Thursday, July 30, 2015

65th Australasian Grain Science Conference

The 65th Australasian Grain Science Conference (AGSA) will be held in Sydney from 16 - 18 September 2015. The conference will bring together international and Australian scientific and technical experts under the theme 'Grains for a Healthy Future', with scientific sessions focused around the topics of Grains for Health; Grains for Industry; Grain Quality Improvement and Grains for the Future. On Thursday 17th Michelle Broom, GLNC’s General Manger will moderate the Grains for Health session ‘Health and Nutrition Driving Innovation’ which will feature presentations and discussion form an expert panel including Sarah Hyland, Consumer Insights Specialist; Ute Assenmacher, Innovation Manager, Goodman Fielder; Anita Needham, University of Wollongong, (Sanitarium Gluten Free WeetBix) and Chris Blanchard, Charles Sturt University. To view the conference program and to register your attendance >>CLICK HERE

AGIC Conference Update

·         GA to provide AGIC conference update (please leave a placeholder in the draft electronic version of the newsletter which GA will review 3/8/14)

Whole Grain Code of Practice Annual Review 2015

The Code of Practice for Whole Grain Ingredient Content Claims was launched by GLNC in 2013 and continues to be well received by industry with 15 manufacturers currently signed up to the Code, and over 180 registered products. GLNC continues to support the Code with media engagement to drive increased consumer awareness and understanding of the claims, and through targeted communications to key stakeholders including the food industry, government and academia and health care professionals. Recently, the annual review was completed to assess the performance of the Code and make any required amendments. For an electronic copy of the 2015 Code of Practice for Whole Grain Ingredient Content Claims and an outline of the recent amendments approved by GLNC’s Board >>CLICK HERE

Australia’s Signature Pulse (Legume) Dish Announced

In support of the United Nations declared 2016 the international Year of the Pulse (IYOP) the Australian National IYOP Committee, of which Michelle Broom GLNC’s General Manager is a member, recently ran an online National recipe competition: The Australian Signature Dish recipe competition. An expert panel judged the finalists and on the 29th July, at the Australian Grains Industry Conference (AGIC) conference the Quinoa, Black Lentil & Roasted Barley Salad submitted by Alison Victor was announced as the Australia’s Signature Pulse Dish. In addition to being showcased on the national stage at the 2015 AGIC, the Australian Signature Pulse Dish will be recognised along with other signature dishes from around the world as part of the global pulse industry celebration of IYOP. To view all of the delicious recipes submitted as part of the competition, including the winners of the people’s choice, healthy recipe and professional chef categories >>CLICK HERE

Insights from the International Fibre Conference by Associate Professor Eleanor Beck

By Associate Professor Eleanor Beck, Expert on Fibre, Advanced APD, PhD, University of Wollongong

The sixth International Dietary Fibre Conference was held in Paris from June 1-3, 2015. As a parent, how could I want anything more than a few days escape from my children in Paris? Interestingly though, the key message of the conference is that fibre is just like children. Fibre, like a child, is not one thing, but many things; all fibres (and all kids) are different; they behave differently and affect us in many different ways. While we might not always want to choose to have fibre or fibre rich foods (like we choose sometimes to seek a little rest from our children), the evidence consistently shows that fibre is important for health and increasingly the research, as discussed at the conference, is showing that variety in the fibres we eat is essential, because as Kaisa Poutanen of VTT Technical Research Centre, Finland quoted at the conference – “fibre is not fibre but rather fibre is a many splendored thing”.

The conference featured a variety of scientists presenting engaging summaries of the latest meta-analyses on the link between fibre intake and health. Data from large cohorts, with over 1 million participants (in some cases) were investigated and identify that for every 10g of total fibre intake, there is approximately a 10% reduction in all-cause mortality (you are just less likely to die!).(1) Interestingly, when researchers looked at the source of the fibres, it appears that fibre from grain foods , and to a lesser extent vegetable fibre is associated with significantly lower mortality and that no significant association was found with fibre from fruit.(2) Research also suggests that higher fibre intakes decreases risk of obesity, coronary heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and certain types of cancers, however identifying the mechanisms by which fibre protects against these diseases is difficult because any one food may have many different fibres within the food, we eat a variety of foods and we often process or cook our food in a variety of ways.

