Lessons from living below the extreme poverty line on $2 a day

Around 2.5 million Australians live below the poverty line on less than $400 a week for a single adult or A$841 for a couple with two children.

I joined 8,500 Australians on the charity challenge last week to live below the extreme poverty line, spending just $2 a day on food for five days.

This is my third year doing the challenge and this year my husband joined me. Having $20 between two seemed to stretch much further than $10 for one person. But it was still tough and my diet was far from complete.

Budgeting and food choices

Essentially, $2 a day bought me a lacto-ovo-pesco vegetarian-style diet (milk, eggs and fish) but with very small quantities of these protein foods.

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Dried chickpeas and a legume-based soup mix added to the protein content and provided a nutritious and tasty soup. The inclusion of flour in the food budget meant I could have damper to accompany my meals.

Vegetable choices were limited to the cheaper ones such as potatoes, butternut, onions and Italian pureed tomato sauce – nothing green in sight.

I had to select cage eggs rather than free range, limiting my choice about animal welfare.

In addition to the limited variety of foods, the exclusion of fruit meant this diet didn’t meet the Australian dietary guidelines. There were no healthy fats such as avocado, oily fish or olive oil. Nor did this diet result in weight loss because it was not low in kilojoules.

Long-term implications

Over five days these nutritional inadequacies would be of little consequence. But over time this type of intake would lead to serious health problems.

Around 760,000 Australian adults (4.5%) are at risk of iron deficiency anaemia. My iron intake averaged 9 milligrams a day, which is only half the recommended dietary allowance of 18 mg a day.

Adequate folate intake is essential in women of childbearing age to prevent neural tube defects in their offspring. My intake was only half of the recommended 400 ug/day. Similarly, my iodine intake, which is needed for normal thyroid function and is particularly important in pregnancy for fetal brain development, was only half the recommended amount.

Had I substituted my homemade damper for commercial bread, I would have received higher amounts of both of these nutrients since bread is required to contain folic acid and iodine.

If I was pregnant, I would not have been able to purchase supplements containing folic acid and iodine, as recommended by clinical antenatal guidelines. As such, policymakers should investigate making these supplements available free of charge on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme for vulnerable groups.

Variety is the spice of life

By far the most difficult part of living below the extreme poverty line is the lack of variety. The diet was bland in colour because of the lack of variety, thereby indicating a poorer quality diet.

I repeated the same meal because it’s cheaper to buy in bulk. Leftovers simply cannot be thrown away, so food waste becomes much less than the average 41% of household garbage.

Spending money on beverages was not an option. I drank only water – hot and cold. Next year, teabags will be an essential item.

Time management and forward planning

Another difficulty is the need to plan ahead. Having only $2 a day means that all foods eaten outside of the household need to be prepared beforehand.

I also spent hours more than usual doing the weekly shop. I visited three different grocery stores to compare prices, including a large greengrocer, Aldi and IGA. It pays to shop around but those on low incomes would ill afford the transport costs associated with going from shop to shop.

Australian households’ spending on food

Contrary to popular belief, Australian households spend more on current (unhealthy) diets than required to purchase healthy (recommended) diets. The majority (53-64%) of food budgets is spent on “discretionary” choices: foods that aren’t essential to health that are high in saturated fat and sugar (this includes take-away foods and alcohol).

There has been much debate about the impact of changing the goods and service tax (GST) to encompass basic healthy foods. This would increase the cost of healthy diets by around 10%. In real terms, a healthy diet would cost a family of two adults and two children an extra $56.39 per week.

Since low-income families spend a higher proportion of their disposable income on food, around 30%, this tax change would hit the poorest hardest. Such a change would have a devastating impact on people living below the poverty line.

After five days living on $2 a day for food, I have a much greater respect for those living on a tight budget. And I will think twice before spending two days’ allowance on a coffee, or even buying a bottle of water.

 is Associate Professor, School of Medicine, University of Wollongong

This article first appeared on the Conversation. You can read the original here.

CSIRO to examine environmental impact of poor eating

CSIRO will use data from the country’s largest diet survey, the Healthy Diet Score, to look at the role food consumption contributes to our environmental footprint, as well as providing people with a score indicating the nutritional quality of their eating habits.

