Junk food could be responsible for the food allergy epidemic

Experts at the 52nd Annual Meeting of the European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (ESPGHAN) are today presenting research that shows higher levels of advanced glycation end products (AGEs), found in abundance in junk food, are associated with food allergy in children.

Researchers from the University of Naples ‘Federico II’ observed three groups of children aged between 6-12 years old: those with food allergies, those with respiratory allergies, and healthy controls. They found a significant correlation between subcutaneous levels of AGEs and junk food consumption, and further, that children with food allergies had higher levels of AGEs than those children with respiratory allergies or no allergies at all. The research team also found compelling evidence relating to the mechanism of action elicited by AGEs in determining food allergy.

AGEs are proteins or lipids that become glycated after exposure to sugars and are present at high levels in junk foods – deriving from sugars, processed foods, microwaved foods and roasted or barbequed meats. AGEs are known to play a role in the development of diabetes, atherosclerosis and neurological disorders but this is the first time an association has been found between AGEs and food allergy.

There is growing evidence that food allergy prevalence is increasing, especially amongst young children, and incidence is known to be as high as 10% in some countries. Similarly, there has been a dramatic increase in the consumption of highly-processed foods, comprising up to 50 per cent of total daily energy intake in European countries.

“Existing models of food allergy do not explain the dramatic increase observed in recent years – so dietary AGEs may be the missing link. We need further research to confirm this, strengthening the case for governments to enhance public health interventions to restrict junk food consumption in children,” said principal investigator Roberto Berni Canani.

Isabel Proaño of the European Federation of Allergy and Airways Diseases Patients’ Associations added:

“Healthcare professionals and patients do not have access to all the necessary knowledge to face a disease that dramatically impacts their quality of life, and industrialised food processing and labelling gaps do not help. We call on the public health authorities to enable better prevention and care of food allergy.”

Teens likely to crave junk food after watching TV ads

Teenagers who watch more than three hours of commercial TV a day are more likely to eat hundreds of extra junk food snacks, according to a report by Cancer Research UK.

Being bombarded by TV ads for unhealthy, high calorie food could lead teens to eat more than 500 extra snacks like crisps, biscuits and fizzy drinks throughout the course of a single year compared to those who watch less TV.

Energy and other fizzy drinks high in sugar, takeaways and chips were some of the foods which were more likely to be eaten by teens who watched a lot of TV with adverts.

The report, based on a YouGov survey, questioned 3,348 young people in the UK between the ages of 11-19 on their TV viewing habits and diet.

When teens watched TV without adverts researchers found no link between screen time and likelihood of eating more junk food. This suggests that the adverts on commercial TV may be driving youngsters to snack on more unhealthy food.

The report is also the biggest ever UK study to assess the association of TV streaming on diet. It found that teens who said they regularly streamed TV shows with ads were more than twice as likely (139%) to drink fizzy drinks compared to someone with low advert exposure from streaming TV, and 65% more likely to eat more ready meals than those who streamed less TV.

Regularly eating high calorie food and drink – which usually has higher levels of fat and sugar- increases the risk of becoming overweight or obese.

Obesity is the second biggest preventable cause of cancer in the UK after smoking, and is linked to 13 types of cancer including bowel, breast, and pancreatic.

Dr Jyotsna Vohra, a lead author on the study from Cancer Research UK, said: “This is the strongest evidence yet that junk food adverts could increase how much teens choose to eat. We’re not claiming that every teenager who watches commercial TV will gorge on junk food but this research suggests there is a strong association between advertisements and eating habits.

“It’s been 10 years since the first, and only, TV junk food marketing regulations were introduced by Ofcom and they’re seriously out of date. Ofcom must stop junk food adverts being shown during programmes that are popular with young people, such as talent shows and football matches, where there’s currently no regulation.

“Our report suggests that reducing junk food TV marketing could help to halt the obesity crisis.”

The Obesity Health Alliance (link is external) recently published a report (link is external) which found that almost 60% of food and drink adverts shown during programmes popular with adults and 4-16 year olds were for unhealthy foods which would be banned from children’s TV channels.

Professor Linda Bauld, Cancer Research UK’s prevention expert, said: “Obese children are five times more likely to remain obese as adults which can increase their risk of cancer later in life.

“The food industry will continue to push their products into the minds of teens if they’re allowed to do so. The Government needs to work with Ofcom to protect the health of the next generation.”

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.


Giant junk food portions fuelling obesity crisis – research

Australians are eating ever bigger portions of foods laden in fat, sugar, and salt, according to research by The George Institute for Global Health.

Researchers compared data from 1995 to 2012 and found portion sizes for a large proportion of Australia’s most commonly consumed junk foods had risen significantly.

Pizza and cake stood out for being the worst offenders, recording a 66 per cent increase in the average number of kilojoules consumed in one sitting. A typical portion of sausage, cereal bar, processed meat, ice cream and wine also increased in size.

Dr Miaobing Zheng, of The George Institute for Global Health, said the results were worrying given that discretionary foods contribute about a third of Australia’s daily energy intake. “Over the past two decades we found that foods which provide very little nutritional benefit have surged in size, and this is helping to fuel Australia’s obesity epidemic,” said Zheng.

“We had expected portion sizes to have grown but we were still surprised by just how much. It’s pretty disturbing that an average slice of cake has increased in size so much it now contains almost 1000 kilojoules more than it did two decades ago.”

The study published in the journal Nutrients also found the portion sizes of pastries, snack foods (potato crisps, popcorn, corn chips) and potato fries had actually decreased.

“We aren’t 100 per cent sure why the portion sizes of these foods reduced, but if you take fries, for example, most fast food chains offer small portions, so it could be the case that people recognise these foods are unhealthy and consciously try and eat less of them.  But, unfortunately these foods items were the exception, not the norm,” said Zheng.

“We know that people often under report the amount of food and drink they consume, especially if they consider them ‘bad‘ foods. So the true picture of what Australians are eating could be much worse.”

The team examined data from two different Australia-wide surveys – the 1995 National Nutrition Survey and the 2011-2012 National Nutrition Physical Activity Survey. Participants were asked to record everything they had eaten in a 24 hour period and were given photos and measuring guides to help them asses the size of their portions accurately.

Data was also recorded by age and sex.  Researchers found serves of ice-cream eaten by women had  increased in size by nearly a third.

Co-author Beth Meertens, of The Heart Foundation, said: “There has been some success in this area, but there’s lots of work to do. We need the community to understand how portion size may influence the amount of food they eat, and to think carefully about how they choose their food portions.

“But, more importantly, we need an environment which supports and encourages those choices. We need to work with the food industry to reduce the size of the products which have increased over time, and increase the portions of healthy foods.

“Now, with this Australian-specific information, we are better placed to improve portion size in Australia.”


Food makers using cartoon characters to sell kids junk food: research

More than half of supermarket products marketed at kids are unhealthy, according to research from the Obesity Policy Coalition (OPC).

The OPC surveyed 186 packaged foods with cartoons or character promotions designed to attract children – 52 percent were classified as unhealthy by the Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) Nutrient Profiling Scoring Criterion calculator, which looks at the amount of energy and certain nutrients (e.g. saturated fat, sugars, sodium) present in the food.

OPC Executive Manager Jane Martin said at a time when 27 per cent of Australian children are overweight or obese, it’s shocking to see so many manufacturers directly targeting children with unhealthy food.

