Monday, June 3, 2013

Grains and weight loss

What's the latest?

Grains & Legumes Nutrition CouncilTM(GLNC) has launched a new campaign, Grains and Weight Loss: The Whole Story, to educate Australians about the health and weight loss benefits of whole grains and high fibre grain foods. This new initiative helps Australians understand that following a higher protein diet doesn't mean completely cutting out good quality carbohydrates.
Michelle Broom, Nutrition Program Manager at GLNC and an Accredited Practicing Dietitian, believes the campaign will address many misconceptions people have about eating carbohydrates and will empower individuals with a better understanding of the role of quality grain foods within a weight loss eating plan. According to Michelle, “We are constantly being bombarded with mixed messages from fad diets and quick fixes. Achieving weight loss and keeping the weight off in the long term hinges on going back to basics and learning what carbohydrate foods are essential as part of a balanced eating plan and how much to include everyday to achieve your goals.”

A national study commissioned by GLNC in 2011 found that over a third of women were avoiding grain foods including whole grain and high fibre grain foods in order to assist with weight loss (particularly high for women aged 18-35).1  This trend is likely linked to the surge of interest in higher protein, “low carb” diets in recent years. It’s a concerning trend as eating higher intake of whole grains and high fibre grain is actually linked to a lower risk of weight gain in the long term.2

Higher protein diets help to manage hunger and have been linked to weight loss benefits, but what is lost in the media hype is that the research shows that these effective higher protein weight loss diets actually include moderate amounts of good quality carbohydrate foods each day – including whole grains and high fibre grain foods.3

In an Australian first, a weight loss study of young women supports the important role of good quality carbohydrate foods within a higher protein eating plan. This study encouraged young women to follow a higher protein (moderate carbohydrate) eating plan which included 4 serves of nutrient rich grain foods – like whole grains and high fibre grain foods each day. By six months, women who sustained this healthy approach to weight loss were able to achieve an average of 9kg weight loss (almost 10% of their body weight) which they were able to maintain over the full 12 months.4

While “low carb” diets, including many fad diets, often produce rapid weight loss they don’t appear to offer long term advantages for sustained weight loss.2 By unnecessarily restrict good quality carbohydrate foods you may be increasing your risk of not meeting your body’s nutrient needs in the short term which can have serious health effects in the long term. In fact, recent research has linked long term low carb eating patterns to a 30% increased risk of an early death.5

A final word… Dr Joanna McMillan provided a good summary during a recent presentation at the Australian Health & Fitness Expo titled Protein, Carbs and GI: what’s the latest, “The benefits of high protein for weight loss are clear… yes, it helps people to lose weight and it helps people to keep that weight off but it doesn’t mean it has to be low carb. Use the ‘smart carbs’ choosing lower GI foods including whole grains, legumes, fruits and reduced fat dairy carbohydrate foods as part of an overall weight loss plan.”

To find out more about the campaign and to download resources head to

1. Colmar Brunton. Project Go Grain. 2011.
2. Williams PG, Grafenauer SJ, and O’Shea JE. Cereal grains, legumes, and weight management: a comprehensive review of the scientific evidence. Nutrition Reviews. 2008;66(4):171-82
3. Wycherley, 2012. Effects of energy-restricted high-protein, low-fat compared with standard-protein, low-fat diets: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Doi: 10.3945/ajcn.112.044321.
4. Griffin, H et al. Higher protein diet for weight management in young overweight women:a 12 month randomised controlled trial. Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism published online 25th January 2013
5. Noto H, Goto A, Tsujimoto T, Noda M (2013) Low-Carbohydrate Diets and All-Cause Mortality: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Observational Studies. PLoS ONE 8(1): e55030.

Insights from the DAA 30th National Conference

Food supply challenges | The National Food Plan | Health claims on packaging

Over 500 dietitians converged on the National Convention Centre in Canberra for the Dietitians Association of Australia’s 30th National Conference. We have put togethre a summary of three intersting session which outlined current challenges affecting the food supply as well as future opportunities and the important role dietitians ca play in educating Australians.
Healthier food products myths and misconceptions

Cereal Partners Worldwide (CPW) held a fascinating breakfast seminar on the first morning of the conference. Nilani Sritharan explained how reducing sugar or increasing fibre content can affect the nutrient content and taste as well as increase the cost of breakfast cereals. Attendees taste tested a cereal which had had the sugar reduced by half by either just removing the sugar, or replacing it with a sweetener or a natural flavour. While there were noticeable changes to the taste, interestingly the energy content changed by only a single kilojoule.

Dr Tony Bird went on to explain that GI testing of a set of cereals found that a four-fold reduction in sugar to the level required for a green traffic light label had no effect on the GI of the cereal. In considering these findings Manny Noakes commented that, “consumers want to be liberated from certain things like sugar, wheat or gluten.....however looking at single nutrients and changing them does not mean you will end up with a more nutritious product.”

National Food Plan and the challenges for tomorrow

The National Food Plan was launched the same week of the National Conference, and so Professor Peter Williams provided a timely discussion on the potential role health professionals and health organisations can play to support the Plan. The aim of the National Food Plan is for government, businesses and individuals to work together towards “a sustainable, globally competitive, food supply which supports access to nutritious and affordable food”. Prof Williams recommended that health professionals can play an important role advocating for disadvantaged groups and educating consumers to make healthier food choices.

With environmental sustainability being a focus of the Plan as well as a hot topic within the dietetics profession, it was no surprise this was also discussed. Professor Williams outlined the complexities of measuring the environmental impact of consumption patterns, while also highlighting the significant amount of food wasted each year by Australians. Professor Williams explained that health professionals and all Australians can make a significant impact on sustainability by reducing waste and discouraging over consumption.

Food laws helping consumers

When Australians go to the supermarket they are often confronted with lots of messages on foods labels, for example nutrition claims like “low in fat” or health claims such as “reduces cholesterol absorption”. While manufacturers do choose what claims they make on their food and beverages there is a clear set of rules which govern what claims can be made and which products are eligible.

FSANZ (Food Standards Australia and New Zealand) have recently introduced new regulation which aims to encourage innovation by food manufacturers to make healthier food products. The new system introduces the Nutrient Profiling Scoring Criterion (NPSC) which can be used to assess the eligibility of foods to make health claims. NPSC takes into account the type of food or beverage, energy content, saturated fat, total sugars and sodium levels as well as the content of fruit, vegetable, nuts, legumes, protein and fibre to produce a score. The goal of the NPSC is to identify healthier food options, so only foods and beverages which meet specified NPSC scores can make an appropriate health claim.  

A final word on food labels…Beware of “puffery”: there may be cases where a claim is not a nutrition content claim or a health claim and so is not regulated by FSANZ or the code. Where these claims are false or misleading it’s recommended that consumers contact the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission).