPR) and Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE), the report, Alcohol consumption and liver, pancreatic, head and neck cancers in Australia: Time-series analyses, provides the first suggestive evidence that a decrease in population level drinking could reduce the prevalence of liver, head and neck cancer mortality in Australia.

The long-term use of alcohol has long been recognised as a risk factor for cancer, and the relationship has been widely addressed in individual-level studies. However, the relationship of alcohol consumption and cancer mortality at a population level have rarely been examined.

The study revealed that across a 20-year period, a one litre decrease in annual alcohol consumption per capita was associated with reductions of 11.6 per cent in male and 7.3 per cent in female head and neck cancer mortality, and a 15 per cent reduction of male liver cancer mortality.

Lead author, CAPR’s Dr Jason Jiang sought to understand whether or not the trend of population-level alcohol consumption is related to the trend of population-level cancer mortality– a question not answered by individual-level studies.

CAPR Deputy Director, Dr Michael Livingston says the results suggest that a change in alcohol consumption per capita is significantly and positively associated with change in male liver cancer mortality.

“Alcohol is a major contributor to Australia’s burden of disease. The epidemiological evidence provided over the last several decades shows that alcohol contributes to the development of specific cancers. This study demonstrates that reductions in per-capita alcohol consumption would lead to lower rates of mortality for liver and head and neck cancers,” Dr Livingston said.

Compared with other age groups, stronger and more significant associations were found between per capita alcohol consumption and head and neck cancer mortality among both males and females aged 50 and above compared to younger age groups – reflecting the long-term effects of alcohol consumption on the development of cancer in the human body.

“This study has extended our understanding of the role that alcohol plays with respect to liver, pancreatic, head and neck cancers in Australia, and the importance of addressing the nation’s alcohol consumption levels,” Dr Jiang said.

The Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risk from Drinking Alcohol suggests that an adult should drink no more than two standard drinks on any day to reduce the lifetime risk of harm attributed to alcohol.

FARE Chief Executive, Michael Thorn says that the population-level study adds further weight to what we know about the links between alcohol and cancer.

“There is no doubt that alcohol-related cancers would be significantly reduced if more of the population reduced their alcohol consumption and followed the national drinking guidelines, yet a lack of recognition of the links between alcohol and cancer remains,” Mr Thorn said.

“The study exposes the need for improved public health education campaigns, better public health policies on alcohol, and more promotion of the guidelines – to reduce the toll of cancer-related diseases and deaths in Australia.”

Call for Government to take action on obesity

Thirty-four leading community, public health, medical and academic groups have today united for the first time to call for urgent Federal Government action to address Australia’s serious obesity problem.

In the ground-breaking new action plan, Tipping the Scales, the agencies identify eight clear, practical, evidence-based actions the Australian Federal Government must take to reduce the enormous strain excess weight and poor diets are having on the nation’s physical and economic health.

Led by the Obesity Policy Coalition (OPC) and Deakin University’s Global Obesity Centre (GLOBE), Tipping the Scales draws on national and international recommendations to highlight where action is required.

Areas nominate include time-based restrictions on TV junk food advertising to kids, the introduction of a 20% health levy on sugary drinks, and establishing a national obesity taskforce.

OPC Executive Manager Jane Martin said the eight definitive policy actions in Tipping the Scales addressed the elements of Australia’s environment which set individuals and families up for unhealthy lifestyles, rather than just focusing on treating the poor health outcomes associated with obesity.

“Sixty-three per cent of Australian adults and 27 per cent of our children are overweight or obese. This is not surprising when you look at our environment – our kids are bombarded with advertising for junk food, high-sugar drinks are cheaper than water, and sugar and saturated fat are hiding in so-called ‘healthy’ foods. Making a healthy choice has never been more difficult,” Martin said.

Professor of Epidemiology and Equity in Public Health at Deakin University, Anna Peeters, said the 34 groups behind the report were refusing to let governments simply sit back and watch as growing numbers of Australians developed life-threatening weight and diet-related health problems.

“For too long we have been sitting and waiting for obesity to somehow fix itself. In the obesogenic environment in which we live, this is not going to happen. In fact, if current trends continue, there will be approximately 1.75 million deaths in people over the age of 20 years caused by diseases linked to overweight and obesity, such as type 2 diabetes, cancer heart disease, between 2011-20501,” Professor Peeters said.