“It’s extremely frustrating to see cartoons and animations being used to lure children and create pester power to push parents into buying unhealthy products for kids,” Ms Martin said.

“Children are naturally drawn to fun, colourful characters on foods in the supermarket, and food companies are fully aware of this. They know that children have an incredible amount of power over what their parents buy[i], and that’s why Chile, a country that has been very progressive in obesity prevention, has restricted the use of cartoons on unhealthy food packaging.

“It’s a shame that this powerful marketing tactic is not being used to sell more healthy products instead.”

Among the unhealthy products which used cartoons to appeal to children were Kellogg’s Frosties, which are 41 percent sugar, and Kraft Cheestik Sticks which contain 17.5g of saturated fat per 100g.

Food advertising in Australia is basically self-regulated, leaving food and advertising industries to make and break their own rules. Current industry-led regulations do not cover food packaging.

“In Australia, the use of cartoons and characters on food and drink packaging is allowed, even under weak self-regulation, providing an unfettered marketing tool for food advertisers to target children,” Ms Martin said.

“We want food manufacturers to stop using animations to promote junk food in any way to kids and for the Federal Government to extend and strengthen existing junk food marketing regulations.

“Peak health bodies, such as the World Health Organization, recognise that restricting junk food marketing to children is a vital step in improving children’s diets and slowing our serious obesity problem. Urgent action is required to protect our children from the plethora of junk food promotion that surrounds them.”

One company which uses cartoon characters in its marketing, Kelloggs, is resisting the call for change.

“Beloved Kellogg characters like Coco the Monkey, Sam Toucan and Tony the Tiger have been around for many years and are part of our heritage. Tony is the eldest and will be turning 67 this year. To get rid of them would be akin to asking Qantas to get rid of the Flying Kangaroo,” a Kellogg spokesperson said.

“The OPC is effectively saying to parents that they have less influence on their kids than a picture of a tiger or a monkey on a box of cereal, which is hugely discrediting to what parents decide to choose or don’t choose for their kids.”

Aussies spending most of food budget on junk food

Australian households spend the majority (58 per cent) of their food budget on discretionary or ‘junk’ foods and drinks, including take-aways (14 per cent) and sugar-sweetened beverages (4 per cent), according to new research.

According to Professor Amanda Lee, who is presenting her research at the Dietitians Association of Australia’s National Conference in Hobart this week, healthy diets are more affordable than current (unhealthy) diets – costing households 15 per cent less.

But according to Australian Health Survey data, few Australians consume diets consistent with national recommendations.

“Less than four per cent of Australians eat adequate quantities of healthy foods, yet more than 35 per cent of energy (kilojoule) intake comes from discretionary foods and drinks, which provide little nutrition – and this is hurting our health and our hip pocket,” said Professor Lee, from the Sax Institute.

She said the figures are particularly worrying because poor diet is the leading preventable cause of ill health in Australia and globally, contributing to almost 18 per cent of deaths in Australia, while obesity costs the nation $58 billion a year.

Professor Lee, an Accredited Practising Dietitian, added that ill health due to poor diet is not shared equally, with some population groups, such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and people who are disadvantaged socioeconomically, more at risk.

Her research found that, although healthy diets cost less than current (unhealthy) diets, people in low income households need to spend around a third (31 per cent) of their disposable income to eat a healthy diet, so food security is a real problem in these households.

She added that policies that increase the price differential between healthy and unhealthy diets could further compromise food security in vulnerable groups.

“At the moment, basic healthy foods like fresh vegetables and fruit are except from the GST, but there’s been talk of extending this to all foods. If this were to happen, the cost of a healthy diet would become unaffordable for low-income families,” said Lee.

Lee said Australia needs a coordinated approach to nutrition policy – a call echoed by the Dietitians Association of Australian, the Public Health Association of Australia, the Heart Foundation and Nutrition Australia.

Trimming the excess: how cutting down on junk food could help save the environment

Looking for a new reason to cut down on “junk” food? Besides the obvious health-related benefits, I showed in a recent study that discretionary or junk foods make up a significant proportion of food-related environmental impacts.

For an average Australian household, my research found that discretionary food contribute 33-39% of diet-related water use, energy use, greenhouse gas emissions and land use.

Why is this a problem? In a warming world with a growing population and dwindling resources, we can no longer afford discretionary consumption that harms both our own and the planet’s health.

Although the topic of sustainable diets is becoming more popular, the debate and proposed policies have not sufficiently questioned the proliferation of junk food products that use scarce resources to produce empty calories.

Sustainable and healthy

The global food system accounts for around 25% of greenhouse gas emissions, 70% of water use and 38% of land use. We urgently need to meet climate targets and ensure food security. But it is increasingly recognised that making agriculture more efficient (to produce more food while using less resources) will not be enough. More sustainable diets are therefore essential.

National dietary guidelines are designed to help us eat more healthily. Recent iterations in Brazil, Sweden and the Netherlands also stress the importance of health and sustainability.

Animal-derived foods generally have bigger total environmental footprints than plant foods. This is because of the significant amounts of land, water and feed required by livestock and the methane released by ruminants.

Many recommendations to achieve healthy and sustainable diets have therefore justifiably focused on the need to reduce meat and animal-derived product consumption.

Diets such as the Mediterranean, rich in vegetables, fruit, legumes and wholegrains, seem to achieve the right balance between health and sustainability. A key characteristic of the traditional Mediterranean diet is the limited amount of discretionary food.

Enter junk foods

The Australian Dietary Guidelines describe discretionary foods as: “foods and drinks not necessary to provide the nutrients the body needs, but that may add variety. Many of these are high in saturated fats, sugars, salt and/or alcohol.”

By contrast, non-discretionary foods are those belonging to the core food groups: fruit, vegetables, cereals, legumes, nuts and seeds, dairy and unprocessed meat.

We all know that discretionary foods are unhealthy, but how do different products compare in terms of environmental impact?

There is a serious absence of research quantifying the environmental impacts of these foods. We would expect that the more processing our food goes through, the greater its overall impact due to cumulative energy and other input requirements.

However, my research shows that it depends on a number of factors – an issue highlighted in other studies on the general environmental impacts of diets. Junk foods almost always use more energy, but land and water use vary between products. Work in this area is still evolving.

However, this variability should not get junk foods off the hook, especially given their contribution to obesity. The question becomes whether these foods are consumed in excess, or whether they have displaced core foods – as can be the case for poorer socioeconomic groups.

The average energy intake of most Australians is above that recommended for their age and activity levels. That means we have to eliminate excess energy consumption, and we could consider eating junk food as a form of food waste.

If less discretionary food is produced, this means either that more unprocessed ingredients are available in their more nutritious forms, or that less agricultural production is necessary. Both could reduce environmental impacts.

What can we do about it?

Well, it’s complicated. The solution should ultimately tackle the heart of the problem, which is why we overconsume these foods in the first place.

Encouraging dietary shifts away from junk foods is challenging because of their cheapness, taste and convenience. Discretionary foods are also aggressively promoted to consumers due to their high profitability.

This last point epitomises what is fundamentally wrong with our food system, and why it’s not supporting health and sustainability in the way it should. While carefully selected food taxes and subsidies, in addition to better labelling and restrictions on junk food advertising, can help reduce their consumption, these consumer-oriented measures are only part of the solution.