For researchers, like myself, to explore the complex ways in which fibres promote health, it is important to consider the chemical structure of the fibre, including the structure and length of the carbohydrate polymers (essentially fibres are long chains of carbohydrate molecules), the cell wall structure and what other compounds are associated with the fibre within the food and how they interact. Given all of these things impact the functionality of the fibre, it is not surprising that fibre has been attributed to such a wide varied range of positive health outcomes such as  improved laxation (keeps you regular), decreased cholesterol levels, improved  blood glucose responses and satiating effects (increased feeling of fullness). These health benefits are likely related to the mechanisms by which fibres alter the rate of digestion and the way our food moves through our digestive system. However as was discussed at the recent conference there are a number of other effects such as anti-inflammatory actions and immunomodulatory effects which are also likely to account for the health benefits of fibres and these effects are now increasingly under investigation. In particular, we know that fibres alter the human gut microbiome (the community of bacteria living in our digestive systems) and often stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria. The presence of fibre in the large bowel also feeds our gut microbiota in varied ways such that the bacteria will also produce different metabolites, starting a cascade of reactions as varied as modifying gut permeability to increasing release of satiating hormones. This emerging area of research reminds us that we need to understand the complexity of dietary fibre structures and how these variations impact on the physiology and evolution of microbes (bacteria) living in our gut. The amount of varied bacteria in our gut outnumbers the genetic variation in the human genome almost 10 fold and so the scientists investigating their impact on health certainly have their work cut out for them,  but this will be essential to advance our understanding of how fibres affect health via changes to the gut microbiome

So, as a researcher and as a parent I have some varied jobs to do. I know that to be diligent I need to not just look at how fibre affects individuals (in clinical trials) but I need to ensure the fibre (and the food overall) is well characterised to identify possible mechanisms of action. One of the reasons it is hard to identify individual fibre effects is that we have not been good at reporting all the details. It’s like having a toddler where you cannot possibly identify every hazard without serious investigation because they can find a mechanism to create havoc anywhere. As a parent, I need to ensure that my family and I eat fibre from all different sources to ensure that I can maximise the myriad of health effects possible with a healthy diet, but as a researcher, I need to remember that fibre is not just fibre, but rather a variety of complex molecules each with a variety of mechanisms which may influence health.

While there is still so much to learn, there is one positive outcome that everyone can agree on, and that is there are not negative studies on fibre. As our dietary guidelines advise: “enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods …..every day: plenty of vegetables of different types and colours, and legumes/beans; fruit; grain (cereal) foods, mostly wholegrain and/or high cereal fibre varieties…”. The fifth fibre conference was in Rome, this one in Paris and the next scheduled for the Netherlands in 2018. Who knows what could happen there, away from my kids!

1.            Liu L, Wang S, Liu J. Fiber consumption and all-cause, cardiovascular, and cancer mortalities: A systematic review and meta-analysis of cohort studies. Molecular Nutrition & Food Research. 2015;59(1):139-46.
2.            Kim Y, Je Y. Dietary Fiber Intake and Total Mortality: A Meta-Analysis of Prospective Cohort Studies. American Journal of Epidemiology. 2014;180(6):565-73.

Parents Losing the Breakfast Battle

With the clock ticking, preparing children for school in the morning can turn into a chaotic rush to finish homework, pack bags and prepare for the day ahead. Unfortunately these pressures may be leading to many children running out the door without a nutritious start to the day or worse, without eating breakfast at all.  Recent Galaxy Research of Australian parents of primary school children found that the majority (67%) worry that their kids aren’t getting enough to eat to last the morning at school(1), concerns which are warranted given the importance of a nutritious breakfast for growing minds and bodies. Here we look into these recent findings, explore why it’s important to establish a healthy breakfast routine and provide some practical strategies to help win the ‘breakfast battle’.