Improving the national diet can achieve both health benefits and environmental benefits, such as minimising harmful greenhouse gases via reducing processing, packaging and transport requirements.

CSIRO research has found that reducing overconsumption of kilojoules and eating whole foods at the levels recommended in the National Dietary Guidelines could cut the greenhouse gas contribution of the average diet by 25 per cent.

The survey evaluates diet based on food variety, frequency and quantity of the essential food groups, as well as other attributes to calculate greenhouse gas emissions related to food consumption.

This is the first year that the Healthy Diet Score will use survey data to measure the broader environmental impact of poor eating and the findings will be released later this year.

Professor Manny Noakes, CSIRO Research Director for Nutrition and Health and the co-author of the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet, said the impact of poor eating habits reaches further than just an individual’s waistline.

“Obesity and poor nutrition habits negatively affects the broader community,” Professor Noakes said.

“This year’s Healthy Diet Score will help us better qualify the environmental footprint from individuals eating habits.

In addition to overeating kilojoules, the CSIRO estimates that junk food is one of the highest contributors to food related greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for up to 27 per cent of the 14.5 kilograms of diet-related greenhouse gas emissions produced by the average Australian each day.

Last year the country’s diet quality was given a rating of 61/100 using the scientifically validated survey which assesses people’s diet quality against the Australian Dietary Guidelines.

Australia’s underwhelming performance in last year’s Healthy Diet Score was driven by the country’s addiction to junk food.

The 2015 survey found that junk food intake was three-times higher than the recommended daily limit.

The CSIRO Healthy Diet Score is a free 10-minute online assessment which evaluates diet quality and identifies areas of improvement and gives your diet a score out of 100.

‘Living here will make you fat’ – do we need a public health warning?

Governments have invested billions in efforts to prevent obesity, yet Australians keep getting fatter, especially in areas of socioeconomic disadvantage.

Over the past two decades, the prevalence of obesity rose in adults from 19% to 28%. The proportion who are overweight remained similar at around 38%. This means two-thirds of Australian adults are now overweight, with a body mass index (BMI) of 25–29.9, or obese (BMI >=30).

A new study published in BMJ Open confirms that obesity is highest in Australians who live in areas of socioeconomic disadvantage. The age-adjusted odds ratio of being overweight or obese was determined for high and low levels of socioeconomic disadvantage. We analysed data collected from almost 37,000 patients based on their interactions with their general practitioners over two years (September 2011 to 2013).

This study is part of the larger Sentinel Practices Data Sourcing project. This aims to develop a surveillance system for monitoring chronic diseases within the Southeastern NSW Primary Health Network.

Patients’ area of residence was categorised using the Socio-Economic Index for Areas of relative socioeconomic disadvantage. Both men and women living in areas of highest socioeconomic disadvantage had a 29% higher risk of being obese. The opposite association was found for being overweight, at least in men (those in areas of lesser relative socioeconomic disadvantage were more likely to be overweight).

What makes low-SES areas ‘obesogenic’?

It is well recognised that an inverse relationship exists between socioeconomic status (SES) and obesity. But the reasons for this are not straightforward.

“Obesogenicity” (the sum of influences that physical surroundings have on promoting excessive weight gain) of neighbourhoods may relate to the food environment (inadequate access to local sources of healthy foods, such as supermarkets and greengrocers, or easy access to unhealthy foods, such as fast-food restaurants) or the physical activity environment (less green space, unsafe neighbourhoods).

In the US, it has been demonstrated that neighbourhoods in lower socioeconomic areas are more “obesogenic” than those in richer areas. This translates to higher levels of obesity in children and adults. But these findings are not directly transferable to Australia.

A study of socioeconomically disadvantaged areas in Victoria ranked neighbourhoods using an index that included three domains:

  • food resources (supermarkets, green grocers, fast-food restaurants);
  • recreational activity resources (gyms, pools, park space); and
  • walkability (four or more intersections within a 2km buffer, walking environment, neighbourhood safety).