Food producers should ultimately be held responsible for the proliferation of cheap discretionary food. We need to encourage divestment away from unhealthy, unsustainable products through regulation and public pressure, following the example of measures to address climate change.

As the developing world continues to transition towards more “Westernised” diets, food consumption patterns are likely to become even more environmentally intensive.

To feed more people sustainably we need to trim off the excess by not only reducing the consumption of animal products, but also by fighting overconsumption of discretionary foods and the associated waste.

The Conversation

Michalis Hadjikakou, Postdoctoral Research Associate in Environmental Sustainability, UNSW Australia

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

When it comes to food, could ‘reactive’ sometimes be best?

True for almost all situations in life, being proactive is best. And this has been a formative lesson in my time so far: whether reaching out to a potential mentor that inspired me and making time for a coffee and a chat, or walking to work to beat any future risk of cardiovascular disease, or simply being the first to say sorry after a heated disagreement with a good friend. Taking initiative, rather than accepting an outcome. A general and helpful rule in most situations is to be proactive.

But maybe not always.

When it comes to food and our food systems, I have written a lot about the challenges we face and the global double burden of malnutrition that sees a food system and approach to food that results in 1.9 billion people going to bed overweight or obese each night, while almost 800 million wake up hungry.

In children, 42 million under five years are now overweight or obese – across rich and poor countries alike. As our food systems globalise and commodify, food is now a leading driver of climate-related greenhouse gasses, while we waste one in three mouthfuls from plates across the planet.

These challenges are big, and while being proactive in solving them is key – maybe some solutions also lie in being reactive. Maybe it’s not just about innovation from nothing, but taking a moment to realise and react to what’s already there. And capitalise on it.

Here are three simple ways being REACTIVE might be proactive for food, for health and for our wallets.

1. React to the season

Learning and appreciating what grows when in the year is not that simple. Is broccoli a summer veg, or winter? Do we pick tomatoes in June, or January? Sounds like a discussion for the elite, but it’s actually an important conversation for us all.

Reacting to the sights and smells of your supermarket, market or store and buying in season can be better for you, better for the planet and best for your hip pocket.

When you’re next buying groceries, stick to a simple rule. Go for what looks fresh, has less packaging and, above all, is cheap. Food that is in season uses less energy and costs less to store and often looks and tastes best too. It needs less packaging to preserve it and buying when there is an abundance means supply is up and often, prices are down.

A shopping list is great for reducing waste and limiting unnecessary purchases, but being flexible to buy what the seasons offer can have big rewards.

Another great reminder is to refer to a season’s chart relevant to your local area.

2. React to your pantry and its contents

Many great things have come with the rise in reality cooking shows, celebrity chefs and complex recipe books. People are fascinated by food again and in some cases, even getting back in the kitchen.

We snapchat our lunch and instagram breakfast. But one serious downside is that with long and complicated recipes often requiring a specialised trip to the store, we lose the important ability to cook reactively.

With a pantry full of seasonal (fresher and cheaper) produce, the next step is to react to your pantry’s contents – not to a complex recipe book. Start simple with recipes of two or three ingredients. Learn some basics and go from there – but start and build the recipe based on what you have and not what you need.

The outcome is food that is uncomplicated, takes less time and effort to create, is less stressful to cook and costs a lot less to plate. It also means we don’t fill our pantries with half-empty packets of once-off ingredients; and with most food-waste in high-income countries occurring after market, including in our homes, this means we might waste less too.

3. React to your body, and your appetite

Finally, two important parts of the nutrition challenge fuelling our obesity epidemics worldwide are the rise and rise in portion sizes – particularly in junk food – and the rapid expansion of processed snack foods including sugary drinks.

With a pantry full of foods that react to the season, and recipes that react to what you have at home and not what your recipe prescribes, the final step could be to react to ourselves.

Eating slower and eating with others have both been associated with eating less and eating more healthily. In other words, by giving our bodies time to feel full and dining with attention on our food, and our bodies, we give ourselves the chance to stop when we want, and not overconsume.

Eating smaller serves on smaller plates, but coming back for seconds as needed, is also associated with healthier portions and a healthier us.

Reactive is proactive

When it comes to addressing our broken food system with progressive pricing on junk foods, or better supporting school breakfast programmes, or limiting harmful advertising of unhealthy foods aimed at our kids, there is no question.

We must be proactive.

This is also not to put blame on any individual or suggest that ill health is a choice, forgetting the obesogenic environment and deeply broken food system many of us live with.

But from time to time, maybe there are some simple things that many of us can do – and react to – that can make health a little more likely.

When it comes to food, maybe “reactive” is also sometimes proactive.


Love food, health or just hanging out with friends? To celebrate the role food plays in directly and indirectly solving many of our great health challenges, this month the team from NCDFREE have launched a new global campaign. Entitled Feast of Ideas, the concept is for proactive people in all countries to host a meal with friends (be it in a cafe, a park, or at home), over which you discuss topics and challenges proposed by the NCDFREE team and their network. NCDFREE even includes recipes, a shopping list and a step-by-step “how to” guide. Crowdsourcing solutions worldwide and with 200 dinners registered, and counting, you then feed the health solutions from your dinner discussions back to NCDFREE via social media, using #FeastOfIdeas. It is free to take part and running throughout the month of October. Sign up today at ncdfree.org/campaign

Connect with Sandro on Twitter (@sandrodemaio) to comment or share.

The Conversation

Alessandro R Demaio, Global Health Doctor; Co-Founded NCDFREE & festival21; Assoc. Researcher, University of Copenhagen

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


Top image: Flickr / S B, CC BY-NC-ND

Dropping the plan to ban junk food ads in prime time was a bad move – the UK will regret it

The UK government’s Childhood Obesity Plan has been met with widespread anger from numerous health organisations. This was not least because it delivered “absolutely nothing” to regulate food advertising, something Jamie Oliver had called for.

A recent consultation recommended an extension of industry regulation in some areas of marketing activity to children, but TV advertising lay outside its remit. Should the government have taken the opportunity to address TV advertising by more direct intervention?

Of the many commercial communications children are exposed to, pre-9pm family TV programming (think Britain’s Got Talent or The X Factor) provides an easier target for legislation. Marketing communications, for better or worse, influence what we eat. Their effects depend, however, on whether their message really gets through to consumers in a media saturated society.

Organisations understand that even the best advertising plans are beset by “noise”. That is, we are surrounded by message clutter – and often messages conflict or compete. It is hard to get your message to stand out, to create buzz and prompt the audience into acting on it. All the more so where healthy messages are outspent by less healthy messages.

The national Change for Life marketing campaign deals with diet and is backed by Public Health England to the tune of around £9m annually. A sum making it hard for their healthy eating message to compete with alternative commercial messages that can pay around £150,000 for a 30-second slot in prime time.

But ad campaigns that are properly thought through, integrated and well supported can lift sales of healthier foods. Aldi has done just that through its sponsorship of Team GB, linked to television, in-store, digital, school and press activity around the theme of “home-grown heroes”. Much of the campaign had a fruity (and vegetable) theme and, according to a report in The Grocer – unfortunately behind a paywall – Aldi boosted its produce sales by 20%. It is a noteworthy, if discrete, instance of a healthier message breaking through – and a chink of light, perhaps, given declining fruit and veg sales despite consistent long-standing delivery of the five-a-day message.

