Natural chemicals in vegetables cut risk of insulin resistance

Vegetables cut insulin resistanceIn the first study of its kind, research has uncovered another string to the ‘health bow’ of vegetables, showing carotenoids, the natural plant chemicals in vegies, may halve the risk of insulin resistance in adults, a major risk factor for some of the country’s biggest killers.

The new study, published in the Dietitians Association of Australia’s journal Nutrition & Dietetics, tracked the eating habits of 938 men and women over three years, and compared their intake of phytochemicals called carotenoids found in vegetables to their risk of insulin resistance.[i]

Researchers found those who ate the most of the carotenoids B-carotene and B-cryptoxanthin (found in many vegies, such as spinach, carrots, red capsicum and pumpkin) had a 58 per cent and 49 per cent lower risk of insulin resistance respectively, compared with those who ate the least.

According to Duane Mellor, spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia: “Insulin is a hormone, and is vital in helping our bodies use glucose (sugars) from the foods we eat.  But when people have insulin resistance, our bodies ‘resist’ the hormone, and over time, this can lead to high blood sugar levels.

“So the more we do to help keep insulin doing its job effectively, the more we reduce our risk of type 2 diabetes, Australia’s fastest-growing chronic disease,[ii] as well our risk of metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease.[iii]

autumn produceAccording to the researchers, the protective effect of some types of carotenoids is most likely because of their antioxidant properties.

Dr Mellor said although studies have shown that antioxidants protect against oxidative stress in the test-tube, the way they seem to stop chronic disease getting a hold in our bodies is a little subtler.  “In simple terms they help our bodies deal with the stress of metabolism by making blood vessels ‘more bouncy’ and our liver more able to deal with what life throws at itiv,” said Dr Mellor.

This research backs up the Australian Dietary Guidelines, which recommend most Australians eat a minimum of five serves of vegetables each day.

“Vegetables are packed full of nutrients, including vitamins and minerals, fibre, and these vital phytochemicals, such as carotenoids, that can protect against chronic diseases,” said Dr Mellor.

Dr Mellor, an Accredited Practising Dietitian, points to everyday vegies that are in season over winter, such as carrots, spinach and broccoli, as excellent sources of carotenoids.

“We need to do much better to reap those long term health benefits. Only seven per cent of Australians eat the recommended five serves of vegetables each day,[iv] and eating more of them is such an easy way to help avoid devastating diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and even some types of cancer,” said Dr Mellor.

Prepared from a media release from the Dietitians Association of Australia

[i] Mirmiran P et al. Association of dietary carotenoids and the incidence of insulin resistance in adults: Tehran lipid and glucose study. Nutrition & Dietetics 2016; 73:162-8.

[ii] Diabetes Australia, Diabetes in Australia. https://www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/diabetes-in-australia

[iii] Mirmiran P et al. Association of dietary carotenoids and the incidence of insulin resistance in adults: Tehran lipid and glucose study. Nutrition & Dietetics 2016; 73:162-8.

[iv] Mellor D & Naumovski N. Effect of cocoa in diabetes: the potential of the pancreas and liver as key target organs, more than an antioxidant effect? International Journal of Food Science and Technology 2016; 51(4): 829-841.

[v]Australian Bureau of Statistics. National Health Survey: First Results, 2014-15 http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/4364.0.55.001~2014-15~Main%20Features~Daily%20intake%20of%20fruit%20and%20vegetables~28

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Stay well this winter with winning meals

Stay well with winter mealsAfter a bumper cold and flu season last year, dietitians are urging Australians to boost their immune system this winter by tapping into nutritious comfort foods.

According to the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA), focusing on whole foods, including those containing vitamin C, zinc and protein, can help immunity – a useful weapon in fighting off the germs that cause colds and flu.