The research, commissioned by the Australian Breakfast Cereal Manufacturers Forum (ABCMF), conducted on a nationally representative sample of Australian parents of primary school aged children (5-12 years), highlighted the challenge many families face when it comes to breakfast.

The research found that two out of three parents struggle to get their kids to eat breakfast in the mornings, with more than one in three stating that it is a weekly battle. Primary school aged children are increasingly gaining the upper hand, with 200,000 parents admitting that their kids go to school without breakfast almost every morning and 700,000 parents saying that their children miss brekkie at least once a week(1). Parents highlighted that often their kids aren’t hungry in the mornings, or are becoming increasingly fussy and unable to find anything they like, despite parents efforts to provide nutritious breakfast options(1).

The primary school years are a crucial time to establish healthy eating routines, as good dietary habits will ensure kids receive all the nutrients they need to grow, learn and play. As the saying goes, breakfast is no doubt the most important meal of the day, providing kids with the energy and nutrient boost they need to tackle a busy day at school.

Scientific research has shown that a nutritious, low glycemic index (GI) breakfast can improve learning in the classroom(2, 3) and increase performance on numerical and written tasks(4, 5). In addition to this, a study conducted by Foodbank this year found that teachers regularly observe the negative effects of skipping breakfast, estimating that kids who don’t eat before school lose more than 2 hours of learning time per day. To put this into context, a child who skips breakfast once a week will miss out on more than an entire terms worth of learning over the course of the year(6).

When it comes to breakfast choices, just as with every meal, parents should aim to provide their kids with core foods first, such as breakfast cereals, various bread products, fruit, yoghurt and milk or a combination of these. The good news is that in the recent research, parents said that  simple, healthy breakfast choices such as a bowl of cereal, slice of toast or piece of fruit were the easiest options for kids on a busy school morning, respectively(1). Discretionary choices at breakfast (as with all meals or snacks) such as croissants, pastries or muffins should be limited at brekkie, as these foods are often high in kilojoules and low in essential nutrients(7).

Tips to winning the ‘breakfast battle’
Parents who skip brekkie are more likely to have children that skip breakfast too(1), and so the first step to helping your kids start the day in the right way is by setting a good example as a parent - so make sure you take five and enjoy the benefits of a wholegrain/high fibre breakfast cereal or bread, calcium-rich milk or yoghurt, juicy fresh fruit or even a boiled egg each day!

Next, it is important for parents to talk to their children and identify simple, healthy core foods or combinations of core foods that they enjoy and would like for breakfast. 

Finally, to reduce the morning rush, set time aside each night to prepare for the next morning i.e. put bowls and breakfast boxes out and ensure lunches are ready to go. Follow these three steps and you should be on your way to establishing a healthy routine for your kids and yourself.

For more information to help win the ‘breakfast battle’ and make breakfast part of your family’s morning routine the ABCMF have developed a number of excellent resources, which can be viewed here.

1.            Galaxy Research. Survey of n-1000 Australian parents of primary school children aged 5-12 years. Galaxy Research, May 2015.
2.            Micha R, Rogers PJ, Nelson M. Glycaemic index and glycaemic load of breakfast predict cognitive function and mood in school children: a randomised controlled trial. The British journal of nutrition. 2011;106(10):1552-61.
3.            Ingwersen J, Defeyter MA, Kennedy DO, Wesnes KA, Scholey AB. A low glycaemic index breakfast cereal preferentially prevents children's cognitive performance from declining throughout the morning. Appetite. 2007;49(1):240-4.
4.            O'Dea JA, Mugridge AC. Nutritional quality of breakfast and physical activity independently predict the literacy and numeracy scores of children after adjusting for socioeconomic status. Health education research. 2012;27(6):975-85.
5.            Hoyland A, Dye L, Lawton CL. A systematic review of the effect of breakfast on the cognitive performance of children and adolescents. Nutrition research reviews. 2009;22(2):220-43.
6.            Foodbank. Hunger in the Classroom Report, Galaxy Research Report N-532 primary and secondary school teachers 2015. Available from:
7.            NHMRC. Australian Dietary Guidelines Providing the scientific evidence for healthier Australian diets. 2013 Accessed online January 2014.