Surprisingly, neighbourhood “obesogenicity” was not associated with BMI of residents. It seems other factors may be at play.

Supermarkets and shelf space

Supermarket proximity may not necessarily reflect access to healthier foods. About 30% of supermarket shelf space comprises junk (or non-core) foods. However, the shelf spacededicated to non-core foods does not differ according to the location of the supermarket.

There is also no association between proportion of shelf space allocated to non-core foods and their purchase. But low-SES Australian shoppers do buy significantly more non-core foods than high-SES shoppers, especially chips and sugar-sweetened carbonated beverages and cordials.

This behaviour is likely to be driven by the economics of food choice theory: people on low incomes maximise energy availability per dollar. They buy foods that provide the most energy (usually with few other nutrients) for the least cost. This has been shown to influence food purchases in Indigenous communities.

There may also be less segregation in Australia between neighbourhoods classified as high versus low SES. Or there may be less clustering of fast-food restaurants in low-SES neighbourhoods than occurs in the US. Also, people may not necessarily shop or eat out where they live, particularly if they commute to work and access fast-food outlets on their way home.

Green space effects vary

A study in NSW found that proximity of residence to green space was associated with undertaking more moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and having less sitting time in both men and women.

However, this activity translated into lower body weight only in women; those who lived close to green space had a 10-20% lower risk of being overweight or obese, respectively, compared to those who lived further from such areas.

It could be that men compensate for being active by eating more, regardless of where they live, but this hypothesis remains to be proven.

There is little doubt that state government investment to enhance green spaces may promote physical activity in middle-to-older-aged adults. This has to be a good thing, but the impact on obesity may not benefit everyone to the same extent.

How can we reduce obesity in low-SES areas?

Our study provides new insights for population health planning. The findings highlight a need for preventive health initiatives to be specific to gender and the socioeconomic attributes of the target population.

We propose that, in areas of highest socioeconomic disadvantage, primary care providers could have more streamlined approaches to direct obese patients to existing weight loss programs. These include the free government-funded, population-based Get Healthy Information and Coaching Service.

In areas of low socioeconomic disadvantage, efforts could be focused on preventing further weight gain in adults, particularly men, who are already in the overweight range.

Encouraging patients to keep a close eye on their weight could be achieved through routine weighing every time they attend their general practitioners. This is an effective strategy and is relatively simple. However, recording of height and weight measures in general practices especially in regional settings is much lower than optimal.

The (large) elephant in the room

The Australian government has been heavily criticised over recent weeks for its lack of commitment to preventing chronic diseases within the primary health care system. Less than 2% of health funding is spent on prevention.

As part of the Primary Health Care Review, the “Healthier Medicare” package focuses on treatment of chronic diseases, but ignores the elephant in the room – prevention of obesity.

Obesity is the most important cause of chronic conditions, including type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Surely it would make better economic sense to stem the tidal wave of obesity, which brings with it chronic diseases, rather than wait for the already overburdened health system to cope with the increasing prevalence of these conditions.

As well as a health services approach, population-level strategies are urgently required to influence dietary behaviours, with reach across all SES levels.

Other countries are ahead of the game in this regard. For example, MexicoFranceSouth Africa and, most recently, the UK have implemented sugar taxes on soft drinks. Scandinavian countries and Ireland have legislated a reduction of junk-food marketing to children. In Australia, this relies on voluntary adherence by the food industry.

Perhaps neighbourhoods in pockets of high socioeconomic disadvantage need to carry a health risk message: “Living here will make you fat”. Or perhaps policymakers need to look at the glaringly obvious health data and shift resources to where they are most needed to prevent obesity.

Karen Charlton is Associate Professor, School of Medicine, University of Wollongong.

Abhijeet Ghosh is Researcher, University of Wollongong.

 

This article first appeared on The Conversation. Read the original here.

 

The Conversation

High fat and sugar diets stop us from feeling full

When we eat a meal, we take for granted that we should feel full afterwards. But eating a diet high in sugar and fat makes it harder for our body to tell if we are full or not.

