Media watch

New Zealand media headlines - April 2018

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

1.       Public health researchers continue to advocate for a sugary drinks tax

Following the introduction of a sugary drinks tax in the United Kingdom last month, which specifically targets the amount of sugar in sugar-sweetened beverages, Professor Tony Blakely of the University of Otago’s Department of Public Health says that he believes a “soft drinks industry levy is something that could be put in place right now in New Zealand” and that it backs (sic) recommendations from the World Health Organisation, NZ Medical Association and the Heart Foundation.

Blakely and his team of researchers, recently rebutted the NZ Institute of Economic Research report, which found that there was no evidence that a sugar tax would improve health, saying that it had ‘serious flaws’. He also published a blog about the health impacts a sugar levy might have in NZ.

2.       Social media food marketing - a call for further research

New research by the University of Auckland, published in the New Zealand Medical Journal, looked at the extent food companies use social media to promote food and beverages in NZ. Psychology Professor Antonia Lyons of Victoria University has said there are other studies that show links between food marketing and eating behaviours. She believes that with New Zealand’s high rates of childhood obesity it is important to know the impact of online marketing and is calling for more research in this area.

The study reviewed 762 Facebook posts by 45 snack food, beverage and fast food companies over two months and the YouTube channels of 15 companies over two years (within which about 300 videos were posted). From this, they found around two thirds of all posts by these companies featured at least one ‘occasional’ food item – those listed as being high in salt, fat or sugar. Researchers estimated that some of these posts could potentially reach 10% of New Zealand adolescents, however this was determined by this group’s internet usage and did not consider audience segmentation or filtering capabilities advertisers can put in place. The actual number of advertisements that reached this audience was not studied.

3.       ‘What the Fast?’

A new book titled ‘What the Fast’ has been released in NZ which encourages fasting for weight loss.

Intermittent fasting has become popular in recent years however there is still a need for more research in this area. The release of this book prompted Registered Dietitian Christy Brissette to comment that studies on intermittent fasting “are of small groups of people and are short term. The research has also ignored the impact of intermittent fasting on exercise habits, sleep quality and diet quality. Usually, intermittent fasting appeared to promote weight loss and improve metabolic parameters, however it did not appear to be as effective as the ‘tried and true method’ of moderate calorie reduction on a day-to-day basis.”

Authors Professor Grant Schofield, Dr Caryn Zinn (both of Auckland University of Technology) and Michelin-starred chef Craig Rodger believe combining partial fasting at the beginning of the week, with a low-carb, healthy-fat diet for the remainder of the week, makes healthy eating achievable and had the potential to enhance wellbeing.

On Mondays and Tuesdays, the book encourages those able to fast to skip breakfast, lunch and snacking but to include a nutritious ‘super-meal’ in the evening (using the recipes created by chef Craig Rodger).

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