Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Healthy food labels blamed for rise in obesity as Australians fall into high sugar and fat trap
"HEALTHIER" foods could be to blame for rising obesity. New research from Nutrition Australia Queensland found 96 per cent of Queenslanders were unable to tell the difference between unhealthy and healthy food.
Sneaky labelling which touts high-sugar products as low-fat, and vice versa, makes it difficult for consumers to identify healthy choices.
High-sugar breakfast cereals, Caesar salads and frozen yoghurt often marketed as healthy alternatives are the most common culprits. The Nutrition Australia Queensland study found 78 per cent of people over indulged in the high sugar, high fat snacks once or twice a day.
NAQ senior nutritionist Aloysa Hourigan said confusion over what constituted healthy and unhealthy food was driving Queensland's obesity crisis.
"People are choosing foods that are often marketed as healthy but actually contain high amounts of sugar, fat and salt," Ms Hourigan said.
Did you know there are about 10 teaspoons of sugar in a can of regular soft drink?
"A lot of diet fads and marketing messages have added to the confusion. Many people are passing up healthy foods in favour of poor choices."
The survey found almost 80 per cent of people were eating 'extras' foods up to twice a day.
"By not knowing the difference between healthy and unhealthy foods, Queenslanders are placing themselves at a higher risk of developing potentially deadly chronic diseases like heart disease and type two diabetes."
She said the findings were a grim reminder that more education was required to cut through confusing marketing messages.
"There was a widespread unawareness about how often we should be eating 'extras' foods like chocolate bars and potato chips," she said.
This exceeds the Australian Dietary Guidelines which suggest most Australians should eat little or none of these foods as part of a healthy diet.
"With this amount of confusion it is probably not surprising that recent research found Queensland has the highest rate of obesity in Australia."
Stephanie Nievelstein, 22, said she made an effort to choose healthy food options but understood why some people were struggling to tell the difference.
"It can be hard to tell what's healthy when packages market themselves as good for you or 99 per cent fat free," she said. "You need to look at the label on the back to see what's in it but even then it's tempting just to reach for the bikkies and chocolates and tell yourself it's not that bad."
Ms Hourigan recommended cutting back on high-sugar foods and keeping a food diary to track eating habits.
"Research shows recording how much you consume is one way to help reduce consumption," she said. "There are plenty of free apps that can help people record what they eat or alternatively the old-fashioned way of using a pen and paper can be just as effective.
"A single chocolate bar a day might not sound like much but over a year it could lead to weight gain of around 12kg a year. Simply saying no could help people shed up to 12kg a year."
Study casts doubt on whether extra vitamin D prevents disease
Researchers cast doubt on the prevailing wisdom that vitamin D supplements can prevent conditions like cancer, diabetes and heart disease, saying on Friday low vitamin D may be a consequence, not a cause, of ill health.
The findings could have implications for millions of people who take vitamin D pills and other supplements to ward off illness - Americans spend an estimated $600 million a year on them alone.
Vitamin D, sometimes known as the "sunshine vitamin" is made in the body when the skin is exposed to sunlight and in found in foods like fish liver oil, eggs and fatty fish such as salmon, herring and mackerel.
It is known to boost the uptake of calcium and bone formation, and some observational studies have also suggested a link between low levels of vitamin D and greater risks of many acute and chronic diseases.
But it is not clear whether this is a cause-and-effect relationship, so various large trials have been conducted to try to test whether vitamin D supplementation can reduce the risk of developing disease.
Researchers led by Philippe Autier of France's International Prevention Research Institute in Lyon analyzed data from several hundred observational studies and clinical trials examining the effects of vitamin D levels on so-called non-bone health - including links to illness such as cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
They found that the benefits of high vitamin D levels seen in observational studies — including reduced risk of cardiovascular events, diabetes and colorectal cancer - were not replicated in randomized trials where participants were given vitamin D to see if it would protect against illness.
"What this discrepancy suggests is that decreases in vitamin D levels are a marker of deteriorating health," said Autier.
In other words, he explained, serious illness like cancer and diabetes may reduce vitamin D concentrations, but that does not necessarily mean that raising vitamin D levels would prevent the illness from occurring.
Yet experts not involved in Autier's review said its conclusions were not definitive, and cautioned against reading it as a reason to dissuade people from taking vitamin D.
"This paper is very useful because it highlights the need for more long term intervention studies specifically looking at the effect of proper vitamin D supplementation on disease risk," said Nigel Belshaw, research leader at Britain's Institute of Food Research.
"However, it does not suggest that taking vitamin D supplements cannot be useful in some cases for some purposes. Neither does it rule out a health advantage of increasing vitamin D levels in the blood for those who are deficient."
Helen Macdonald, a professor of nutrition and musculoskeletal health at Britain's University of Aberdeen stressed that vitamin D was important for bone health.
"And we already know that people who are at risk of vitamin D deficiency, like older people, pregnant and breastfeeding women, young children and people with darker skin, need to take a supplement because it is difficult to boost vitamin D levels from food sources alone," she said.
She added that Autier's study did, however, appear to confirm what many nutrition experts have suspected for a while - "that healthy people probably don't need to take a high dose supplement and that the best source of vitamin D for most people is sunlight in the summer, always taking care not to burn."
Posted by jonjayray at 12:06 AM