The typical diet in Western societies consists of highly processed, highly palatable foods, with lots of saturated fat and refined sugar. Examples of specific foods include red meat, vegetable oils, ice cream, sweetened yoghurts, cakes, cereal, biscuits and soft drinks.

These foods are so commonly consumed in developed nations it has become known as the “Western diet”. We know this sort of diet is high calories and therefore tends to make us gain weight. But new research suggests this diet might also impair our ability to stop eating when we’re full, which would be another reason it would make us put on weight.

Gut-brain signals

When you eat a meal, the body releases hormones to tell your brain you are full. These hormones send messages to specific areas of the brain, which are involved in the decision to either stop eating or continue eating. One important area of the brain that receives these messages is the hippocampus.

The hippocampus is involved in memory. People whose hippocampus has been removed are densely amnesic – they are unable to form new memories. But our research suggests another important function of the hippocampus is receiving messages from the gut about internal states such as hunger.

Humans with severe damage to their hippocampus will always say they are hungry, regardless of whether they have just eaten or not. They will eat a full meal, and then only a few minutes later eat an entire second meal. So the hippocampus is very important in telling the body we’re full and don’t need to eat any more.

Rats and mice fed a Western diet have damage to the hippocampus. In our lab, we wanted to know whether eating a Western diet damages the hippocampus in humans too. To test this hypothesis, we looked at memory ability, and the ability to detect signals to indicate fullness.

Our research

Our first study compared two groups of people: those who eat a Western diet, and those with a diet low in saturated fat and refined sugar – a healthy diet. Both groups were matched for age, sex and body mass index.

Both groups were given a range of snacks, followed by some tests of memory ability and then they ate lunch. They were asked to rate how hungry they were before and after the meals, and asked to recall how much they ate during the snack and lunch meals.

Compared to the healthy diet group, the Western diet group had poorer scores on memory tasks, had poorer memory for what they had eaten during the snack period, showed reduced feelings of fullness for the same amount of food eaten, and ate more during the lunch period.

This is the first evidence in otherwise healthy, normal-weight humans that eating a Western diet could be damaging the hippocampus and causing poorer memory ability and reduced sensitivity to feelings of fullness after eating. Because they couldn’t accurately remember what they ate during the snack period, and because they had less sensitivity to feelings of fullness, it is not surprising they ate more during the lunch period.

In a second study, we showed the same effect seems to happen with thirst. When participants were made thirsty by feeding them salty chips, the Western diet group didn’t feel as thirsty, but needed to drink more water to quench their thirst. This suggests the Western diet was impairing their brain’s ability to receive messages from the gut.

What this means for you

It’s not just the calories in a Western diet making us overweight. The diet itself makes us less sensitive to feelings of fullness, causing us to eat more.

But there is some good news. Individuals in the healthy diet group were more sensitive to their internal signals of fullness and thirst. This provides hope that, after taking the initial first step of eating a healthy diet, it might become easier to eat according to your body’s hunger signals and to continue making better dietary choices.

Importantly, these findings were in healthy young adults. This means even if you’re young and of a healthy body weight, you should consider the impact of the food you’re eating on your brain. This information could be a great motivating force to get people to eat a healthy diet and perhaps reduce rates of obesity.

What can we do about it?

Various nutrients have been shown to improve hippocampal dependent memory, and protect against the effects of ageing on the brain.

Omega-3 fatty acids

These are often referred to as a “good fat”. Omega 3 fatty acids include acids critical for brain function. They’re found in fish, avocado and flaxseed.

Antioxidant foods

When cells produce energy, they produce reactive oxygen species which cause damage to the cell. The body can counteract these harmful effects through antioxidants. Various micronutrients have antioxidant properties:

Polyphenols

These micronutrients are found in fruits and vegetables (especially dark berries), as well as coffee, tea, red wine, chocolate and soy. Polyphenols have an antioxidant effect and can also reduce inflammation in the brain. Improved brain function after consuming cocoa has been shown in both young and old adults.

