Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Snapshots from ICD

Three sessions reviewed
Two thousand dietitians converged on the Sydney Convention Centre in September for the International Congress of Dietetics. With so much to see it was hard to decide which sessions to attend. We have put together a summary of three interesting presentations from the conference.

Food Insulin Index Presentation Overview

Kirsten Bell from Diabetes Australia presented the results of an intervention trial investigating which foods stimulate insulin secretion and the relative differences as indicated by the Food Insulin Index (FII). Unlike the Glycemic Index (GI) which indicates the effect of carbohydrate in a food on blood glucose levels, the FII is a measure of the normal insulin demand of a whole food. The FII is determined by taking 1,000kJ portions of food and measuring the insulin response relative to a reference food. Similar to GI, the higher Index numbers indicates greater response. It appears from the results that all three macronutrients affect insulin secretion, not just carbohydrate.

Some example values:

Mars bar 89
White bread 73
Apple 43
Grain Bread 41
Beef 37
Chicken 19

Kirsten explained that the FII is an emerging area of research and so it is not recommended that dietitians use this in counselling of patients until more research has been conducted. Current research is investigating if following a lower FII diet can lead to reduced risk of glucose intolerance and so help with blood glucose control.

GoScan Presentation Overview

GoScanTM is a new smart phone app that will allow Australians to scan the barcode of products on the shelf to access information about the product including ingredients, allergens and nutrients. There will be a controlled release of the app in October and the general release is planned for March 2013. A total of 15,000 products will be able to be scanned, representing 60% of the products on shelf. The company is working with organisations such as the Heart Foundation Tick and the Healthy Kids Association to also provide information about the products that meet the criteria for these programs.

Are our kids fibre recommendations a little rough? Presentation Overview

The current Australian recommendations for fibre intake for children are based on population studies. This assumes that children are eating enough fibre to maintain healthy bowel function because there is not a high prevalence of digestive health issues in Australian children. However, at a breakfast seminar hosted by Kellogg Nutrition, Professor Terry Bolin from the Gut Foundation shared the results from a survey of Australian children in 2011 which found that 40% of Australian children (8-12 years) do regularly suffer pain, constipation or diarrhoea. The mothers surveyed reported recommending their child drink water to ease constipation rather than increase fibre in the diet. So perhaps the current recommendations are not enough. Professor Joanne Slavin, a fibre expert from the University of Minnesota, pointed out that unfortunately there is not enough research on the amount of fibre children need for good gut health.

The Gut Foundation is also currently conducting research looking into the effect of high fibre breakfast cereal on digestive health. It is hoped this 14-day trial will add to the evidence for the benefit if fibre in the diet of children. Professor Bolin highlighted that as we tell people to eat fewer calories fibre intake reduces, so it is important to help people, including children, make smarter choices.

Final word....

My favourite quote from the conference: ‘We live in an era where people die by their own hand, by their fork’, Julian Cribb, author.

Food for thought

Enjoy a healthy diet today for an active mind tomorrow

It seems we are just waking up to the idea that what we eat may affect our mood, our risk of depression or even our risk of developing dementia in old age. New research indicates that our health in mid-life may affect our mental health both now and later in life. This emerging area of science was one focus of the recent Food Industry Forum for Nutrition Research in Sydney.

Mood and anxiety disorders affect a large number of people and affect people from a very young age. One Australian study found that 35% of women reported having had a mood or anxiety disorder at some stage during their lives.1 The average age of onset of anxiety disorders is 6 years old and depression is 13 years old. Given these figures it is not surprising depression is anticipated to be the second highest cause of disability in the world by 2020. What may be surprising though is that these mental disorders appear to be linked to the choices we make in the food we eat.

At the Food Industry Forum in September, Associate Professor Felice Jacka gave a presentation of the latest research in this area including a number of studies conducted in Australia. In an Australian study of 1,000 women a ‘traditional diet’ consisting mainly of vegetables, fruit, beef, lamb, whole grains and fish was linked to lower risk of both anxiety and depression. A ‘Western diet’ characterized by high intakes of fast food and junk food increased risk of these conditions.2 A/Professor Jacka explained there are now a large number of population studies that indicate a less healthy diet is linked to higher risk of mental disorders, even when taking into account other factors such as social situation, income, age or family history.

Interestingly studies in teenagers show similar results. In one example an Australian prospective cohort study of adolescents found that teens whose diet became less healthy were more likely to have deteriorating mental health. Given the young age of onset of mental health disorders, the authors suggest it is possible a healthier diet could help prevent common mental health disorders in adulthood.

Our physical health in our early years may also affect our mental health later in life. At the Forum, Professor Kaarin Anstey from the Australian National University presented the findings of a systematic review of the link between mid-life obesity and increased risk of late-life dementia. The review found that people who are overweight or obese in mid-life are more likely to suffer Alzheimer’s disease and dementia later in life. It appears that abdominal adiposity (carrying more weight around the belly) in particular increases risk.

Professor Dye from Leeds University in the UK explained that changes in cognition may be due to foods having direct effect on the brain. Alternatively, changes in the food we eat may also lead to better health by lowering blood pressure, losing weight, improving blood sugar control or blood flow. Better health may help to improve brain function as trials have shown that people who are obese, have type 2 diabetes or impaired glucose tolerance do not do as well in tests of memory and concentration.

So, a healthy diet now is not just important for your physical wellbeing, it may also help keep your mind healthy well into old age. To reduce your risk of declining mental health due to gaining weight, or developing chronic disease such as diabetes and heart disease enjoy a variety of vegetables, fruit, whole grains and legumes every day.


Presentations from the Food Industry Forum for Nutrition Research
  • Associate Professor Felice Jacka, Deakin University: Diet as a modifiable risk factor for depression
  • Professor Kaarin Anstey from the Australian National University: The association between obesity, cognitive decline and dementia from middle age to late life
  • Louise Dye, University of Leeds: Foods for cognitive performance
Presentations may be viewed here: http://www.newcastleinnovationhealth.com.au/annual-food-industry-forum-nutrition-research

1. Williams L, et al. The prevalence of mood and anxiety disorders in Australian women. Australas Psychiatry. 2010 Jun;18(3):250-5.

2. Jacka F, et al. Association of Western and traditional diets with depression and anxiety in women. Am J Psychiatry. 2010 Mar;167(3):305-11.

3. Jacka F, et al. A Prospective Study of Diet Quality and Mental Health in Adolescents. PLoS One. 2011;6(9):e24805