Amanda Johnson

Nutrition policy for 2012 - Food Stuff

Jan 11, 2012

A media release yesterday (10 January) from the University of Otago highlighted concerns about nutrition policy in New Zealand, and the fact that it seems to favour the food industry. This follows on from a paper published late last year in the Journal of Public Health Nutrition — Nutrition policy in whose interests? A New Zealand case study. The paper, by Gabrielle Jenkin and colleagues, examines whose interests (the food industry or public health) are served by nutrition policies and why. By studying  submissions to an enquiry by the Health Select Committee into Obesity and Type 2 diabetes held in 2006, their research compared the positions of the food industry and public health groups, and assessed whether the interests were getting equal consideration, or whether one group was being favoured over the other. The positions of … Read More

Can diet improve our mental health? - Food Stuff

Dec 09, 2011

Depression is fast becoming one of the most common chronic conditions in Western countries, and it’s been predicted that its incidence is likely to continue to rise. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has predicted that by the year 2020, in developed regions depression will become the highest-ranking cause of burden of disease. According to the WHO: ’Mental and behavioural disorders are common, affecting more than 25% of all people at some time during their lives. They are also universal, affecting people of all countries and societies, individuals at all ages, women and men, the rich and the poor, from urban and rural environments.’ The age of onset of depression is said to be declining, and the rates are also increasing! So investigating factors that will have a beneficial effect on mental health is becoming an increasingly … Read More

Too much of a good thing? - Food Stuff

Oct 18, 2011

The debate about vitamin and mineral supplements was sparked again last week following the publication of two studies suggesting that vitamin and mineral supplements may be associated with increased mortality risk. The Iowa Women’s Health study, just published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, assessed the use of vitamin and mineral supplements in relation to total mortality in 38 772 older women. Results showed that several commonly used dietary vitamin and mineral supplements may be associated with increased total mortality risk. The association was strongest with supplemental iron. This study was picked up quite widely in the media. For example, an article in the New Zealand Herald last week reported ’The researchers confirmed their theory – that supplements were not helping people ward off death. But the reasons for the link to higher risk of … Read More

Should New Zealand have a fat tax? - Food Stuff

Oct 04, 2011

This week it was reported in the media that Denmark has become the first country in the world to introduce a fat tax on food, with a surcharge on foods high in saturated fat of 16 kroner ($NZ3.80) per kg of saturated fats in a product. According to Radio New Zealand, Health Minister Tony Ryall has ruled out a fat tax for New Zealand, saying that a fat tax would add to the burden on many families in tight economic times. We are in the grips of an obesity epidemic here in New Zealand, and last month the new National Diet and Nutrition survey showed that the prevalence of obesity among men had jumped from 17 percent in 1997 to 27.7 percent in 2008-2009 and from 20.6 percent in women to 27.8 percent. Among … Read More

The salt debate continues - Food Stuff

Aug 02, 2011

A new comment just published in The Lancet resurrects the salt debate yet again, following the publication of the controversial Cochrane report on salt last month (6 July). The plain language summary of the Cochrane report stated, ’Cutting down on the amount of salt has no clear benefits in terms of likelihood of dying or experiencing cardiovascular disease.’ In their Lancet commentary, Feng He and Graham MacGregor say that, ’In our view, Taylor and colleagues’ Cochrane review, and the accompanying press release reflect poorly on the reputation of The Cochrane Library and the authors. The press release and the paper have seriously misled the press and thereby the public.’ They go on to say, ’The totality of the evidence, including epidemiological studies, animal studies, randomised trials, and now outcome studies all show the substantial benefits in … Read More

Diabetes back in the headlines - Food Stuff

Jun 27, 2011

New research published in The Lancet this weekend (25 June) highlighted recent global trends in diabetes prevalence, and the results of this study have hit newspaper headlines in New Zealand across the board today. The scary results of this study showed that, globally, diabetes has more than doubled between 1980 and 2008, with the number of adults with diabetes rising in this period from 153 million to 347 million. Seventy per cent of the rise was due to population growth and ageing, with the other 30 per cent due to higher prevalence. New Zealand has one of the worst rates of obesity and diabetes in the world. The authors of the study, which was funded by WHO and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, conclude that: ’Glycaemia and diabetes are rising globally, driven both by population … Read More

Is too much salt really bad for your health? - Food Stuff

May 09, 2011

According to the Herald on Sunday this week ’Salt is not dangerous at more than a pinch’ This headline is based on a paper, published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), which has been stirring up a fair bit of interest. The research study followed 3681 participants for a mean of 7.9 years to assess whether 24-hour urinary sodium excretion predicted blood pressure and health outcomes. The authors reported that systolic blood pressure, but not diastolic pressure, changed over time and that this aligned with changes in sodium excretion. The association did not, however, translate into a higher risk of hypertension or cardiovascular disease (CVD) complications. In fact, lower sodium excretion was associated with higher CVD mortality. So — does his mean we should all stop worrying about how much salt we eat? … Read More

Should we abolish the ‘best-before’ date? - Food Stuff

Apr 18, 2011

Food waste has been headline news in the UK over the weekend, with the Telegraph reporting that the ‘best-before’ dates on food packaging are set to be scrapped in a drive by ministers to stop millions of tonnes of food being thrown away each year. And this issue has hit the front pages here too today, with the lead story in The Herald looking at whether ‘best before’ labels should be removed from food. The Telegraph article says: ’Instead of marking food “best before” a certain date, retailers will in future have to produce labels which give details of the health risks associated with individual foods that remain on shelves or in the fridge for a lengthy period before being consumed. Prawns and eggs, for example, would be more likely, under the new … Read More

Should coke be cheaper than milk? - Food Stuff

Apr 12, 2011

’When coke is cheaper than milk it is a national disgrace,’ said Darryl Evans, from the Mangere  Budgeting Services Trust, on Campbell Live last week. The Campbell Live feature looked at the thorny issue of the affordability of healthy food in New Zealand. As well as John Campbell’s interview with Darrryl Evans, reporter Tristram Clayton talked to Timaru Mum Lisa Williams, who estimates her family grocery bill has tripled since she started eating more healthily. Just as an example, she estimates that it is costing $180 per week just to feed her family of five two portions of fruit and three portions of veggies each day. Healthy eating, in her view, is just not affordable. Lisa says healthy food should be cheaper and more support should be given to those who need to lose weight. Read More

The influence of marketing on kids’ food preferences - Food Stuff

Mar 29, 2011

What influences our kids’ food preferences? One factor is certainly the way foods are marketed to kids, and what sort of branding appears on the packaging. A paper published earlier this month in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent medicine investigates whether licensed media spokescharacters on cereal packaging affects young children’s taste assessment of the products. The study looked at 80 kids with a mean age of 5.6 years. It’ll be no surprise to learn that the use of characters on the food packaging meant the kids liked the cereal more. The authors concluded that, ’The use of media characters on food packaging affects children’s subjective taste assessment. Messages encouraging healthy eating may resonate with young children, but the presence of licensed characters on packaging potentially overrides children’s assessments of nutritional merit.’ So this begs the question as … Read More