Curcumin

This is a component of turmeric, the spice that gives the yellow colour to a lot of curries. It has been shown to promote brain health through its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It is speculated the high intake of curcumin in India might explain why there is such a low incidence of Alzheimer’s disease in that country.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E has antioxidant properties and has been shown to improve neurological function with age. It is found in nuts, green leafy vegetables, wheatgerm and vegetable oils such as sunflower and grapeseed.

Folate

Also known as folic acid, folate is found in spinach, oranges and yeast. It is required for optimal brain function, and supplementation with folate has been shown to reduce the risk of cognitive decline with age.

 

Heather Francis is a Postdoctoral Researcher & Clinical Neuropsychologist, Macquarie University.

 

This article first appeared on the Conversation. Read the original here.

 

 

We are feeding our toddlers a risky diet – here’s what we should do about it

 

by PhD candidate UCL.

 

The food and drink young children in the UK are consuming could be putting their health at risk. In a new study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, we report that toddlers are consuming too much protein and too many calories for their age, putting them at risk of obesity in later life. We also found that they’re consuming too much salt and not enough fibre, vitamin D or iron.

Our study analysed data from one of the largest dietary datasets for toddlers in the UK, collected in 2008-9 from 2,336 children from the Gemini twin birth cohort. The daily calorie intake of toddlers (21 months old) was 7% higher than recommended by public health nutrition guidelines. And protein intake was approximately three times higher than recommended, with almost all toddlers exceeding the recommendation set by the Department of Health.

Not a sure start

The first two years of life are important for developing healthy eating habits. Children begin to develop dietary preferences that shape their eating behaviour and have a lasting impact on health. Our research suggests that there is cause for concern.

The average daily energy intake for toddlers at 21 months was 1,035 calories; higher than the 968 recommended for children aged two years by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition. In all, 63% of children exceeded this recommendation. On average, 40g of protein was consumed per day, but just 15g is recommended by the Department of Health for children aged one to three years.

We know that eating too many calories – not matching the energy consumed with the energy expended – leads to weight gain. But finding out how children consume their calories is important. Increased protein in early life is a risk factor for obesity in early life, and obesity often continues into adulthood. Both the high caloric intakes and the higher than recommended protein intakes found in our study suggest that toddlers today may be at increased risk of obesity and associated health problems such as heart disease and diabetes.

The protein source

A previous study in Gemini found that children who ate higher amounts of protein at 21 months of age, gained more weight up to five years of age. It’s important to identify the sources of protein that may be linked to this risk of weight gain.

In Gemini, almost a quarter of children’s calorie intake was consumed in milk and many of the children (13%) were still drinking formula milk at 21 months of age. This suggests that one of the main dietary sources through which children might be obtaining excess protein, is milk. In fact, within Gemini it was protein consumed from dairy (rather than other animal-based protein or plant-based protein) that was driving increases in weight gain up to age five.

At 21 months of age, the transition from a primarily milk-based diet to family food should have occurred, but it appears that a number of children continue to drink large quantities of milk, high in calories and protein. It’s important that, as children begin to consume family food, milk intake is decreased and replaced with water rather than high-calorie, sugary drinks.

As well as getting too much protein, toddlers were also consuming too much salt. Sodium intake was on average 1,148mg a day, almost three times higher than the 500mg recommended. This is a concern because it may set taste preferences for the future, increasing the risk of raised blood pressure in later life. Most salt in the diet comes from processed foods making it more difficult for people to reduce their salt intake. Parents need to be made aware that many processed foods contain high levels of salt and they may need more guidance on checking food labels, choosing lower salt options and limiting the intake of high-salt foods such as ham and cheese.

Fibre intake among many young children was also low, at just half the recommended amount (8g versus 15g per day). Given that high fibre diets have been associated with reduced risks of cancers, coronary heart disease and obesity, it is important for children to consume sufficient amounts.

Iron and vitamin D intakes were also low. Almost 70% of children did not meet the recommended 6.9 micrograms of iron. And average vitamin D intake was 2.3 micrograms a day, falling far short of the 7 micrograms set by the Department of Health. Less than 7% of children met the recommended vitamin D level, and insufficient intake of vitamin D has been associated with poor health, including rickets.