And now, a word from our sponsors.

Collectively, studies show a moderate direct impact of adverts on children’s consumption of unhealthy foods. But recent research demonstrates that children feel a strong pull towards junk food advertising. Children aged eight to 12 describe junk food advertising as “tempting” and “addictive”. The picture emerges of children who know the food being sold to them on television is bad, but they still find them very seductive. This conundrum suggests less immediate and direct effect of advertising that are nevertheless more insidious and long-term.

Consumer researchers recognise the cultural role of adverts. Children are active users of advertising, reproducing their messages even in everyday play. So adverts play a role in forming our understanding of the world. And that often means understanding “bad” food as a reward, an indulgence or naughty but deserved pleasure.

Bad food isn’t fun

There is no better arena than prime time family TV for resource-rich corporations to promote an insidious message that “bad” food is “good” when it is a treat, or part of a balanced diet, a deserved indulgence, fun. These are generalised associations, with the less helpful aspects of our diet linked to an indulgent time period in the family week. Breaking this link would represent a modest step towards cultural change.

Meanwhile, the food industry has reacted in divergent ways to the childhood obesity plan. Sainsbury’s has been particularly vocal among retailers to regret its lack of legal teeth, particularly with respect to promotions and advertising – it wants more regulation to provide a level playing field. Soft drink companies are among those who feel unduly singled out. So, within a divided industry, what might additional TV regulation do?

First, we should not underestimate the voluntary steps taken towards a healthier future among food and drink manufacturers and retailers. These steps include “guiltless” checkout aisles in supermarkets – which don’t push sweets at children and their mothers. But there has also been widespread reformulation of products to remove sugar, alteration of key product ranges and additional food labelling.

Such steps are often achieved quietly and have been guardedly welcomed by health campaigners – mixed with a degree of scepticism. True, companies are acting in their own commercial interests. But in positioning themselves for commercial success in a possibly more healthy future society, industry players are important in bringing that future into being.

So, there are causes for optimism but – again – these need to punch through competition and message noise. The childhood obesity plan provided an opportunity to prevent organisations across the board from “doing the wrong thing”. An extension of the advertising ban until 9pm would have been a limited and well-defined step in clearing the path towards changing our culture’s relationship with food. It would also have forced the industry to focus on its better foods and wean itself off the bad habit of pushing junk food to children.

The Conversation

Gillian Hopkinson, Senior Lecturer in Marketing, Lancaster University

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

Scientists develop food supplement that cuts junk food cravings [VIDEO]

Researchers in the UK say they have developed a food supplement that, when consumed,  can reduce cravings for unhealthy foods like pizza but not affect the desire for healthy foods.

The researchers from Imperial College London tested the supplement, inulin-propionate ester on 20 volunteers. They found that it not only reduced cravings in those who consumed it but also resulted in them eating smaller portions.

The supplement is based on a molecule produced by gut bacteria that tells the brain when you’re full and don’t need any more food.

The latest research follows previous work into the feedback pathway. Previously, the team had shown that eating the inulin can increase the production of the molecule propionate in the intestine, which then signals the brain that no more food is needed.

They have now shown that by modifying inulin to contain propionate they could trigger gut bacteria to produce as much as 2.5 times more propionate.

The volunteers were given milkshake containing 10 grams of inulin propionate ester, or regular inulin on its own (as the control).

Then they received MRI scans and were shown pictures of a range of foods, such as salad and fish, or chocolate and cake.

Those who had consumed the inulin-propionate ester supplement had less activity in the reward regions of their brain than the control group, but only when they looked at the high-calorie foods.

Senior author Gary Frost said, “This study shows that this supplement can decrease activity in brain areas associated with food reward at the same time as reducing the amount of food they eat.”

Co-senior author Tony Goldstone noted, “These show that altering how the gut works can change not only appetite in general, but also change how the brain responds when they see high-calorie foods, and how appealing they find the foods to be.”

The study is published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Food promoted by music stars usually unhealthy – study

Most food products promoted by music celebrities like Beyonce, Katy Perry or Snoop Dogg are unhealthy, according to a new study.

A study in the July 2016 Pediatrics examines the food industry’s use of music celebrities to endorse sugary soft drinks and nutrient-poor foods through multi-million-dollar campaigns. Results also demonstrated that these celebrities are highly popular among teenage audiences.

The study, “Popular Music Celebrity Endorsements in Food and Non-Alcoholic Beverage Marketing,” assessed 163 celebrities associated with the 2013 and 2014 Billboard Hot 100 chart, and found 65 entertainers who had one or more food and beverage endorsements between 2000 and 2014.

The study, to be released online June 6, also looked at the nutritional value of endorsed products, and found 81 percent were unhealthy, according to the Nutrient Profile Index.

The healthiest product endorsed was pistachios, but no celebrities endorsed fruits, vegetables, or whole grains. Seventy-one percent of the non-alcoholic beverage endorsements were for sugar-sweetened beverages, with only three endorsements for water or a water-related product, such as a filter.

The food and beverage industry spends $2 billion annually on youth-targeted advertisements. Public health experts have expressed concern over the marketing techniques aimed at teens, and have called for messages that encourage consumption of healthy foods and beverages.

Mind the doughnut: emotional eating is a habit that can start in childhood

Food can be an extremely effective tool for calming young children. If they are bored on a long car journey, or fed up with being in the pushchair, many parents use snack foods to distract them for a little longer. Or if children are upset because they have hurt themselves or want something they cannot have, the offer of something sweet is often used to “make them feel better”.

But what are the effects of using food as a tool to deal with emotions like boredom or sadness? Does it turn children into adults who cannot cope with being bored or upset without a sweet snack? Probably not. There certainly isn’t any evidence to suggest that occasionally resorting to the biscuit tin will affect children in this way. But what if we do it on a regular basis? What happens when sweets and biscuits become the tool for rewarding children for good behaviour and doing well? Or if food is consistently withheld as a punishment?

There is a growing body of evidence which suggests that using food as a tool or as a reward regularly with children may be associated with a greater risk of emotional eating. In a recent study we explored whether children as young as three preferred to play with toys or eat snack foods if they were feeling stressed.

All the children had just eaten lunch so were not hungry, and were then observed to see what they did in a four minute period – eat or play with toys – whilst waiting for someone to look for a missing final piece of a jigsaw. Children aged three to five did not tend to eat much more in comparison to a control group. However, in a similar experiment when the children were two years older, we found many of the children would eat foods when they were not hungry (emotional overeating), rather than play.

It appears that somewhere between the ages of four and six, the tendency to emotionally overeat may increase in many children. And parents who told us they frequently used food as a reward (or its withdrawal as a punishment) when their children were younger, were more likely to have children who emotionally overate when they were aged five to seven. This suggests that frequent use of food as a reward or punishment in that younger period may predict a greater chance of children using food as an emotional tool later in life.

Of course you may be thinking that your own exposure to “reward” foods hasn’t had any lasting impact on your current eating behaviour. But it is worth considering how society has changed in the last few decades to market and promote high calorie foods to children. Many people believe we live in an “obesogenic society”, where our environment has evolved to promote obesity rather than support healthy eating. The fact that around a third of English school children are overweight or obese is testament to this. With grab-bag sized bags of chocolates being promoted to children, supersized portions in fast-food outlets and even clothes shops selling sweets at children’s eye level in queues, it is clear our children need to adapt to cope with constantly being marketed large portions of high calorie foods.

