Media watch

Australian media headlines - January 2017

Catch up on the most topical issues in sugars and health making the headlines this month...

Media coverage in relation to sugar, health and nutrition was largely research focused this month with the following 3 topics gaining substantial coverage;

1. A research paper out of Deakin University, explored the political influence of the food industry and its potential barrier to the development and implementation of public health policies. Data was collected in relation to five key food industry actors: the Australian Food and Grocery Council; Coca Cola; McDonald’s; Nestle; and Woolworths, for the period January 2012 to February 2015. The researchers identified corporate political activity strategies of the food industry, finding that the selected food companies used ‘information and messaging’ and ‘constituency building’ strategies most prominently. The limitations outlined in the paper include the fact that the study only collected publicly-available information and only focused on a small number of food companies. Furthermore, the researchers were unable to assess the intentions behind these practices and were also unable to indicate the influence of these practices on the community, on public health advocate and researchers, on policy makers and ultimately, on the policy process.

2. The Cancer Council has granted a 2 year, $2 million research grant to scientist Dr Lionel Hebbard and his team of researchers from James Cook University. The team will study and clarify “the controversial role of fructose in liver cancer.” This research is in response to climbing overweight and obesity rates in Australia and the link between obesity, fatty liver and cancer. The researchers believe that by gaining a better understanding of fructose, including any potential involvement in liver cancer, they will be able to work on advancing prevention and treatment options.

3. Researchers at the Imperial College London published a commentary article in PLOS Medicine Journal on 3 January 2017 regarding the increased use of artificial sweeteners by beverage companies in response to government actions aimed at reducing sugar sweetened beverages consumption. The researchers have criticised this move saying that, “the available evidence does not directly support a role of artificially sweetened beverages (ASB) in inducing weight gain or metabolic abnormalities but also does not consistently demonstrate that ASBs are effective for weight loss or preventing metabolic abnormalities.”

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