Figures from the Department of Health show more than 14,000 cases of the flu were reported in Australia last year, a 36 per cent increase from the year before.[i] And the flu accounts for 13,500 hospitalisations and 3,000 deaths among Australians aged over 50 years.[ii]

While healthy eating may not ward off germs entirely, DAA spokesperson Simone Austin said making nutritious meals a priority in the colder months can reduce the likelihood and severity of colds.

She added that a nutritious diet is particularly important in vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, whose immune systems may already be compromised.

“Foods high in vitamin C include capsicum, broccoli, kiwi fruit, strawberries and citrus fruit. Zinc is found in fish, seafood, beef and lamb, which also provide good-quality protein. Baked beans and pumpkin seeds also provide zinc. So there’s plenty of nutritious and tasty options.

Spicy goulash soup with paprika.“Now that winter has finally arrived, it’s time to enjoy tasty, warming foods that give you, and your immune system, a boost,” said Ms Austin, an Accredited Practising Dietitian.

According to Ms Austin, a nutritious winter diet need not be expensive or complicated.

She recommends nourishing winter meals, such as:

  • Beef and bean stew
  • Porridge topped with pumpkin seeds and chopped nuts
  • Warming seafood soup with added dark leafy greens and slices of capsicum
  • Grainy toast or a wholemeal muffin topped with baked beans
  • Delicious fruit crumbles, using fresh or frozen berries.

For tailored nutrition advice on keeping healthy this winter, DAA recommends seeking the support of an Accredited Practising Dietitian.

[i] Australian Government, Department of Health. National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System. Viewed 2 June 2016 http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/cda-surveil-nndss-nndssintro.htm

[ii] Australian Government, Department of Health. Influenza. Viewed 2 June 2016. http://www.immunise.health.gov.au/internet/immunise/publishing.nsf/Content/immunise-influenza

Further information: 
Dietitians Association of Australia

Based on a press release issued from the DAA 8 June 2016

 

Misleading media reports on high fat, low carbohydrate diet for Australians

Fast Food QuestionsIf you read the recent news reports, or saw the story on Channel 7 News on high-fat diets, you may want to read the following response from the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA).

Once again, this highlights the importance of seeking factual information that is backed up by scientific evidence, rather than simply believing ‘anecdotal evidence’, or information that does not hold up under scientific scrutiny.

The response from the DAA is as follows:

The Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) is disappointed with recent media reports, including a piece on Channel 7 News (23 May 2016) titled ‘Fatty foods don’t make you fat, but sugar is off the menu: Dieticians (sic)’. 

These alarmist reports contain many factual inaccuracies, with the information presented to Australians not in line with the latest evidence.

Sadly, such reports only confuse the Australian public about what to eat for good health. DAA, and the 5,900 members the Association represents, take very seriously our responsibility of promoting accurate, balanced and complete nutrition information to the public.

We are deeply concerned that yesterday’s media reports suggest ‘dietitians’ agree with the statements in the news reports, as this is not the case.

Check the qualifications of anyone providing nutrition advice

DAA recommends checking the nutrition qualifications of anyone providing dietary advice. As with any field, it’s important that advice is provided by those qualified to do so, working within their scope of practice.

Accredited Practising Dietitians (APDs) are nutrition scientists with a minimum of four years’ university study behind them. APDs assess individuals and provide tailored, expert nutrition advice and support, based on the latest evidence. They undertake ongoing training and development to ensure they are up-to-date, and like other health professionals, are bound by professional standards and accountable for the advice they provide.

Unfortunately, an APD was not interviewed for the Channel 7 News story, or other associated stories.

The Australian Dietary Guidelines: Evidence-based guidelines Australians can trust

It is without basis, and grossly misleading, to claim the Australian Dietary Guidelines (ADG) are ‘making us sick’ (as was the suggestion in the Channel 7 News story).

The evidence-based ADG, which were developed by independent experts in nutrition, working with the National Health and Medical Research Council, provide a framework for healthy eating – and DAA supports these recommendations for the healthy population. An assessment of more than 55,000 studies informed the recent review of the 2013 Australian Dietary Guidelines.