So how can we navigate this complex environment, juggling the balance of making food enjoyable and sociable, whilst helping children to achieve a healthy and balanced diet? Sweet foods are a fun part of life and not necessarily something we want to remove. Even if we eliminated all links between food, emotion and reward in the home, the reality is that society is full of situations where children will experience being given calorie dense foods as a reward or as part of celebrations. It would be a pity to take away the joy that children find in party bags, birthday cakes, Easter eggs and other celebration foods. Perhaps thinking about not just what foods we give children, but also how and why we give certain foods to children at particular times is a good way to start.

Teaching children how to manage their appetites, to eat if they are hungry and to stop if they are full, is an important lesson which is often overlooked.

Eating patterns can usually be tracked across life, so children who learn to use food as a tool to deal with emotional distress early on are much more likely to follow a similar pattern of eating later in adult life. Around three quarters of children who are obese will continue to be obese as adults. Emotional overeating is one factor that has been linked not only with overeating and obesity, but also with the development of eating disorders. To combat this, the way we feed children, and the lessons we provide about how to use food, may be just as important as what we feed them.

Claire Farrow is Senior Lecturer in Psychology, Aston University.

Emma Haycraft is Senior Lecturer in Psychology, Loughborough University.

Jackie Blissett is a Reader in Childhood Eating Behaviour, University of Birmingham.


This article first appeared on The Conversation. Read the original here.




High fat and sugar diets stop us from feeling full

When we eat a meal, we take for granted that we should feel full afterwards. But eating a diet high in sugar and fat makes it harder for our body to tell if we are full or not.

The typical diet in Western societies consists of highly processed, highly palatable foods, with lots of saturated fat and refined sugar. Examples of specific foods include red meat, vegetable oils, ice cream, sweetened yoghurts, cakes, cereal, biscuits and soft drinks.

These foods are so commonly consumed in developed nations it has become known as the “Western diet”. We know this sort of diet is high calories and therefore tends to make us gain weight. But new research suggests this diet might also impair our ability to stop eating when we’re full, which would be another reason it would make us put on weight.

Gut-brain signals

When you eat a meal, the body releases hormones to tell your brain you are full. These hormones send messages to specific areas of the brain, which are involved in the decision to either stop eating or continue eating. One important area of the brain that receives these messages is the hippocampus.

The hippocampus is involved in memory. People whose hippocampus has been removed are densely amnesic – they are unable to form new memories. But our research suggests another important function of the hippocampus is receiving messages from the gut about internal states such as hunger.

Humans with severe damage to their hippocampus will always say they are hungry, regardless of whether they have just eaten or not. They will eat a full meal, and then only a few minutes later eat an entire second meal. So the hippocampus is very important in telling the body we’re full and don’t need to eat any more.

Rats and mice fed a Western diet have damage to the hippocampus. In our lab, we wanted to know whether eating a Western diet damages the hippocampus in humans too. To test this hypothesis, we looked at memory ability, and the ability to detect signals to indicate fullness.

Our research

Our first study compared two groups of people: those who eat a Western diet, and those with a diet low in saturated fat and refined sugar – a healthy diet. Both groups were matched for age, sex and body mass index.

Both groups were given a range of snacks, followed by some tests of memory ability and then they ate lunch. They were asked to rate how hungry they were before and after the meals, and asked to recall how much they ate during the snack and lunch meals.

Compared to the healthy diet group, the Western diet group had poorer scores on memory tasks, had poorer memory for what they had eaten during the snack period, showed reduced feelings of fullness for the same amount of food eaten, and ate more during the lunch period.

This is the first evidence in otherwise healthy, normal-weight humans that eating a Western diet could be damaging the hippocampus and causing poorer memory ability and reduced sensitivity to feelings of fullness after eating. Because they couldn’t accurately remember what they ate during the snack period, and because they had less sensitivity to feelings of fullness, it is not surprising they ate more during the lunch period.

In a second study, we showed the same effect seems to happen with thirst. When participants were made thirsty by feeding them salty chips, the Western diet group didn’t feel as thirsty, but needed to drink more water to quench their thirst. This suggests the Western diet was impairing their brain’s ability to receive messages from the gut.

What this means for you

It’s not just the calories in a Western diet making us overweight. The diet itself makes us less sensitive to feelings of fullness, causing us to eat more.

But there is some good news. Individuals in the healthy diet group were more sensitive to their internal signals of fullness and thirst. This provides hope that, after taking the initial first step of eating a healthy diet, it might become easier to eat according to your body’s hunger signals and to continue making better dietary choices.

Importantly, these findings were in healthy young adults. This means even if you’re young and of a healthy body weight, you should consider the impact of the food you’re eating on your brain. This information could be a great motivating force to get people to eat a healthy diet and perhaps reduce rates of obesity.

What can we do about it?

Various nutrients have been shown to improve hippocampal dependent memory, and protect against the effects of ageing on the brain.

Omega-3 fatty acids

These are often referred to as a “good fat”. Omega 3 fatty acids include acids critical for brain function. They’re found in fish, avocado and flaxseed.

Antioxidant foods

When cells produce energy, they produce reactive oxygen species which cause damage to the cell. The body can counteract these harmful effects through antioxidants. Various micronutrients have antioxidant properties:


These micronutrients are found in fruits and vegetables (especially dark berries), as well as coffee, tea, red wine, chocolate and soy. Polyphenols have an antioxidant effect and can also reduce inflammation in the brain. Improved brain function after consuming cocoa has been shown in both young and old adults.


This is a component of turmeric, the spice that gives the yellow colour to a lot of curries. It has been shown to promote brain health through its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It is speculated the high intake of curcumin in India might explain why there is such a low incidence of Alzheimer’s disease in that country.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E has antioxidant properties and has been shown to improve neurological function with age. It is found in nuts, green leafy vegetables, wheatgerm and vegetable oils such as sunflower and grapeseed.


Also known as folic acid, folate is found in spinach, oranges and yeast. It is required for optimal brain function, and supplementation with folate has been shown to reduce the risk of cognitive decline with age.


Heather Francis is a Postdoctoral Researcher & Clinical Neuropsychologist, Macquarie University.


This article first appeared on the Conversation. Read the original here.



 Australian sugary drinks tax could prevent thousands of heart attacks and strokes and save 1,600 lives

Last month the United Kingdom announced a sugar tax on soft drinks. The tax will come into effect in 2018, with the funds to be used to address childhood obesity.

The move has been applauded by public health groups internationally. Unsurprisingly, the tax is strongly opposed by powerful groups in the food industry, and the announcement resulted in shares in Coca-Cola temporarily plunging.

In our new research published today in PLOS ONE, for the first time we have modelled the impact of such a tax in Australia. Over 25 years, a 20% rise in the price of soft drinks and flavoured mineral waters would save 1,600 lives. It would also prevent 4,400 heart attacks and 1,100 strokes.

Overall, the savings to the health-care system would add up to A$609 million.

It’s time for Australia to follow the UK’s lead and increase the price of sugary drinks.

What’s wrong with sugary drinks?

The evidence of the negative health impact of these products is clear, particularly with respect to dental health. Sugary drinks are also associated with increased energy intake and, in turn, weight gain and obesity.

Obesity is a leading risk factor for type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.