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.

Country kids face food challenges

One in five children in regional and remote WA worry about getting enough food to eat according to a new study from Edith Cowan University.

Researchers surveyed more than 200 children from around the State to measure their food insecurity, which is defined as reduced or restricted access to sufficient, safe nutritious and appropriate food.

The paper, ‘Prevalence and socio-demographic predictors of food insecurity among regional and remote Western Australian children’ was published today (Wednesday, 13th September 2017) in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health.

Going without

Of the children surveyed, 21.2 per cent reported worrying that the food at home would run out before their family got money to buy more.

Almost one in ten reported having to eat less because their family didn’t have enough money to buy food and 14 per cent said their meals only contain cheap low quality food.

Australian first

Lead researcher Dr Stephanie Godrich from ECU’s School of Medical and Health Sciences said the research was the first in Australia to measure food insecurity as reported by children.

“Previous Australian studies looking at food insecurity have surveyed parents or caregivers rather than their children,” she said.

“Caregivers have reported feeling ashamed of their inability to feed their family which may have resulted in an underreporting of food insecurity in previous studies.

“By gathering this data directly from children we have been able to create a clearer picture of the problem of food insecurity in regional and remote WA.”

Uneven spread

Dr Godrich said the research revealed an interesting link between food insecurity and economic disadvantage.

“While we may expect the problem to be greatest in the most disadvantaged areas, we actually found that it was children living in areas of medium socioeconomic status (SES) that were more likely to be food insecure,” she said.

“This suggests that some of the families in these medium SES areas may not be eligible for the types of financial assistance or may believe that they do not need it.

“What this tells us is that this is a systemic problem in regional and remote WA and we need government action to address it.”

Lasting solutions

Dr Godrich said action is urgently needed to address the situation because food insecurity during childhood can result in poor health outcomes later in life.

“Ensuring an adequate social safety net is important. Additionally, creating local employment opportunities in regional and remote areas can increase the financial security for families.

“Local Governments across WA will be developing new Public Health Plans. We would like to see strategies included to improve access to affordable, nutritious food options for all families.

“Finally, we need ongoing, accurate measurement of the issue in Australia that also investigates the impact of food insecurity on health outcomes.”

This research was supported by a grant from the Western Australian Health Promotion Foundation (Healthway).

Low carb, high fat diet may help memory, longevity – research

Researchers in the US have shown that a ketogenic diet, which is low in carbohydrates and protein but high in fats, improves healthspan and memory in aging mice.

Eating the diet ramps up the production of the ketone body beta-hydroxybutyrate acid (BHB). While small studies in humans with cognitive impairment have suggested that BHB could improve memory, senior scientist and Buck President and CEO, Eric Verdin MD, says this is the first study in aging mammals which details the positive effects of BHB on memory and lifespan.

“This opens up a new field in aging research,” said Verdin. “We think the health benefits of BHB may go beyond memory and could affect tissues and organ systems.” Verdin added that the results also support efforts in his lab to translate the findings to the clinic. “We’re looking for drug targets. The ultimate goal is to find a way for humans to benefit from BHBs without having to go on a restrictive diet.”

The ketogenic diet-fed mice had a lower risk of dying as they aged from one to two years old, although their maximum lifespan was unchanged. Another group of mice underwent memory testing at both middle age (one year old) and old age (two years old).

Mice that had been eating a ketogenic diet performed at least as well on memory tests at old age as they did at middle age, while mice eating the normal diet showed an expected age-associated decline.

Mice who ate the ketogenic diet also explored more, and their improved memory was confirmed with another test a few months later. Newman noted that the mice were off the ketogenic diet and did not have any BHB in their blood during the testing period.

Mice which are allowed to remain on the ketogenic diet will eventually become obese.

“We were careful to have all of the mice eating a normal diet during the actual memory testing which suggests the effects of the ketogenic diet were lasting. Something changed in the brains of these mice to make them more resilient to the effects of age,” he said. “Determining what this is, is the next step in the work.”