The ADGs are similar to evidence-based guidelines around the world, across a range of cultures and food systems – but our Guidelines are specific to issues and concerns within the Australian population.

Regarding fat and carbohydrates, the nutrition science tells us:

  • When it comes to carbohydrates, good-quality choices (such wholegrains and legumes) can be part of a healthy diet, and are in fact recommended to help meet daily fibre targets. When it comes to wholegrains, for example, there is strong evidence to link wholegrain intake with lower body mass index, smaller waist circumference, and reduced risk of being overweight.
  • A diet high in saturated fat is a risk factor for heart disease, one of our nation’s biggest killers. Saturated fats tend to increase LDL (unhealthy) cholesterol in the blood and current evidence suggests these should be eaten sparingly to minimize the risk of heart disease. Instead, foods that are rich in unsaturated fats (such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats) are recommended.

DAA agrees with the message to limit manufactured (or processed) foods – this is what the ADG also recommend, so this is nothing new. The ADG encourage Australians to choose whole foods, such as vegetables, legumes, fruit, lean meats and eggs. And for foods within a package, DAA recommends Australian read the nutrition information panel to be able to make informed choices. An APD can work with people on these, and other strategies, to help them achieve a healthy eating plan, tailored to their individual needs.

autumn produceDAA points out that the ‘panel of global dietary experts’ mentioned in yesterday’s media reports consist of the UK-based National Obesity Forum and the Public Health Collaboration – whose views on saturated fat have been questioned by the UK’s Royal College of Physicians and Public Health England. See the response by Public Health England to the National Obesity Forum and Public Health Collaboration opinion paper.

DAA appeals to journalists reporting on diet-related issues in Australia to report responsibly, and to source and discuss facts with local experts.  

 

This article was prepared with a press release from the Dietitians Association of Australia, 24 May 2016.

Salt: is it really that bad?

Depositphotos_29890303_m-2015Salt has been around for centuries. It preserves food and adds flavour to foods. In fact, salt is the world’s most popular flavour enhancer. But despite its popularity, most of us are eating too much of it, to the detriment of our health.

Why we need salt?

Our body actually needs salt to function properly. Salt is made up of sodium and chloride ions which the body cannot make itself, hence our need to get it from our food.

Sodium regulates the volume of fluid in the body and aids the uptake of various nutrients into the cells. Sodium plays a role in transmitting nerve signals throughout the body and aids muscle contraction. It also influences the pH levels in the blood.

Chloride is important for the body as well. Like sodium, it influences the pH levels in the body and fluid movement. It is also important for digestion.

How much salt are we really eating?

Most Australians consume around nine grams of salt per day, according to the Australian Division of World Action on Salt and Health (AWASH). While nine grams doesn’t sound like a lot, our bodies actually only need one gram per day.

Health experts recommend we  reduce our salt intake to a maximum of six grams per day. However, Australians with high blood pressure, or existing cardiovascular disease should reduce it to no more than four grams per day.

Dangers of too much salt

You may be wondering why salt is such a big deal. It is widely recognized that diets high in salt can lead to:

  • High blood pressure (also known as hypertension) which in turn can increase your risk of experiencing stroke and heart attack, two of the biggest causes of death in Australia today.
  • Kidney disease
  • Stomach cancer.

Salt has also been attributed to aggravating asthma and contributing to osteoarthritis.

Why are we eating so much salt?

Even if you don’t add salt to your foods, chances are you are still consuming too much. Salt is found in many processed and prepared foods that we eat. It is commonly found in takeaway foods, fries, burgers, frozen meals, sauces, marinades, processed meats, potato chips, nuts, tinned veggies, spreads, cheese and biscuits.

And let’s not forget Vegemite, the holy grail of Aussie diets, which contains a whopping 7.5g of salt per 100g. That equates to one gram of salt for every piece of toast topped with the spread.