Soft drinks are very popular, particularly among children and adolescents. So there is much to be gained, from a population health perspective, from limiting their consumption.

Many countries have already recognised the potential to improve population health by taxing sugary drinks. In recent years, Hungary, Mexico, France and Chile have all implemented a tax. The UK announcement follows a similar one by South Africa earlier in 2016.

Potential impact in Australia

Our PLOS ONE research examined the potential impact of a 20% rise in the prices of sugar-sweetened carbonated soft drinks and flavoured mineral waters on health, health-care expenditure and potential revenue.

As expected, the tax would result in people decreasing their consumption of sugary drinks. The influence of a price increase would be greatest on those who drink a lot of sugary drinks, so the greatest impact would be on younger age groups. This is an important result that is difficult to achieve through other obesity-prevention measures.

The decreases in consumption would result in small declines in the prevalence of obesity of about 0.7% in men and 0.3% in women.

When the health benefits of these changes are modelled for the whole population over their lifetime, the influence of the tax is substantial. The research estimates that it would reduce the number of new type 2 diabetes cases by approximately 800 per year.

Twenty five years after the introduction of the tax, there would be 4,400 fewer cases of heart disease and 1,100 fewer strokes. An estimated 1,600 people would be alive as a result of the tax. Overall, the savings to the health-care system would add up to A$609 million.

Even taking into account declines in consumption, the revenue collected from the tax would be more than A$400m annually. This would provide the government with a significant pool of funds to subsidise healthy food for low-income Australians, contribute to childhood obesity-prevention programs and support the promotion of healthy eating.

If other beverages with added sugar not included in this study (such as energy drinks, fruit drinks, milk-based drinks and cordials) were also taxed, the revenue and health benefits would be even greater.

High sugary drink consumption in Australia

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently released revised guidelines for sugars, recommending that energy from “free sugar” (added by manufacturers, cooks or the consumer) is limited to less than 10% overall.

A recent analysis of added sugar in the Australian population found that most adults and children exceed the WHO recommendation, with sugary drinks accounting for the largest proportion of added sugar.

Just looking at supermarket retail sales, Australians bought around 1.1 billion litres of sugary drinks in 2015 at a cost of A$2.2 billion. This doesn’t include what is bought from fast-food outlets, cinemas, vending machines, hotels and convenience stores.

In many remote Indigenous communities, sugary drink consumption is particularly high. Evidence to Senate Estimates revealed that, in the last financial year, remote Indigenous communities were buying 1.1 million litres of sugary soft drink through community stores. This elicited a response from Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion who said:

I think in remote communities and very remote communities, sugar is just killing the population.

Strong public support

The sugary drinks industry, represented by the Australian Beverages Council, has widely criticised a tax on sugary drinks.

But the majority of Australians support such a tax. A survey in 2012 showed that two-thirds (65%) of respondents were in favour of a tax on soft drinks if the money was used to reduce the cost of healthy food.

This strong public support, together with the substantial health benefits and extra revenue that could be expected from the tax, should make it a highly attractive policy option for the Australian government.

At a time when the cost of preventable disease is threatening to overwhelm the health system, a tax on sugary drinks is an essential element of a comprehensive approach to address poor diets and overweight and obesity.


Gary Sacks is Senior Research Fellow, WHO Collaborating Centre for Obesity Prevention, Deakin University.

Jane Martin is Executive Manager of the Obesity Policy Coalition; Senior Fellow, Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, University of Melbourne.

Lennert Veerman is Senior Research Fellow, School of Population Health, The University of Queensland.


This article first appeared in the Conversation. Read the original here. 

Cut down on salt, drink less and move more: Australia’s blueprint to control chronic disease

Chronic diseases are responsible for nine out of ten deaths in Australia, and for much of the health expenditure about which governments are so concerned.

The risk factors underlying these chronic diseases in Australia need to be urgently addressed. Factors such as physical inactivity, obesity, poor nutrition, smoking and alcohol misuse contribute to a range of chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, cancer and respiratory illnesses.

Our new report, released this week, proposes a set of chronic disease targets especially designed for Australia. These draw from the World Health Organisation’s Global Action Plan targets for 2025 and include an additional area: mental health.

The focus is on population-based approaches to prevention, but we also target those at high risk of chronic disease. The 2025 targets Australian experts propose are:

  • Life – a 25% reduction in preventable early deaths from chronic diseases
  • Alcohol – at least a 10% reduction in harmful drinking
  • Exercise – a 10% reduction in inactivity
  • Salt – a 30% reduction in salt intake
  • Tobacco – a 30% reduction in adult tobacco use and a 60% reduction for people with mental illness
  • Obesity – no rise in the level of obesity
  • Diabetes – no rise in the level of new diabetes
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure) – a 25% reduction across the population
  • Mental health – a 10% reduction in suicide rates (by 2020); to halve the employment and education gap for people with mental illness.

How are we doing?

Australia addresses some risk factors better than others. We perform well on tobacco control, for instance, and were the first to introduce plain packaging with graphic health warnings, in 2012. Ireland and the United Kingdom have since introduced plain packaging, and France, Norway, South Africa and Canada are committed to such legislation.

The drop in smoking rates to 12.8% reflects coordinated action using taxation, regulation of sales and advertising, and community education. But we still have work to do.

Australia’s performance in other areas is of major concern. In 2011/12, 63% of adults, or 10.8 million people, were overweight or obese. This makes us one of the heaviest nations in the world. Obesity carries significant health risks for heart disease and stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure, some cancers as well as a range of other chronic diseases.

Salt intake is another area of concern; Australia is falling behind countries such as Britain in this area. In 2013, Australian men consumed 7.1 grams of salt each day and women 5.3 grams. Most salt in the Australia diet comes from processed foods and convenience foods, such as bread, cereals, soups and sauces, pizza and sandwiches.

Reducing Australia’s salt intake by 30% would result in 3,500 fewer deaths a year from strokes and heart attacks and save millions of dollars in the health-care system.

Four out of five Australian children (aged five to 17) don’t get enough physical exercise and more than half of Australian adults are physically inactive. Lack of physical activity contributes to early and preventable deaths and has about the same impact on people’s health as smoking and obesity.

Alcohol is implicated as a cause in more than 200 medical conditions such as cancer and stroke. Alcohol-related presentations to emergency departments are rising, and there is increased risk of injury through accidents and assaults associated with drinking.

Fixing our health and our economy

Chronic diseases are expensive, and monitoring both diseases and risk factors is essential to avert future costs and harms. Health spending on diabetes has been predicted to rise by 400% over coming decades, reaching A$7 billion in 2033. This is largely due to excess weight and obesity.

So how can we reverse this trend?

We need good information about the health of our population so that progress on risk factors such as obesity and high blood pressure can be tracked. Carrying out the Australian Health Survey every five years is essential, so that we have direct measures of blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels from a population sample. However, there is currently no national commitment to regular health surveys.

To address inequities, both monitoring and interventions need to be planned with the needs of disadvantaged groups in mind. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, rural Australians and people from low socioeconomic backgrounds bear a greater brunt of chronic disease and risk factor exposure.

For the millions of Australians living with chronic diseases, better coordination of care is key to improving health outcomes. This can be as simple as different health care professionals sharing patient information and coordinating appointments.

Or it may mean preventing chronic diseases from progressing. Vision and foot checks for people with diabetes, for instance, can help prevent complications such as amputations and loss of sight.