Verdin said the study will open the door to new therapies for the cognitive problems of aging. “As we gain a deeper understanding of what BHB does in our body and our brain, we can intelligently design therapies to capture individual benefits while minimizing harms.” The Verdin lab is currently exploring beneficial effects of a similar ketogenic diet in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease.

Results of the study from Eric Verdin’s lab at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in Novato, CA are published in the September 5th issue of Cell Metabolism.


Healthy gut, healthy life

The Asian diet is filled with fermented ingredients such as fermented cabbage (kimchi), fermented soy beans (miso), and salted duck eggs just to name a few. Not surprisingly, Asia-Pacific is expected to be the fastest-growing market for the global microbial food culture market between 2017-2022[1].

Fermented foods are naturally rich in probiotics, which are good bacteria that aid in digestion. An additional way of improving gut health is through prebiotics. While probiotics introduce foreign bacteria into the gut, prebiotics act as ‘fertilizers’ that promote the growth of good bacteria[2] already present in our bodies.

Prebiotics are naturally available in some foods such as onions, garlic or bananas, but are typically present only at low levels. This is why foods enriched with prebiotics and prebiotic supplements are the best way for consumers to conveniently and efficiently increase their prebiotic intake for a healthier digestive system.

Bad lifestyle habits affect gut health

Gut health is essential for us to lead a healthy life, as the small and large intestines help our bodies absorb the nutrients it needs to run smoothly. However, bad eating habits like consuming large quantities of fatty foods, and drinking too much caffeinated or carbonated sugary drinks, can lead to the depletion of healthy gut bacteria[3], especially as we age.

Furthermore, more people are living fast-paced, busy lifestyles these days due to rapid urbanization. This also means that many are leaning towards convenient, easy-to-consume foods that are usually highly processed, laden with saturated fat and/ or sugar, and low in fibre – in other words, foods that neither promote gut health nor contribute to overall wellbeing.

Studies have linked the lack of our dietary fibre intake to health issues like obesity, high blood pressure and heart disease. In Asia, one of the most common dietary problems is digestive discomfort, which includes symptoms like constipation and bloating[4]. Although health authorities recommend a daily fibre intake of about 25g for adults,[5] many consumers only manage to take in about half of what is required. This lack of fibre can lead to ‘lazy and silent guts’, as the intake is too low to move digestion processes along.

Helping consumers eat smarter

Manufacturers have been boosting the fibre content of their food products using functional fibres, which helps consumers increase fibre intake without the need for major dietary adjustments. Prebiotic fibres like inulin and oligofructose can restore the balance of our intestinal flora by stimulating beneficial bifidobacteria growth – an important element of good digestive health.

BENEO’s Orafti Inulin and Orafti Oligofructose, for instance, are of 100% vegetable origin since they are derived from the chicory root. In fact, inulin and oligofructose are the only existing prebiotics derived from herbal sources. The prebiotic fermentation of inulin and oligofructose leads to the production of short-chain fatty acids, which help to stimulate bowel movements in a mild and natural manner. This beneficial effect has been acknowledged by the European Union Commission, which has approved an exclusive health claim for BENEO’s Orafti Inulin in the promotion of digestive health.

These natural and soluble prebiotic fibres can be easily incorporated into many popular products, including baked goods, baby food, dairy products, and cereal bars. With a mild, sugar-like sweetness, oligofructose can be used to reduce sucrose in food and beverages, provide all the nutritional benefits of fibre, at just half the calories of sugar. On the other hand, inulin’s fat mimicking properties can be used to replace part of the fat content in foods, thus creating healthier products while preserving desired textures and tastes.

Christian Philippsen, Managing Director of BENEO Asia Pacific.
Christian Philippsen, Managing Director of BENEO Asia Pacific.


This natural way of achieving digestive health is particularly important to many children and elderly, who often face poor bowel movements. Toddlers might be at particular risk of constipation due to changes in diet (overall low dietary fibre intake), toilet and potty training, as well as more exposure outside of the home (kindergarten) – factors which may negatively influence their digestive well-being.