The importance of food labels

While you don’t have to eliminate all the foods listed above to reduce your salt intake, you should focus on choosing low-salt foods when at the grocery store. That’s where food labels come in. It’s the sodium in the salt that is bad for our health, so that’s what you need to focus on.

Generally:

  • Less than 120mg sodium per 100g is low
  • 120 to 600mg sodium per 100g is medium
  • More than 600mg sodium per 100g is high.

Note: Australia only has a definition for low salt foods, so the medium and high levels here are based on the UK recommendations.

Is one type of salt better than another?

Gourmet rock and sea salts have been popularised by TV chefs and ‘wellness warriors’. Many manufacturers claim their product is ‘natural’, contains ‘essential minerals’, and is a ‘tastier and healthier alternative’ to table salt. However, according to the World Action on Salt and Health (WASH), salt is still salt. It doesn’t matter whether it comes from the sea or from the Himalayas, whether they are crystals or grains, or what the price tag is. The bottom line is they all contain an equally high sodium chloride content as table and cooking salt.

Tautumn produceips to reduce the amount of salt in your diet

Reducing the amount of salt in your diet doesn’t have to be difficult. By following some of these tips, you will make great progress in cutting back on salt.

  • Don’t add salt to your food during cooking or at the table.
  • Use lemon juice, garlic, vinegar, or herbs and spices as an alternative to salt when cooking.
  • Avoid stock cubes, soy sauce, mustard, pickles and mayonnaise where possible. At the very least choose low salt varieties.
  • Focus on eating fresh vegetables for lunch and evening meals.
  • Make healthy snacks convenient instead of reaching for processed food.
  • Reduce your consumption of high fat, high sugar or high salt snack foods.
  • Keep takeaways and fast foods such as burgers, fried chicken and pizza to an occasional treat.
  • Include healthier options such as boiled eggs and salad, raw vegetable sticks and fresh fruit pieces in lunch boxes.
  • Limit your consumption of processed meats.
  • Avoid consuming salty spreads on a daily basis.
  • Check food labels for salt to compare products, brands and varieties and choose the lower salt options.
  • Choose low sodium foods (less than 120mg per 100g) where possible and avoid high sodium (more than 500mg per 100g) foods.
  • Limit salty snacks.

So next time you reach for the salt, ask yourself if you really need it.

Further information:

World Action on Salt and Health

Australian Division of World Action on Salt and Health

 

Forget fad diets: portions are the go

Spaghetti with salmon

Dietitians are calling on Australians to start the New Year with a bang by making this year’s resolution to forget fad diets and instead aim for perfect portions.

A new survey of 1,230 Australians, commissioned by the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA), found about half of all adults aged 18 to 64 (54%) are unhappy with their current weight[i].

DAA will soon launch its annual Australia’s Healthy Weight Week (AHWW) campaign (15-21 February) to make it easier for all Aussies to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

According to the peak body for dietitians, eating the right amount, rather than piling up the plate, is a key way to reduce your kilojoule intake and manage your weight.

‘We all know fad diets come and go, and usually end in failure. So rather than starting the diet merry-go-round this year, make your New Year’s resolution about being more aware of the right portion sizes and how much you’re eating,’ said DAA Spokesperson and AHWW ambassador Professor Clare Collins.

Professor Collins said getting back into the kitchen for more home-cooked meals and keeping a check on how much you serve yourself and your family is a good place to start.

But according to Professor Collins, there’s more to this story.

‘Research shows that substituting vegetables, and other low-kilojoule, nutrient-rich foods, for those that are ‘energy-dense’ is the way to go. This helps to fill you up, without tipping the scales in the wrong direction.

‘Aim for 2-3 or more cups of vegetables or salad a day. At the moment, most Aussie get nowhere near that. So a simple step when cooking at home is to start your meal with a salad or add an extra serve of vegetables to your main meal. Let vegetables fill at least half your plate,’ said Professor Collins, an Accredited Practising Dietitian.