Information systems, including e-health records and patient registers, can also help. An IT system that prompts a check on whether a person with chronic lung problems has had the flu vaccine, for instance, could prevent significant illness or hospitalisation.

Finding our way

Australia has an opportunity to act on prevention and to invest in highly cost-effective policies and programs. We have a new national strategy for diabetes, and existing strategies in areas such as alcohol and obesity. What is missing is a focus on implementation.

A broad-based collaborative effort between Commonwealth, state and territory and local governments will be essential if Australia is to put in place effective prevention of chronic diseases by 2025.

Over time, Australian governments have not given adequate or sustained attention to keeping their population well. This must change if Australia is to have a thriving population and economy.

The Conversation

Rosemary Calder, Director, Health Policy, Victoria University

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

What Might Be the Impact of an Australian Soda Tax?

What Might Be the Impact of an Australian Soda Tax?

By Howard Telford, Senior Industry Analyst with Euromonitor International

With the implementation of high profile sugar and soft drinks taxation in France in 2012, in Mexico in 2014 and Berkley, California in January of this year, the global debate concerning the purpose and efficacy of excise tax proposals on sugary beverages is inevitably moving in to other high per capita markets for carbonates.

Presently, the topic is on the agenda in Australia, a top 10 market for carbonates consumption in terms of per capita retail volume sold, and yet another country where obesity and other public health concerns are driving interest in added taxation as a potential policy solution. Fifteen years of volume and value sales data for carbonated drinks in the Australian market, published as part of Euromonitor’s non-alcoholic drinks research program, allow us to speculate on the potential impact of a soft drinks tax by considering the historic impact that price increases have had on Australian retail sales of carbonates, with a focus on cola.

As part of non-alcoholic drinks research published this January, Euromonitor International employed an inductive demand model to aid in five-year forecasting. The forecast model attempts to identify several measureable and statistically significant demand factors (including retail price) from historic data sets of the 80 markets researched. These factors are tested against historically available data for retail and on-trade beverage category sales, and then weighted to assist in building 2015-2019 country forecasts.


For Australia, the results demonstrate that a 1% increase in the retail selling price of regular, full flavour cola carbonates can be expected to yield just a 0.2% decrease in retail volume. Consequently, even a relatively substantial (and hypothetical) 7% increase in pricing in 2015 would yield only half a percentage point difference in expected declines: from a 6.5% forecasted reduction in off-trade regular, full-flavour cola volume for 2015, to a 7.0% reduction in 2015 under a soda tax scenario.

Discounting other factors, this finding suggests a weak relationship between price hikes and volume declines in Australian standard cola. However, this finding is simply based on observable data from the market and should not be oversimplified. 

In constant 2014 Australian dollars, retail unit prices for cola carbonates (including regular and low calorie cola alternatives) have fallen consistently over the review period – by 17% in total over 2000-14. There is greater uncertainty over the impact of a substantial soda tax in Australia, because there is simply no precedent for a substantial price shock in the Australian retail market. Furthermore, the introduction of such taxation would necessarily be accompanied by a high profile health and public policy debate in the media that may further impact consumer attitudes and behaviours towards the cola and wider carbonates category for reasons other than simple price.

The policy argument for excise taxation on carbonates – or similar Pigovian taxation on other products, including alcohol and tobacco – is that taxes ultimately raise prices to the consumer, driving down overall consumption of unhealthy products. The low sensitivity of standard, regular cola retail volume consumption to changes in retail price in Australia and the relative importance of other demand drivers makes it difficult to draw hard conclusions about the immediate impact such a tax might have on consumption and health.

Additionally, as a developed soft drinks market, consumers in Australia have a wealth of diet, low-calorie, zero calorie, and other non-cola alternatives to replace regular cola carbonates in their diet. In fact, Australian low-calorie carbonates have gained considerably on regular cola over the review period. Crucially, for the first time in 2014, Euromonitor’s data suggests that low-calorie cola outsold regular cola carbonates in terms of retail volume in Australia.

We know that there have been substantial declines in standard, full flavour cola (down 22% in off-trade volume over 2000-2014) and wider carbonated beverages in Australia over the recent review period. Interestingly, these declines have taken place in an environment of flat or declining prices in real terms and have been accompanied by consumer migration to low calorie cola (and non-cola carbonate) alternatives. 

Recent volume declines, independent of observable category price increases, have had an impact on sugar consumption received from soft drinks, according to Euromonitor International’s Nutrition system. In 2011, Australians received an estimated 12.62g of sugar per capita, per diem from cola carbonate beverages. By 2014, this figure has fallen to 11.83g of sugar per capita, largely as the result of a 3% decline in cola carbonates retail volume over that same period. The amount of per capita, per diem sugar from cola carbonates is expected to fall to 10.28g by 2019, independent of excise tax legislation.

It may be worth considering whether consumers in Australia – and indeed in many developed markets – are addressing well publicised concerns about the category by exiting cola for other alternatives, independent of price considerations and motivated instead by health or taste considerations.

There is a weak observable relationship in historic volume data between cola consumption and price in Australia. This is primarily because there is little precedent for substantial price increases in retail cola, supported by a strong consumer expectation for discounting that has kept the price environment in the category flat or declining. It may be the case that a substantial price shock could have a disruptive and unexpected impact on consumption. However, even in a low price, discount oriented environment for full flavour cola, volume sales have declined substantially as consumers migrate to alternative beverage categories, including low-calorie colas (led by the brands Pepsi Max and Coca-Cola Zero).

Cola consumption (regular and low-calorie) is expected to decline by 9% over 2015-19, with regular, full-flavour cola expected to decline by a staggering 25% in just five years, independent of any tax increase. Consumption of total carbonates is expected to decline by 5% in retail. 

While soda taxes will gather political and media attention as a response to public health issues across food and beverages, it is worth considering whether consumers are already responding to health concerns in their soft drinks, largely independent of price considerations. Regular standard cola carbonates in Australia have declined, to the benefit of low-calorie alternatives, with a positive impact on per capita, per diem sugar consumption.


It is therefore worth wondering whether sugar and soda taxation proposals are seeking to address a health question to which the The chart above demonstrates this point clearly. In light blue, we have an industry demand model forecast estimate built only on core economic factors that influence consumer goods: population growth, average income growth, price and habit persistence (a lagged effect of growth in the previous year). If these factors alone were used to predict growth in Australian cola, a flat performance might be expected over the next five years. However, in dark blue, the actual published Passport forecast shows a CAGR of -5.4%, in stark contrast to the -0.6% CAGR expected by the industry demand model.

The consensus forecast is revised down by 4.8 percentage points to account for unmeasured factors outside the demand model, most prominently rapidly changing attitudes to health, sugar and lifestyles. These consumer-led factors are expected to be the driver behind declines in the Australian cola category. It is therefore worth wondering whether sugar and soda taxation proposals are seeking to address a health question to which the Australian consumer has already found an answer. consumer has already found an answer.

Red Rock Deli launches new range of Sweet Potato Crisps

Red Rock Deli, has released a new range of Sweet Potato Crisps. The new product joins Red Rock Deli’s existing range of Potato Crisps and Red Rock Deli Style Dips.

The new Red Rock Deli Sweet Potato Crisps are prepared using only the finest quality Australian sweet potatoes, according to the company.

