Amanda Johnson

Are vegetarian diets healthier? - Food Stuff

Jun 17, 2013

New research published earlier this month in JAMA Internal Medicine (3 June 2013) has found that vegetarian diets are associated with lower all-cause mortality. A total of 96,469 Seventh-day Adventist men and women were recruited between 2002 and 2007, from which an analytic sample of 73,308 participants remained after exclusions. Study participants filled out a diet and lifestyle questionnaire at the start of the study, then every two years after that, filled out hospital history forms and listed any hospitalizations and diagnoses of cancers, stroke, heart attack and diabetes during the previous two years. According to the researchers, “Research data showed a progressive weight increase from a total vegetarian diet toward a non-vegetarian diet. Additionally, levels of cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure, and the metabolic syndrome all had the same trend – the closer you are … Read More

Caffeine in the news again - Food Stuff

May 10, 2013

The caffeine debate has been reignited again following the 3 May announcement by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that they are planning to launch an investigation into the safety of caffeine in food products, particularly its effects on children and adolescents. According to media reports, this latest review was prompted following the launch of a new caffeinated gum from Wrigley’s called Alert Energy, in the USA. Apparently a pack of gum is equivalent to ‘four cups of coffee in your pocket’. This had lead to concerns that children and young people may be exposed to excess caffeine intakes when the cumulative effects of all foods and drinks containing caffeine are taken into account. This week Wrigley’s has announced the withdrawal of the gum pending the investigation by the FDA. News Reports here in … Read More

UK doctors unite to tackle obesity - Food Stuff

Feb 25, 2013

A new report published last week in the UK has come up with some comprehensive recommendations on tackling obesity. The report, Measuring up: the medical profession’s prescription for the nation’s obesity crisis, follows a 6-month inquiry by a steering group with representatives from 20 of the Royal Medical Colleges and Faculties. The report begins by describing the UK as the ‘fat man’ of Europe, with two thirds of adults overweight or obese. Unfortunately, In New Zealand, the obesity figures are similar, with one in three adults overweight (37.0%) and a further one in four obese (27.8%). The report presents an action plan and sets out key recommendations for healthcare professionals, local and national government, industry and schools which it believes will help tackle the nation’s obesity crisis. Recommendations include: 1. Education and training programmes for healthcare … Read More

Dodgy weight loss regimens - Food Stuff

Jan 07, 2013

Well, it’s that time again: after the indulgences of Christmas, many of us are starting to think about getting fit and healthy for the New Year. So, I was interested to see the Healthy Weight Network in the USA announce their Slim Chance awards at the end of 2012. These awards, they say, are aimed at “exposing the widespread fraud and quackery in the weight loss field, and are aimed at helping people, especially girls and women, move on from chronic dieting to improving their lives in more positive and lasting ways” Topping the list of award winners this year was Dr Oz who (according to the promoters of these awards) has recommended six dubious ‘miracle’ diet aids during 2012. One is the raspberry ketone diet (which is available here in New Zealand). It seems there … Read More

The fat tax debate is reignited again - Food Stuff

Dec 12, 2012

The debate about fat tax has been reignited with the publication of a new paper today (12 December 2012) by New Zealand researchers. Taxes on soft drinks and foods high in saturated fats, and subsidies for fruit and vegetables, could lead to beneficial dietary changes and potentially improve health, say the authors of this latest research. Helen Eyles and her colleagues from the University of Auckland and the University of Otago (Wellington) reviewed all relevant modelling studies that investigated the association between food pricing strategies, food consumption and chronic diseases. In their combined analysis of 32 studies, the authors’ model predicted a 0.02% fall in energy intake from saturated fat for each 1% price increase. Also, a 10% increase in the price of soft drinks could decrease consumption by 1% to as much as 24%. In contrast, the authors found … Read More

Baby-led weaning - Food Stuff

Nov 27, 2012

Baby-led weaning is an alternative method for introducing complementary foods to infants, where the infant feeds themselves hand-held foods instead of being spoon-fed pureed foods by an adult. I first came across the concept of baby-led weaning just over a year ago when I was giving a talk to a group of new parents on starting solids. One or two mums in the group had tried the approach, so I asked how this had gone for them. Their reply was that they had had limited success; by way of an example, one mum said that her baby had just “gummed a chunk of meat around his mouth and had then spat it out”. No big surprise there really! At the time, I think my main concerns were the risk of the baby choking on large chunks of food, and also … Read More

Obesity prevention starts in the womb - Food Stuff

Oct 18, 2012

The annual scientific meeting of the Australian and New Zealand Obesity Society starts today; the theme of the meeting is ‘For our children’s children‘, and a fascinating programme has been put together with some great speakers who will be presenting their research on this important topic. One of the keynote speakers for today (18 October) will be Professor Wayne Cutfield, who is a Professor in Paediatirc Endocrinology and Director of The Liggins Institute. He will be discussing the foetal footprint. You can listen to Professor Cutfield’s key messages, along with those of some of the other key speakers, via a Science Media Centre briefing held in advance of the conference. Professor Wayne Cutfield told the Science Media Centre briefing that early life events are critically important and can contribute to increased risk of adult … Read More

Are organic foods healthier? - Food Stuff

Sep 07, 2012

A new systematic review published in the Annals of Internal Medicine this week suggests not. The authors of this latest research reviewed 17 human studies and 223 studies of nutrient and contaminant levels. They conclude that the published literature lacks strong evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods; although consumption of organic foods may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic resistant bacteria. So what is the difference between organic and conventionally produced food? Well, according to the NZFSA, organic agriculture is “a production system that avoids or largely excludes the use of synthetic fertilisers, pesticides, growth regulators and feed additives.”   They go on to say that, “organic agricultural practices are premised on a philosophy of farming articulated through four basic principals – health, ecology, fairness and care. For consumers who … Read More

Unhealthy weight control among New Zealand kids - Food Stuff

Aug 30, 2012

A new study just published this month by researchers at the University of Auckland has highlighted concerns about weight control behaviours among New Zealand adolescents, and has identified a number of ‘red flags’ for unhealthy weight loss. The new findings were published last week (21 August 2012) in the International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity by Dr Jennifer Utter and colleagues from the School of Population Health, University of Auckland. The researchers collected data as part of a national health and wellbeing survey of secondary school students in New Zealand in 2007. In total 9,107 students aged 13-18 agreed to participate. Results showed that among students who had attempted to lose weight (around half of the children surveyed) 90% were eating less fatty food and 52% were eating fewer sweets. Of concern, however, was … Read More

New nutrition guidelines for children out today - Food Stuff

Aug 06, 2012

The Ministry of Health has today published the latest report in their series of Food and Nutrition Guidelines; this report is all about healthy children and young people from the ages of 2 to 18 years. Children and young people in New Zealand represent a quarter of the population. Making sure our children follow a good healthy balanced diet will promote normal growth and development and will contribute to optimal health as they move through childhood and into adulthood. The key recommendations in the report include consuming a balance of different foods from the four main food groups (wholegrain breads and cereals; vegetables and fruits; lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, legumes and nuts; and low-fat milk and dairy foods). It also recommends the preparation of foods, snacks and drinks that are low in fat, salt and sugar. Children … Read More