Professor Collins’ research[ii] has found Australians typically overestimate portion sizes, especially for foods like pasta (a guide good is about a cup) and chocolate (should be no bigger than half a small chocolate bar), compared to what health authorities recommend, and this can lead to ‘kilo creep’ over time.

‘When there’s more food on the plate or when we use bigger plates and bowls, we eat more. The difference between one and two cups of pasta at dinner is around 870kJ. If you eat a double portion size on a daily basis those extra kilojoules could see you gain around 1-2 kilos a month if you don’t burn this off doing extra exercise.

‘To eat less without thinking about it, switch to using smaller plates so you don’t notice you’re serving yourself less food,’ said Professor Collins.

healthy wrapThe DAA survey found that already 26 per cent of Australians said they would review their portion sizes.

‘The challenge is to get everyone to use simple, pain-free strategies – such as smaller plates, greater proportions of vegetables and cooking more at home – to help manage weight,’ said Professor Collins.

Award-winning celebrity cook, Callum Hann, and Accredited Practising Dietitian, Themis Chryssidis (both from Sprout), are supporting this year’s Australia’s Healthy Weight Week, teaching Australians about home cooking and choosing the right portions sizes.

Hundreds of health-focused events, including nutrition workshops and cooking classes, are being held around the country to mark the week. Find out what’s on near you, and get nutrition tips and recipes, at http://www.healthyweightweek.com.au

Prepared by a Press Release from the Dietitians Association of Australia

6/1/16

References:

 [i] Omnipoll survey (October 2015) of 1,230 Australians adults aged 18-64 years, commissioned by the Dietitians Association of Australia.

[ii] Collins CE et al. How big is a food portion? A pilot study in Australian Families. Health Promotion Journal of Australia (2015): 26, 83–88.

[iii] Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2015). National Health Survey: First Results, 2014-15. Retrieved on December 16 2015 from http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/4364.0.55.001~2014-15~Main%20Features~Overweight%20and%20obesity~22

[iv] Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2014). Australian Health Survey: Nutrition First Results – Foods and Nutrients, 2011-2012. Retrieved from http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/4364.0.55.007~2011-12~Main%20Features~Key%20Findings~1

 

How safe are ‘energy drinks’?

How safe are energy drinksOver the past 10 years, energy drinks have been increasingly popular in Australia, particularly among young people.

Claims by manufacturers include increased energy levels, increased physical endurance, improved physical performance, and better concentration.

But do these claims hold true and are energy drinks safe?

What is in an energy drink?

According to the Australian Drug Foundation [1], energy drinks usually contain a mixture of:

  • Caffeine — the main ingredient in energy drinks, caffeine is a stimulant that acts on the central nervous system to speed up the messages to and from the brain
  • Guarana —a plant extract containing around twice the amount of caffeine as coffee beans
  • Theobromine — extracted from the cacao plant, this substance is found in chocolate and many other foods, and has a similar effect to caffeine
  • Theophylline — structurally similar to caffeine and found naturally in tea at very small levels, this is a drug used for the treatment of respiratory diseases and asthma
  • Taurine — necessary for normal skeletal and muscle function, this occurs naturally in food, particularly seafood and meat
  • Ginseng — believed to have medicinal properties, this plant-substance has been found to interact with a number of prescription and herbal drugs.

How do energy drinks affect you?

There is no doubt that energy drinks have a real affect — mostly due to the amount of caffeine and sugar in them. Common short-term effects include:

  • feeling more alert and active
  • stimulated brain and nervous system
  • increased heart rate and body temperature
  • increase in urination.

However, too much caffeine can have detrimental consequences. According to the Mayo Clinic[2]  most adults should not exceed 400mg of caffeine per day. That’s the equivalent of 4 cups of brewed coffee. Excessive consumption (500 to 600mg per day) can lead to:

  • sleeping difficulties
  • feeling nervous, irritable and restless
  • an upset stomach
  • experiencing a faster heartbeat
  • muscle tremors.