Such prebiotics with 100% vegetable origin also stand out as viable options to naturally achieve a healthy and balanced digestive system. They are highly suitable for all age groups, including elderly, young children and infants.[6]

A healthy life from the inside out

Consumers today long for tasty, easy-to-consume foods that can simultaneously bring proven health benefits. Functional fibres offer manufacturers the flexibility to enhance the fibre content in their food products without major changes in their formulation. At the same time, they deliver a host of nutritional benefits. Manufacturers who apply Orafti® Inulin and Oligofructose in their recipes can confidently market their products with scientifically proven health benefits that are in line with their customers’ demands for better nutrition.

[1] Business Wire, Global Microbial Food Culture Market – Growth, Trends & Forecasts (2017-2022) – Research and Markets

[2] International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics, Prebiotics

[3] TODAY Online, Take note of that gut feeling

[4] BENEO, Matching today’s expectations – Digestive health and prebiotic fibers

[5] BENEO, Health claim available: Orafti® Inulin improves bowel function

[6] BENEO News, Studies show further digestive health benefits for BENEO’s chicory fibre


Country kids not eating enough vegetables – research

Regional and remote kids face unique challenges when it comes to eating the recommended amount of vegetables, new research has found.

An Edith Cowan University-led study has found that children in regional and remote Western Australia need a major boost of vegetables in their diets.

The study, involving children aged 9-13 years and their caregivers from across the state, shows that only a paltry 13.4 per cent of kids get sufficient vegetables in their daily diets.

While many might point to picky eating and a lack of cooking skills, only 11.8 per cent of

caregivers indicated that their children didn’t like the taste of vegetables. A majority also reported knowing how to incorporate vegetables into meals.

Nutrition lecturer and lead author Dr Stephanie Godrich from the School of Medical and Health Sciences said other factors are clearly at play.

“Over half of the respondents indicated they would eat healthier food if their food outlets stocked healthier options,” Dr Godrich said.

“And one-third pointed to food quality as being ‘sub-optimal’.

“This includes vegetables not being fresh in their local shops or spoiling soon after getting home.”

Price was also an issue, with 79.1 per cent believing food was more expensive for them than in other communities.

Choice was a factor – people who agreed they had enough food outlets in their town were ten-times more likely to eat enough vegetables than those who felt strapped for options.

On the plus side, researchers found healthy eating messaging to have a positive effect on habits; caregivers’ ability to recall messages relating to vegetables was linked to adequate vegetable intake among their children.

Promotion and intervention

One recommendation included the implementation of a promotional campaign focusing on vegetable consumption. Future messaging might remind families they have options beyond the fresh produce section.

“Frozen and no added salt tinned offerings provide more opportunities for children to consume adequate quantities of vegetables, at a more affordable cost and with fewer quality issues than fresh vegetables” Dr Godrich says.

“These are convenient, and they are usually more readily available when their fresh counterparts are out of season.

“However, improvements to regional and remote food supply are crucial. Town planning that facilitates multiple options for families to purchase vegetables and greater support for regional-level food supply could be useful strategies.”

Intake of vegetables is particularly important for children, with the vitamins, minerals and fibre shown to help prevent future chronic diseases and moderate weight. The Australian Dietary Guidelines (2013) stipulate that children 9-11 and girls 12-13 should have five serves of vegetables a day, with boys 12-13 needing five and a half serves.

This research was supported by a Western Australian Health Promotion Foundation (Healthway) research grant.


Breakthrough in treatment for peanut allergy

Researchers from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute have found evidence that a cure may be possible for peanut allergy.

A treatment the researchers are trialing has shown long-lasting effects, more than four years after the original study; and provided hopes for sufferers of the allergy.

At the end of the original trial in 2013, 82 per cent of children who received the probiotic and peanut oral immunotherapy (PPOIT) were deemed tolerant to peanuts and went home eating peanut. Four years later, 80 per cent of children who gained initial tolerance are still eating peanut as part of their normal diet and have passed a further challenge test confirming long-term tolerance to peanut (70 per cent)

Publication of four year follow up data from a study of a novel oral immunotherapy to treat peanut allergy – The Lancet, Child and Adolescent Health

Research led by Professor Mimi Tang, who pioneered the probiotic and peanut immunotherapy (PPOIT) treatment, followed up children four years after they completed the initial trial. Children in the original PPOIT randomised trial were given either a combination of the probiotic, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, together with peanut protein in increasing amounts, or a placebo, once daily for 18 months, then tested to see if they had developed tolerance to peanut.

