Amanda Johnson

The cost of food - Food Stuff

Feb 28, 2011

Before the devastation that hit Christchurch last week, food prices, and particularly the cost of milk, featured highly in the news, with the Green Party backing a call for an inquiry into dairy pricing and Consumer New Zealand asking for a full investigation by the Commerce Commission as concern over rising food bills grow. We also heard reports from TV3’s Campbell Live of overwhelming demand at a ‘Free Food Store’ in Auckland The focus has shifted now though with everyone concerned to make sure, as a priority, that the people of Christchurch have access to a plentiful supply of clean water and nourishing food. And it’s certainly extremely encouraging to hear reports that water and food supplies are now getting through. Everyone wants to do their bit to help, and this weekend Wellingtonians responded … Read More

Chocolate: The food of love – but is it healthy too? - Food Stuff

Feb 09, 2011

As Valentine’s Day approaches, many of us may be hoping for a lovely box of fancy chocolate from our loved one. So it is very timely to see new research published this week in the Chemistry Central Journal, suggesting that cacao (or cocoa) beans are a ‘super fruit’, with more antioxidant capacity than blueberries, cranberries and pomegranate powder on a gram per gram basis. So what does this mean for us on Valentine’s Day, as we are faced with that fancy box of chocs? Can we devour them with a sense of superiority and feel good about ourselves for eating such a healthy treat — or is there more to this story than meets the eye? It’s long been known that chocolate (particularly dark chocolate) has antioxidant properties and the conclusions of this latest research are really no surprise — … Read More

It’s official – the world is getting fatter - Food Stuff

Feb 08, 2011

Obesity has been very much in the news over recent weeks following the publication of the new US Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and research papers published in the Lancet last week (4 Feb), showing that the worldwide prevalence of obesity has nearly doubled since 1980. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 has quite a focus on tackling obesity, stating that, ’Americans are experiencing an epidemic of overweight and obesity. Poor diet and physical inactivity also are linked to major causes of illness and death.’ The report opens with the suggestion that, ’Eating and physical activity patterns that are focused on consuming fewer calories, making informed food choices, and being physically active can help people attain and maintain a healthy weight, reduce their risk of chronic disease, and promote overall health.’ The two overarching concepts in the … Read More

Omega 3 and fish — what’s the latest advice? - Food Stuff

Nov 16, 2010

The International Seafood and Health Conference took place in Melbourne on 7-10 November 2010. This was a great gathering of international experts and researchers who presented new data on this important topic. We often hear about omega-3 fats being a panacea for good health, with claims made that range from increasing your child’s intelligence and learning ability, through to reducing risk of heart disease and helping those with arthritis. But what’s the latest scientific evidence saying? And how much seafood should we be eating for optimal health. Here is a summary of some of the latest information in this area: Nutrients in fish Fish is a good source of protein, is one of the richest sources of the beneficial long chain omega-3 fatty acids DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), and provides B vitamins, … Read More

MacDonald’s to advise the UK Government on health policy - Food Stuff

Nov 15, 2010

Yes — you read the title correctly. And no, it isn’t April Fools Day. Recent reports from the UK newspaper The Guardian state that, ’the UK Department of Health is putting the fast food companies McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken and processed food and drink manufacturers such as PepsiCo, Kellogg’s, Unilever, Mars and Diageo at the heart of writing government policy on obesity, alcohol and diet-related disease.’ Commercial partners, The Guardian reports, have been invited to draft priorities and identify barriers, such as EU legislation, that they would like removed. They have been assured by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley that he wants to explore voluntary not regulatory approaches. Engaging with the food industry is, I think, important. I was astounded to learn at last month’s conference, ’who cares about New Zealand’s Waistline’, that McDonald’s sell 1.3 … Read More

Time for New Zealand to focus on the health of our children - Food Stuff

Nov 04, 2010

A brand new position statement was launched in the United States this week (1 November 2010) by the American Dietetic Association, School Nutrition Association and Society for Nutrition Education, which looked at providing comprehensive school nutrition services. The abstract of the paper states that, ’It is the position of the American Dietetic Association, School Nutrition Association and Society for Nutrition Education that comprehensive, integrated nutrition services in schools, kindergarten through grade 12, are an essential component of coordinated school health programs that will improve the nutritional status, health and academic performance of our nation’s children. Local school wellness policies may strengthen comprehensive nutrition services in schools by providing opportunities for multidisciplinary teams to identify and address local school needs.’ So, we have some top American organisations, having reviewed the evidence, stating quite clearly that good nutrition can have … Read More

Who cares about New Zealand’s waistline? - Food Stuff

Oct 19, 2010

A conference held in Wellington yesterday (18 October 2010) by the Edgar National Centre for Diabetes Research, an Institute of the University of Otago, looked at this very question. Bringing together a whole range of experts, including Government, health professionals, media and the food industry, the presenters looked at the evidence base for public health measures to reduce the risk of obesity and its co-morbidities. It is great to see New Zealand looking at a multiple-strategy approach to tackling obesity. I really think if we are to succeed in addressing this problem, we do need to look at approaching it from lots of different angles and we all need to get involved. Professor Jim Mann opened the conference by highlighting the increasing prevalence of obesity in New Zealand and listing the co-morbidities associated with it; including … Read More

Why don’t kids eat veggies? - Food Stuff

Sep 24, 2010

There have been several reports in the media this week about the recent study on Children and Young People’s Physical Activity and Dietary Behaviours, which looked at dietary and activity patterns among 10- to 24-year-olds. One of the key findings of this report (published by the Ministry of Health) was that 60% of children and young people are not eating enough vegetables. Only one third of those studied met the recommended guidelines for fruit and vegetable intake. It is certainly a challenge for many parents of young children to get those veggies in. We had a lovely roast lamb dinner this weekend and I gave may kids (aged 3 and 5) one teaspoon each of a variety of different vegetables — just to encourage them to get used to the different tastes. Before the food even … Read More

Is obesity contagious? - Food Stuff

Sep 22, 2010

Widely reported this week is new research suggesting that obesity may be caused (in part) by a virus, with Science Daily commenting on this issue — followed by an article in the New Zealand Herald yesterday. The idea that you might be able to ‘catch’ obesity, although this sounds bizarre, is not new! There were reports about a viral cause of obesity found by US researchers early last year in the UK newspaper, The Daily Mail. And Medical News Today reported in 2006 research from Wisconsin University which showed that human Adenovirus 37 made chickens obese. These latest reports are based on a new study just published this week in the journal Paediatrics. The research study assessed the relationship between Adenovirus 36 (AD36) specific antibodies and obesity in children. A … Read More

It’s time for New Zealand to start taking obesity seriously! - Food Stuff

Jul 12, 2010

Obesity is very much in the news again this week with our Government being widely criticised for its inaction. Last year, Health Minister Tony Ryall dropped nutrition and physical activity from the Government’s health targets and the  National Administration Guideline (5) clause on healthy eating in schools was dropped by Education Minister Anne Tolley. Funding was also withdrawn last year from the Obesity Action Coalition. Today, Dr Robyn Toomath from the Fight the Obesity Epidemic group commented in The Christchurch Press, that ’the Government had barely acknowledged obesity as an issue’. There are many of us working in public health nutrition who would like to see nutrition and health firmly back on the political agenda. We need increased funding for both preventing and treating obesity if we are going to … Read More