Many toddler foods are now fortified with vitamin D and iron, but children are still not getting enough. Supplements were taken by a small proportion (7%) of children and, although intakes of vitamin D and iron were increased through supplements, most children were still not meeting the recommendations for vitamin D. This underlines the importance of the government recommendations that all children aged six months to five years should take a daily supplement of vitamin D.

Parents need more guidance on the appropriate type, amount and variety of foods and drinks, together with appropriate supplements, in order to reduce obesity and other health problems that may affect their children in later life.

 

This article first appeared on the Conversation. You can read the original here.

 

 

 

 

We are feeding our toddlers a risky diet – here’s what we should do about it

 

by , PhD candidate, UCL

The food and drink young children in the UK are consuming could be putting their health at risk. In a new study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, we report that toddlers are consuming too much protein and too many calories for their age, putting them at risk of obesity in later life. We also found that they’re consuming too much salt and not enough fibre, vitamin D or iron.

Our study analysed data from one of the largest dietary datasets for toddlers in the UK, collected in 2008-9 from 2,336 children from the Gemini twin birth cohort. The daily calorie intake of toddlers (21 months old) was 7% higher than recommended by public health nutrition guidelines. And protein intake was approximately three times higher than recommended, with almost all toddlers exceeding the recommendation set by the Department of Health.

Not a sure start

The first two years of life are important for developing healthy eating habits. Children begin to develop dietary preferences that shape their eating behaviour and have a lasting impact on health. Our research suggests that there is cause for concern.

The average daily energy intake for toddlers at 21 months was 1,035 calories; higher than the 968 recommended for children aged two years by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition. In all, 63% of children exceeded this recommendation. On average, 40g of protein was consumed per day, but just 15g is recommended by the Department of Health for children aged one to three years.

We know that eating too many calories – not matching the energy consumed with the energy expended – leads to weight gain. But finding out how children consume their calories is important. Increased protein in early life is a risk factor for obesity in early life, and obesity often continues into adulthood. Both the high caloric intakes and the higher than recommended protein intakes found in our study suggest that toddlers today may be at increased risk of obesity and associated health problems such as heart disease and diabetes.

The protein source

A previous study in Gemini found that children who ate higher amounts of protein at 21 months of age, gained more weight up to five years of age. It’s important to identify the sources of protein that may be linked to this risk of weight gain.

In Gemini, almost a quarter of children’s calorie intake was consumed in milk and many of the children (13%) were still drinking formula milk at 21 months of age. This suggests that one of the main dietary sources through which children might be obtaining excess protein, is milk. In fact, within Gemini it was protein consumed from dairy (rather than other animal-based protein or plant-based protein) that was driving increases in weight gain up to age five.

At 21 months of age, the transition from a primarily milk-based diet to family food should have occurred, but it appears that a number of children continue to drink large quantities of milk, high in calories and protein. It’s important that, as children begin to consume family food, milk intake is decreased and replaced with water rather than high-calorie, sugary drinks.

As well as getting too much protein, toddlers were also consuming too much salt. Sodium intake was on average 1,148mg a day, almost three times higher than the 500mg recommended. This is a concern because it may set taste preferences for the future, increasing the risk of raised blood pressure in later life. Most salt in the diet comes from processed foods making it more difficult for people to reduce their salt intake. Parents need to be made aware that many processed foods contain high levels of salt and they may need more guidance on checking food labels, choosing lower salt options and limiting the intake of high-salt foods such as ham and cheese.

Fibre intake among many young children was also low, at just half the recommended amount (8g versus 15g per day). Given that high fibre diets have been associated with reduced risks of cancers, coronary heart disease and obesity, it is important for children to consume sufficient amounts.

Iron and vitamin D intakes were also low. Almost 70% of children did not meet the recommended 6.9 micrograms of iron. And average vitamin D intake was 2.3 micrograms a day, falling far short of the 7 micrograms set by the Department of Health. Less than 7% of children met the recommended vitamin D level, and insufficient intake of vitamin D has been associated with poor health, including rickets.