Three flavour combinations are available – Roast Garlic, Rosemary & Thyme, Green Chilli & Coriander and Sea Salt.

“The success of Red Rock Deli has been built on providing unique tastes and textures with flavour combinations that capture our consumers’ imaginations. Our new Sweet Potato Crisps continue the brand’s journey of innovation and taste discovery,” said Robyn Quinn, Marketing Director, Red Rock Deli.

The company said that Red Rock Deli Sweet Potato Crisps are cooked in 100 per cent sunflower oil, and have no artificial flavours, preservatives or added MSG.

How marketers condition us to buy more junk food

Fast food giant McDonald’s has been under a cloud in recent years as its US customers turn to alternatives. In this “Fast food reinvented” series we explore what the sector is doing to keep customers hooked and sales rising.

While excess weight and obesity is a growing global concern, there has been more and more advertising and promotional effort encouraging the consumption of unhealthy food.

In many cases this marketing is targeted at children, and takes place online. In our recent study we investigated the impact of online marketing communications on children and their intention to consume unhealthy food. We found fast food ads on social networking sites can manipulate young audiences – their purchasing likelihood, their views of fast food and their eating habits.

The qualitative study included a sample of 40 Australian children who use social networking sites. Half (21) of the children were male and the average age was 14 (the youngest being 12 and the oldest 16). Their parents were also present during the interview, however they agreed not to intervene during the conversation.

A growing problem

The prevalence of excess weight and obesity among Australians has been growing for the past 30 years. Between 2011 and 2012, around 60% of Australian adults were classified as overweight, and more than 25% of these fell into the obese category. In 2013, more than 12 million, or three in five Australian adults, were overweight or obese. On top of that, one in four Australian children were overweight or obese. Excess weight and obesity is only beaten by smoking and high blood pressure as a contributor to a burden of diseases.

Despite this, the food industry is succeeding in using marketing communications to change attitudes, perceptions and perceived norms associated with unhealthy food.

Consumers are lured by surprisingly cheap deals, which are especially attractive to teenagers and young adults with low income. But sales promotions such as discounts and coupons often offer only short-term benefits to consumers and are usually not effective among middle-age adults.

However, if a promotion is offered for a long period of time (i.e. more than three months), it can actually influence customer habits, encouraging repeat purchases – for example, the $1 frozen Coke.

Similarly, sales promotions can make other brands be perceived as less attractive by customers after a period of time. For instance, the $1 frozen Coke campaigns by McDonald’s and Hungry Jack’s affect the perception of frozen Coke in terms of monetary value. Many consumers become less willing to buy a frozen Coke that is more expensive than $1. The same can be said of $2 burgers or $5 pizzas.

The role of social networks

More than half (16 out of 30) of the respondents admitted they tended to change their eating habits after repeatedly being exposed to advertisements on social networking sites.

“Yes, many people say that it is not good to eat fast food. I used to think so but not anymore. Look at their ads, they are colourful, many options and cheap.”

“I just cannot resist it… I had been looking at the ads day after day and I decided that I needed to try these”.

Interestingly, fast food was associated with socialisation and fun among young consumers.

“The ads make me feel like this is where we belong to. This is our lifestyle…where we hang out and can be ourselves.”

“This is about our culture, young, active and free. We are kids but also not kids. We are different.”

Peer pressure

Peer pressure is heavily related to eating habits, especially during puberty when there is usually a shift from home influence to group motivation. Teenagers and young adults in particular tend to choose a particular type of food under peer pressure.

More than 70% of teenagers will choose a food according to the preference of their friends. This means marketing communications promoting fast food consumption can create a snowball effect within this group of customers. For example, Jack, Sara and Park go out together. If Jack and Sara order Big Burgers with extra cheese, the likelihood that Park will order another Big Burger with extra cheese is approximately 75%. In contrast, only 2.7% of people aged over 40 choose fast food because of their peers.

It’s clear marketing efforts by fast food chains can promote unhealthy eating habits. Also, peer influence plays an important part in forming eating habits. This means the intervention of government and health organisations should concentrate on increasing customers’ attention to health issues, self-efficacy and perceived norms, and at the same time, lessening the influence of marketing efforts aimed at motivating unhealthy eating habits.

The Conversation

Park Thaichon, Assistant Professor of Marketing, S P Jain School of Global Management and Sara Quach, PhD Student, Swinburne University of Technology

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

Krispy Kreme helps to grant more wishes

Krispy Kreme is joining forces with doughnut-loving fans and Make-A-Wish supporters, to raise as much money as possible for the children’s charity.
During September, $1 from every Star Doughnut sold in store and online will be donated to Make-A-Wish. Beyond this, Krispy Kreme doughnut-lovers can continue to support Make-A-Wish throughout the year, with Krispy Kreme also donating $6 from every dozen pack sold online, and $1 from every co-branded enviro-bag sold in store.

Krispy Kreme Australia’s CEO, Andrew McGuigan, said the company is delighted to combine the fun of Krispy Kreme with a cause like Make-A-Wish Australia.
“We’re really proud and excited to be supporting Make-A-Wish. Giving back to the community is part of our global mission. A charity partner like Make-A-Wish really inspires us to do more, give more, and gets all our team at Krispy Kreme involved in helping seriously ill children,” said Mr McGuigan.
Make-A-Wish CEO Gerard Menses is very pleased to have Krispy Kreme’s support again in 2015.
“Krispy Kreme is a fantastic supporter of Make-A-Wish, and we’re thrilled to partner with them. The money raised by the Star Doughnut initiative will help us grant even more wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions.
“We have an ambitious goal of granting 2000 wishes per year within the next decade, so that every child in Australia battling serious illness can experience the healing power of a wish. The funds raised by Krispy Kreme customers will help us inch closer to that goal,” he said.
This year, Krispy Kreme is dedicated to raising over $100,000 for Make-A-Wish Australia. Make-A-Wish grants the wishes of very sick kids and teenagers, giving them hope for the future, strength to face the challenges of their illness, and joy from their incredible wish experience.

Coca-Cola launches new summer campaign

It’s a couple of months out from the start of summer in Australia which means three things are a given: the onset of daylight savings, the sound of cicadas outside your window and a new Coke marketing push.

To underline this change in seasonality, Coca-Cola South Pacific has announced the launch of its 'Coke Come Alive' campaign, dedicated, the company says, “to showcasing the uniqueness of each Coca-Cola product and celebrating the great taste benefits they provide. The aim of the campaign is to drive growth and embed the role of the brand in the lives of youth consumers.”

The 'Coke Come Alive' campaign will launch with a series of TVCs across TV, digital & mobile video and cinema. One TVC will focus on the Coca-Cola family of brands as a whole and dial up the over-arching campaign messaging, while other TVCs will focus on each individual variant in its own right, including Coke Life, Coke Zero and Diet Coke and highlight the differences between the products. Additional outdoor advertising will be rolled out to amplify campaign and product messaging, and build awareness. 

Dianne Everett, Group Marketing Manager Coca-Cola Trademark, Coca-Cola South Pacific, said: "We want Australians to re-appraise the uniqueness of Coca-Cola's uplifting refreshment and what each product has to offer. Our campaign will bring the brand to life in the coming months designed to engage and connect with Australian consumers." 

Further campaign activity will be announced in the coming months as Coca-Cola gears up for the summer season.