Media watch

Australian media headlines - March 2018

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

1.       Deakin University report on obesity prevention policies and commitments of supermarkets

A global network of public-interest organisations and researchers have developed a Business Impact Assessment (BIA) tool, which provides a framework to measure and benchmark food company policies and commitments related to obesity and population nutrition. The tool consists of a range of indicators across six key domains, with tailored measures for food and beverage manufacturers, food service organisations and supermarkets. The domains include corporate nutrition strategy, product formulation, product labelling, product and brand promotion, product accessibility, and relationships with other organisations.

Recently, researchers used this tool to analyse Australian supermarket chains Woolworths, Coles, Aldi and IGA.

Researchers determined the highest ranked performer, Woolworths, scored 46 out of 100 on the policy scorecard while the weakest performer was IGA with a score of eight. Companies could choose to participate to varying degrees, otherwise their publicly available information (for example on their website) was analysed. Lead author of this report Associate Professor Garry Sacks commented, “supermarkets had a critical role to play in obesity prevention and could be doing much more to encourage healthy purchases”.

2.       Four-part series on sugar 

The Conversation published a four-part series on sugar to discuss some of the major issues related to nutrition and health. Here is a summary and link to the original articles.

Dietitian, Tara Leong, Lecturer in Nutrition and Dietetics, University of the Sunshine Coast provided her take on the sugar-free diet, and why we don’t necessarily need to quit sugar to be healthy.  The article discusses a ‘diet’ mentality and the potential perils of completely restricting certain nutrients, as well as how to take a more balanced approach to healthy eating, instead of ‘quitting’ single nutrients. Her advice includes to eat plenty of plants, whole grains, beans, legumes, and fruit, and to savour every mouthful of that chocolate cake or ‘sometimes food’, eat it mindfully so you won’t be craving it again an hour later.

Following Leong’s article were a large number of reader comments. In response, she noted “Vilifying one single nutrient is not the answer. Getting people to stop eating a single nutrient by creating fear, is not that answer. Because doing that, only addresses one of the contributing factors (excess consumption)” and that, “The intent of the article was to show another side to the story, around the dangers of using a fear-based approach to get people to quit sugar, because unfortunately there are dark consequences to using that approach”.

Sze-Yen Tan, a Senior Lecturer in Nutrition Science at Deakin University describes the different types of sugar (white, brown, raw and honey) and the refining processes for each. He discusses the sweetness and sugar content of each, the antioxidant capacity microbial activity and glycaemic index. While there are some differences, he concludes sugars are very similar nutritionally and that ‘in the end, sugar in our body is still sugar’.

Written by Kacie Dickinson (Dietitian) and Jodi Bernstein (Researcher at University of Toronto) this article aims to clarify why we regularly hear that we should eat less sugar but are also told to eat more fruit.

The article states there are health risks that come from free sugars but not the sugars in fruit, highlights foods that contain free sugars and shares the benefits of fruit consumption. The authors focus on the need to meet the World Health Organisation recommendations in terms of sugar consumption. Their overall message is to ‘try to choose foods that have little or no sugar listed in the ingredient list, and drink water instead of sugary beverages when you are thirsty’.

Kieron Rooney, Senior Lecturer in Biochemistry and Exercise Physiology at the University of Sydney discusses the link between sugar and Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and cancer. He notes that sugar is not causative in the associations with these conditions. Rooney concludes that ‘whether or not the sugar itself is the culprit, sugary foods are linked to health problems (including weight gain) – and that should be reason enough to cut down’.


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