Prof Tang said the new study showed that the majority of PPOIT-treated children who tolerated peanut at the end of the original trial were still eating peanut without reactions four years later.

“The probiotic and peanut oral immunotherapy treatment, or PPOIT, was associated with long-lasting ability to tolerate peanut four years after stopping the treatment,” Prof Tang said.

“Of the PPOIT-treated participants who achieved short term tolerance at the end of the original trial, 80 per cent were still eating peanut and 70 per cent had long-lasting challenge-proven tolerance four years after stopping treatment.”


Omni Innovation secures China medical food deal to help diabetics

Omni Innovation has signed an agreement with Eagle Health Holdings to exclusively manufacture and distribute its pre‐meal shake product for Type 2 diabetes and Pre‐Type 2 diabetes throughout mainland China.

“We are pleased that from a range of potential partners we were able to enter into this deal with Eagle Health,” said Ian Brown, Chairman of Omni Innovation.

“For Omni, having a licensing deal with a partner that we view as providing significant strategic value to us – not only for the pre‐meal drink but potentially for several of our upcoming R&D projects – was a key driver of selecting Eagle Health.

“We believe that Eagle Health are a great fit for Omni in the short and the long term, and we look forward to working with them to provide a basis for extensive sales and revenue growth for the mainland Chinese market.”

Brown pointed out that it is estimated that in 2018 there will be over 120 million men and women in China suffering from Type 2 diabetes ‐ growing to over 160 million by 2030.

“An aging and growing population, and increasing obesity are the main drivers of this alarming trend that is particularly prevalent in urban Chinese locations,” he said.

Omni Innovation creates unique and specialised medical food products that can be used be used by people with chronic and lifestyle diseases.

Regular energy drink use linked to later drug use

Young adults who regularly consume highly caffeinated energy drinks could be at risk of later cocaine use, according to a study by the University of Maryland School of Public Health.

The study, published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, looked at young adults aged between 21 and 25, across a five-year period.

The study’s leader, Dr Amelia Arria and colleagues with the Center on Young Adult Health and Development (CYAHD) found evidence that individuals who regularly consumed highly caffeinated energy drinks, and sustained that consumption over time, were significantly more likely to use cocaine, nonmedically use prescription stimulants (NPS), and be at risk for alcohol use disorder (AUD) at age 25.

Participants were recruited for the study while enrolled as college students, and were surveyed at regular intervals to track changes in various health and risk-taking behaviors, including energy drink consumption and drug use.

“The results suggest that energy drink users might be at heightened risk for other substance use, particularly stimulants,” said Dr Arria, associate professor of behavioral and community health and CYAHD director. “Because of the longitudinal design of this study, and the fact that we were able to take into account other factors that would be related to risk for substance use, this study provides evidence of a specific contribution of energy drink consumption to subsequent substance use.”

Previous research by CYAHD researchers has documented the relationship between energy drink (ED) consumption and high-risk drinking behaviors, as well as the likelihood of other accompanying drug use, but this study is the first to examine the unique effect of different trajectories of ED consumption on likelihood of later substance use.

Notably, more than half (51.4 per cent) of the 1099 study participants fell into the group with a “persistent trajectory,” meaning that they sustained their energy drink consumption over time.

Members of this group were significantly more likely to be using stimulant drugs such as cocaine and prescription stimulants non-medically and be at risk for alcohol use disorder at age 25. The research singles out ED consumption as the contributory factor because they controlled for the effects of demographics, sensation-seeking behaviors, other caffeine consumption, and prior substance use at age 21.

Those in the “intermediate trajectory” group (17.4 per cent) were also at increased risk for using cocaine and NPS relative to those in the “non-use trajectory” who never consumed energy drinks (20.6 per cent). Members of the “desisting trajectory” group (those whose consumption declined steadily over time) and the non-use group were not at higher risk for any substance use measures that were tested.

While the biological mechanism that might explain how someone who persistently consumes energy drinks might go on to use other stimulant drugs remains unclear, the research indicates a cause for concern that should be further investigated.