Aussie Kids are Missing Out on the Goodness of Grains and Legumes

No doubt parents are well aware of the importance of a healthy diet for their child’s health and wellbeing. Indeed, it is this understanding that drives many parents to nobly battle their kids over the untouched vegetables at the dinner table. And while enjoying adequate vegetables each day is an essential part of healthy eating, the importance of all five food groups in achieving a balanced diet cannot be forgotten and is equally important. Here we explore the latest research which demonstrates that Aussie kids are also falling short of their grain and legume recommendations and provide practical tips for parents to encourage balance with grains and legumes(1, 2).

Are Your Kids Enjoying the Benefits of Core Grains?
Adequate core grain food (i.e. breads, breakfast cereals, crispbreads, rice, pasta and noodles) intake in childhood is important to deliver essential nutrition, support a developing immune system,  reduce risk of weight gain and protect against disease in the long term.(3) And just as in adults, these benefits (and more) linked with adequate core grain intakes are most strongly observed when children choose whole grain or high fibre options more often.

The significant contribution of core grain foods to children’s nutrient intakes was recently highlighted with the 2011-12 National Nutrition Survey. The Survey found that these foods were the leading contributors of seven key nutrients in Australians children’s diets, including fibre (essential for digestion and a healthy good balance of bacteria in the gut), carbohydrate (for energy), iron (to help fight fatigue), magnesium (for an active mind), zinc (for a healthy immune system), folate (for growth) and thiamin (for a healthy heart).(1, 4) In fact in the case of fibre, only children who met their daily recommended core grain serves had an average fibre intake which met their minimum daily dietary fibre target(5). This is a striking finding given higher fibre intakes are consistently linked with reduced risk of health problems and disease from an early age(6, 7).

Given their contribution to nutrient intakes and health benefits in children (and adults), it is not surprising that enjoying a wide variety of core grain foods, mostly whole grain or high fibre options - is a universal theme of healthy eating. However, despite dietary recommendations, the recent 2011-12 National Nutrition Survey showed that Australian children’s average intakes of core grain foods across all age and gender groups fell short of the recommended number of daily core grain serves.(1). What is even more alarming is that more recent data from GLNC’s 2014 Consumption Study indicates that since 2011 children’s intake of core grain foods have declined  and almost half (48%) of Australian parents (48%) are limiting their children’s intake of core grain food(2). It appears not only are Aussie kids falling short of their core grain food recommendations and declining but there is a lack of awareness of the important nutritional contribution and associated health benefits with adequate core grain food intakes.

To achieve the recommended serves of core grain foods each day, GLNC encourages all Australians, including children to eat core grain foods 3-4 times each day, making at least half as whole grain or high fibre. This means that refined core grain foods, like white bread, white pasta and rice can still be enjoyed by children, as long as other grains in their day are whole grain or high fibre.  

Making sure your child starts the day with whole grain or high fibre breakfast choice, such as oats (or wheat breakfast biscuits, a whole grain crumpet or English muffin) is a great start towards achieving the recommendations and choosing whole grain at breakfast has also been shown to boost literacy and numeracy skills (8, 9) as well as improve learning and performance in the classroom.(10, 11) And considering that over 65% of children consuming bread/bread rolls each day(1), another easy step towards better core grain food choices for many children may be to choose whole grain or high fibre breads more often.

A Word on Discretionary Grain Choices
Consumption of discretionary grain foods (i.e. biscuits, cake, pies, bars or pizza that are high in saturated fat, added sugar and/or salt) remains an issue for Australian families, with just over one third (35%) of total energy intake is being consumed as discretionary foods(1). As discretionary foods offer no nutritional benefit and if consumed frequently, may contribute to weight gain(3), these choices are discouraged and can be limited by making simple swaps, e.g. swapping a packet of chips that is high in salt and saturated fat for a more nutritious option such as lite buttered popcorn, or a cafĂ© styled muffin for a slice of raisin toast. Whilst the number of Australian children consuming  discretionary core grain foods has continued to rise in recent years, there is a silver lining, with research showing a decrease in the average amount being consumed by kids each day(2).

