Media watch

Australian media headlines - August 2017

News coverage related to sugar and health

1. A well balanced article on ABC Health & Wellbeing provided a scientifically based explanation of the common misconception that 'sugar feeds cancer cells'. Journalist, James Bullen, explains the reality that, “alongside cancer, sugar feeds most cells in the body and is vital to our everyday function… Glucose, either eaten directly or broken down from carbohydrates, is critical to cell functioning.” Professor Sanchia Aranda, CEO of Cancer Council Australia goes on to explain in respect to eliminating sugar from our diet that, "Stopping sugar getting to cancer cells would also mean that your body's healthy cells get starved of necessary sugars." The article recommends that people pay attention to their overall sugar consumption. With Aranda explaining that “people with higher sugar intakes are more likely to be overweight or obese, which is a contributing factor to cancer.”

Research paper

2. A research paper, ‘Associations of fats and carbohydrate intake with cardiovascular disease and mortality in 18 countries from five continents (PURE): a prospective cohort study,’ was published on the 29th of August in The Lancet. The study involved more than 135,000 people from 18 countries over 10 years and examined the relationship between macronutrients and cardiovascular disease. The main findings from the study suggested that higher carbohydrate intake was associated with an increased risk of total mortality whereas, intake of total fat was associated with lower risk of total mortality. The paper received a large amount of media coverage with several experts in the field commenting on the limitations of this study. Experts pointed out that the relevance of this data for developed western countries (Aust, NZ, UK) is limited and that the study has made no distinction between carbohydrates which have been shown to be detrimental to health (e.g. free sugars such as table sugar, refined grains) and those which have been clearly shown to have health benefits (e.g. fibre-rich wholegrains, legumes, vegetables and fruits).

NSW chief health officer’s report

3. Coverage surrounded the recent NSW chief health officer’s report which focused on children’s eating habits. The report shows that only 4.8 per cent of children (aged 5 to 15 years) are eating enough vegetables and that 62 per cent are consuming enough fruit each day.

  • The report did find that whilst 45% of children regularly drink sweetened drinks, 55% are rarely or never drinking sugary drinks, up from 43.5 per cent in 2021. And fewer children are drinking 1 or more cups of sweetened drinks daily.
  • There is a focus on the amount of discretionary foods and takeaway foods being consumed à 41.4% ate takeaway food at least once a week, this remains unchanged since 2012.NSW chief health.JPG

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