Many toddler foods are now fortified with vitamin D and iron, but children are still not getting enough. Supplements were taken by a small proportion (7%) of children and, although intakes of vitamin D and iron were increased through supplements, most children were still not meeting the recommendations for vitamin D. This underlines the importance of the government recommendations that all children aged six months to five years should take a daily supplement of vitamin D.

Parents need more guidance on the appropriate type, amount and variety of foods and drinks, together with appropriate supplements, in order to reduce obesity and other health problems that may affect their children in later life.

 

This article first appeared on the Conversation. You can read the original here.

 

 

Jamie Oliver challenges Australia to follow UK lead on sugar tax

Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has praised the introduction of a tax on sugary drinks in the UK and urged other countries like Australia, Canada, and Germany to introduce similar taxes as a way to fight obesity.

Speaking in an online video, Oliver declared, “Pull your finger out Australia.”

“This is bold and brave and this will send ripples around the world as far as how these weak, pathetic governments combat the rise in childhood obesity and diet-related disease,” he added.

“It’s about time your governments got on this. I know you’re all talking about it but you’re all scared of industry.”

As News.com.au reports, the UK tax will come into effect in 2018 and is expected to raise up to $1 billion. It will divide sugary drinks into two categories, those containing more than five grams of sugar per 100 millilitres and those with more than eight grams per 100 millilitres and tax them accordingly.

The tax has received widespread praise in the UK.

Duncan Selbie, Chief Executive of Public Health England, said in a statement, “A sugary drinks levy is fabulous news for children and families in helping them to cut back on sugar.

“This will reduce the risks of obesity, tooth decay and other life threatening diseases. This is public health in action and a great foundation ahead of the child obesity strategy later this summer.”

However, judging by the reaction of Trade Minister Steve Ciobo, Australia is unlikely to follow the UK’s lead.

 “If you ask what’s my personal view, I’m not a fan of that, I think the more you get in and distort these types of things, the more government causes havoc across the system,” Ciobo told ABC TV.

QLD introduces compulsory kilojoule labelling for food outlets

The Queensland yesterday passed legislation forcing all food outlets, cafes and supermarkets to display the kilojoule content of their food and drinks at point-of-sale.

Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Cameron Dick said the new laws ensured display of kilojoule information was implemented consistently statewide, spelling a win for the health of all Queenslanders.

“The reality is many of us rely on ready-to-eat meals and snacks from fast food outlets, cafes and grocery stores, to the point where one-third of all Queensland adults are eating takeaway food at least once a week,” he said.

“It is essential for your health to understand exactly what you are eating, but most of us don’t realise how much saturated fat, sugar and salt are in these types of foods.

“These new laws will provide Queenslanders with the nutrition information they need to make informed, healthier food choices.”

The new laws apply to fast-food chains, bakery chains, café chains and supermarkets with at least 20 outlets in Queensland or 50 outlets nationwide.

According to the Government, about 2.5 million adults and children in Queensland are overweight or obese, with obesity in the past estimated as costing the state’s economy more than $11 billion a year.

Mr Dick said food businesses would have 12 months to comply with the scheme.

Coca-Cola reveals $1.7 million spending on health research in Australia

Coca-Cola has released details of its $1.7 million funding on health research in Australia and all the groups it has supported over the past five years.

The SMH reports that the soft drink giant promised to publish this information two weeks ago, following a revelation by Fairfax that the company had failed to reveal it.

The full list of 36 organisations included the University of Sydney, Nutrition Society of Australia, Ted Noffs Foundation, Bicycle Network, Sports Medicine Australia, University of Queensland, police citizen youth clubs, Australian Paralympic Committee and the Exercise is Medicine Project.

American Anti-sugar campaigner Professor Marion Nestle told the ABC that, because of evidence that sugar is a major cause of obesity, organisations which research obesity run the risk of compromising their integrity if they receive funding from soft drink makers.

"If they are doing research on diet and health then the Coca-Cola funding is going to make them look as if they are working for the company. I don't think that's good for their independence or their research," she told the ABC.

"Many of these studies look like they are just there to make it easier for the company to make health claims for its products."

Professor Stephen Simpson, one of Australia's leaders in obesity research, told the ABC industry funding should be made through an industry future fund.