Just as Australian children are falling short of core grain food recommendations, most Australians children are not meeting recommendation for legumes - only 1 in every 20 children consume legumes regularly(4, 12). This is despite legumes being fibre and nutrient rich foods and having huge potential to contribute to the health and wellbeing of Australian children, particularly in the early years were legumes can offer a valuable source of protein and iron, a great alternative if getting enough meat is a challenge.

As well as containing essential nutrition, legumes are mostly low glycaemic index (GI) and so have the potential to help kids maintain their energy levels over the day or during active play (13) and impart other health benefits associated with a lower GI diet(14). Given their potential GLNC recommends Australians should aim to enjoy legumes at least 2-3 times per week, but the evidence suggests the more legumes the better in terms of nutrient intake and health outcomes.

To boost children’s intakes of legumes parent are encouraged to incorporate legumes into family meals more often which can be as easy as serving baked beans for breakie or sneaking some red lentils into the spaghetti bolognaise. For practical tips on boosting legume intakes check out GLNC’s Fact sheets Legumes. Tips and tricks to enjoying them more often and Legumes – Start a healthy habit. And if you are looking for some recipe inspiration, Chrissy Freer’s new book ‘Superlegumes – eat your way to great healthis packed full of recipes to help you kick start this healthy habit in the kitchen. 

1.            ABS. Australian Health Survey: Nutrition First Results - Foods and Nutrients, 2011-12. Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2014.
2.            GLNC. 2014 Australian Grains and Legumes Consumption and Attitudinal Report. Unpublished: 2014.
3.            NHMRC. Australian Dietary Guidelines Providing the scientific evidence for healthier Australian diets. 2013 Accessed online January 2014.
4.            CSIRO. Cereal Foods and Legume Consumpton by Australian Children: Secondary Analysis of the 2007 National Children's Nutrition and Physcial Activity Survey 2009.
5.            GLNC. Secondary Analysis of the National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey 2011-2012 Unpublished: 2014.
6.            Liu L, Wang S, Liu J. Fiber consumption and all-cause, cardiovascular, and cancer mortalities: A systematic review and meta-analysis of cohort studies. Molecular nutrition & food research. 2015;59(1):139-46.
7.            Yang Y, Zhao L, Wu Q, Ma X, Xiang Y. Association Between Dietary Fiber and Lower Risk of All-Cause Mortality: A Meta-Analysis of Cohort Studies. American journal of epidemiology. 2014.
8.            Hoyland A, Dye L, Lawton CL. A systematic review of the effect of breakfast on the cognitive performance of children and adolescents. Nutrition research reviews. 2009;22(2):220-43.
9.            O'Dea JA, Mugridge AC. Nutritional quality of breakfast and physical activity independently predict the literacy and numeracy scores of children after adjusting for socioeconomic status. Health education research. 2012;27(6):975-85.
10.          Micha R, Rogers PJ, Nelson M. Glycaemic index and glycaemic load of breakfast predict cognitive function and mood in school children: a randomised controlled trial. The British journal of nutrition. 2011;106(10):1552-61.
11.          Ingwersen J, Defeyter MA, Kennedy DO, Wesnes KA, Scholey AB. A low glycaemic index breakfast cereal preferentially prevents children's cognitive performance from declining throughout the morning. Appetite. 2007;49(1):240-4.
12.          Australia. CPHNRFaUoS. 2007 Australian National Children’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey: Main findings. Canberra: 2008.
13.          Williams PG, Grafenauer SJ, O'Shea JE. Cereal grains, legumes, and weight management: a comprehensive review of the scientific evidence. Nutrition reviews. 2008;66(4):171-82.

14.          Rochfort S, Panozzo J. Phytochemicals for Health, the Role of Pulses. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry. 2007;55(20):7981-94.