Given that the average 500mL energy drink contains anywhere from 100mg – 160mg of caffeine, it’s easy to see that a few cans per day can easily put you in the ‘excessive caffeine consumption’ category.

Excessive caffeine consumption can also result in serious injury or death. In fact, the Australian Medical Journal reports that cases of caffeine toxicity from energy drink consumption are increasing, particularly among adolescents. [3]

What does the research say?

Are energy drinks safeOver the years, numerous studies have looked at the safety of these drinks. Research has found:

  • Energy drinks increase blood pressure and heart rate when people consumed two cans per day over the course of a week. These increases were higher at the end of day seven than on day one. [4]
  • Excessive consumption, along with use of alcohol or other caffeinated beverages, may cause adverse reactions such as seizures, disrupted sleep patterns, nervousness, nausea or even death. [5]
  • Using energy drinks as sports drinks before or during exercise may cause restlessness, irritability, rise in blood pressure and higher risk of dehydration. [6]
  • Teenagers who regularly consumed energy drinks may have increased the likelihood of developing mental health problems. Those most likely to consume these drinks also used alcohol, marijuana and were prone to depression. [7]
  • Teenagers who used energy drinks were more likely to illicitly use prescription stimulants. [8]

Are energy drinks safe?

The Mayo Clinic recommends that the occasional energy drink is fine for most people, although consumers should not exceed the daily limit of 500mL. [9]

However, some people should avoid these types of beverages. They include:

  • children and young people
  • pregnant or breastfeeding women
  • sportspeople
  • caffeine sensitive people

You should also avoid combining energy drinks with alcohol.

If you are consuming these beverages because you lack energy, consider looking at your sleep patterns, activity levels and your nutrition. It is far safer to increase energy levels through healthy lifestyle changes, than relying upon drinks that may not be entirely safe. Of course, if your symptoms persist, then see your doctor.

References:

[1] Australian Drug Foundation, Energy Drinks: do they really give you wings?, October 2012; accessed 7 September 2015 http://www.druginfo.adf.org.au/attachments/810_ADF_Factsheet_energy_web.pdf

[2] Mayo Clinic, Caffeine: How much is too much?; last updated 14 April, 2014; accessed 7 September 2015 http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/caffeine/art-20045678?pg=1

[3] Naren Gunja and Jared A Brown, Energy drinks: health risks and toxicity, The Medical Journal of Australia, 2012, 196 (1): pp46-49. https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2012/196/1/energy-drinks-health-risks-and-toxicity

[4] John P Higgins, Troy D Tuttle, Christopher L Higgins,  Energy Beverages: Content and Safety, Mayo Clinic Proceedings, Volume 85, Issue 11, pp1033 – 1041, November 2010; accessed 7 September 2015 http://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(11)60094-3/fulltext#cesec18

[5] Ibid

[6] Ibid

[7] Sunday Azagaba, Donald Langille, Mark Asbridge, An emerging adolescent health risk: Caffeinated energy drink patterns among high school students, Preventative Medicine Journal

Volume 62,  March 2014, pp 54-59; accessed 7 September 2015, http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0091743514000504

[8] Conrad Woolsey, Laura B Barnes, Bert H Jacobson, Weston S Kensinger, Adam E Barry, Niels C Beck, Andrew G Resnik, Marion W Evans, Frequency of energy drink use predicts illicit prescription stimulant use, Substance Abuse 01/2014; 35(1) pp96-103; accessed 7 September 2015 http://www.researchgate.net/publication/260482627_Frequency_of_energy_drink_use_predicts_illicit_prescription_stimulant_use

[9] Dr Katherine Zeratsky, Can energy drinks really boost a person’s energy? Mayo Clinic, Last updated 11 February 2015; accessed 7 September 2015 ,http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/energy-drinks/faq-20058349