Media watch

Australian Media Headlines - May 2018

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

1.       Our ‘obsession’ with fats and carbs – are we looking at nutrition all wrong?

Media headlines such as “Eating more animal protein increases risk of death” and “The foods helping you shred stomach fat”, are attention-grabbing, but are causing people to become confused about what they should and shouldn’t eat, according to an article by David Raubenheimer and Stephen Simpson, which featured on ABC News. They go on to say Australia obesity statistics are showing our health and wellbeing are reaping no benefit from these messages.

The authors believe we have taken a wrong turn in the way we think about nutrition, in that we are too focussed on identifying a single culprit (or nutrient) that causes a health problem rather than focussing on which combination of nutrients are associated.

They call for “nutritional geometry’, a new tool to model diets as mixtures of nutrients, foods, meals and menus to help researchers and health professionals understand how the dietary balance influences health. It can also help individuals to manage their diet, by changing the goal from eating diets "high in this nutrient" or "low in that", to eating a diet that is balanced in nutrients. Their final recommendation is that we need to reduce our consumption of high energy, nutrient-poor snack and junk foods and beverages, rather than focus on which nutrient or nutrients to exclude from the diet.

 2.       Public Health England has released their first progress report on the UK sugar reduction program

Public Health England (PHE) has released its first progress report on the sugar reduction program underway in the UK, which has found the food industry has not met the sugar reduction target set by Government.

Retailers, manufacturers, restaurants, cafes and pub chains were challenged to cut 20% of sugar from a range of products by 2020, with a 5% reduction in the first year (by August 2017). PHE found after one year there had been a 2 per cent reduction in total sugar per 100g in retailers’ own brand and manufacturer branded products. PHE says it recognises there are more sugar reduction plans from the food industry in the pipeline and that some changes to products took effect after the first year cut off point of August 2017.

PHE has also published new guidelines for the beverage industry to reduce the amount of sugar children consume through juice and milk-based drinks. By mid-2021, the drinks industry is encouraged to reduce sugar in juice drinks by 5 per cent and in milk drinks by 20 per cent. There are also recommended calorie caps for drinks that are likely to be consumed in one go.

Beverage manufacturers have said that the sugar targets are unrealistic and that the 20 per cent aim will neither be technically possible or acceptable to UK consumers. The full press release and progress report can be found here.

3.       Pasta can fit into a healthy diet after all

The Australian reported on new research that finds pasta can be enjoyed as part of a healthy diet and will not result in weight gain, in fact it may even result in weight loss.

Unlike other refined carbohydrate foods, pasta has a low glycaemic index. The group of researchers based in Toronto, headed by John Sievenpiper, undertook a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. They found that pasta, when consumed as part of a low GI diet (not pasta alone or pasta as part of another diet type e.g. Mediterranean diet), among people who were overweight or obese and had diabetes, would not result weight gain. The findings reveal that pasta as part of a low GI diet (when compared to a high GI diet) had a significant effect in terms of reducing body weight however the authors note the amount of weight loss may be questionable in terms of its clinical significance.

4.       Good Health Choices directly references SRAS website content

The SRAS and its website featured in the May issue of Good Health Choices, a popular New Zealand magazine. The mentions were part of a short article which put into context the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations on added sugars consumption.

WHO recommends that less than 10 per cent of our energy intake should come from free, or added, sugars – the equivalent of 13 teaspoons. In Australia we’re consuming on average 14 teaspoons of added sugars a day, as is depicted in this SRAS resource. Recently several media articles that have mis-quoted the WHO recommendations, confusing added sugars with total sugars consumption, however in this article the facts were quoted correctly.

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