"What that would be, would be a substantial fund to which the industry contributes, but that's the end of their relationship," he said.

Coca-Cola said in its disclosure that it does not "have the right to prevent publication of the research results" or "provide funding conditioned on the outcome of the research".

Coca-Cola defends cans as obesity row rages

Coca-Cola Amatil has said it would prefer to see more Australians drinking less of its products instead of a few people drinking a lot amidst a renewed push against the soft drink industry to tackle obesity.

CCA maintained its high-sugar products, like a 375ml can of Coke are not harmful if one can is consumed a week.

According to CCA managing director Alison Watkins, one can a week is not necessarily considered to be unhealthy.

"We would much rather have lots of people drinking small amounts of our product than to have a small number of people drinking a lot of our product," Ms Watkins said

"We are really wanting to make sure that we are part of solving what is undoubtedly a big problem for society -and that is obesity."

Coca-Cola Amatil was responding to criticisms by leading researcher Professor Marion Nestle from New York University.

Professor Nestle is on sabbatical with the University of Sydney's Charles Perkins Centre and delivered a lecture on Tuesday night to a packed theatre.

She claimed soft drink companies around the world were distorting the truth about their products to keep profits growing.

"There is so much evidence now that drinking sugars in form of liquids is not good for health," she said.

Official figures show that more than half of Australians are overweight or obese. More than a quarter fall into the obese category.

Coca-Cola Amatil told the ABC it will be disclosing details of its funding to research organisations in a couple of months. 

Coca-Cola Health Funding hits Sour Results

Coca-Cola is funding a campaign to focus the discussion about obesity in Australia on exercise, shifting away from dietary intake as the solution to the health epidemic. 

In August last year, Coca-Cola's global boss promised to publish all financing of health groups after revelations of astroturfing activities by the New York Times.

In the United States alone, it was revealed that Coca-Cola had given $US21.8 million ($30.5 million) to fund research and $US96.8 million to fund what it calls "health and wellbeing partnerships" in the United States.

EIM Australia was launched in 2011 at the General Practitioner Conference and Exhibition in Sydney with a presentation by EIM global executive council member Steven Blair, who as vice-president of the Global Energy Balance Network was involved in a funding controversy that engulfed Coca-Cola in the US last year.

Dr Blair, who has said there is "virtually no compelling evidence" that fast food and sugary drinks caused obesity, has received more than $US3.5 million ($4.9 million) from Coca-Cola since 2008, according to The New York Times.

Mrs Hobson-Powell said ESSA was not aware of Dr Blair's relationship with Coca-Cola at the time.

Dr Blair was most recently in Australia in October, as keynote speaker at an Australian Physiotherapy Association conference where he claimed that undue focus on diet could lead to flawed strategies for tackling obesity.

He presented a similar argument during a guest lecture to students at the University of Queensland's faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences.

Timothy Olds, a professor of health sciences at the University of South Australia, also appears on Coca-Cola's funding list as one of 12 scientists who received a combined $US6.29 million ($8.8 million) grant to conduct an international study into the relationship between lifestyle and environment and childhood obesity.

Dr Olds said the University of South Australia received about $400,000 for his part in the research, which discloses Coca-Cola's involvement.

A spokeswoman for Coca-Cola South Pacific said it would reveal all its Australian grants and gifts "in the coming months".

"This is a lengthy process as we are currently compiling details of the projects we have supported dating back to 2010," she said.

The spokeswoman said CCSP was "proud to support Exercise is Medicine Australia from 2010-2013.

The sponsorship agreement with Exercise & Sports Science Australia provided funding for ESSA to resource an EIM Australia project development officer whose responsibility it was to set up and implement the program in Australia.

"Coca-Cola South Pacific funding stopped in 2013 because the project was complete."

Taste buds are the first line of defence against obesity says Uni study

 In a study published in the latest issue of the international journal Obesity, Deakin University sensory scientists have shown for the first time that it is possible to increase the ability of overweight/obese people to taste fat by altering their diet.

These results build on a growing body of research by Deakin’s Centre for Advanced Sensory Science that has previously identified fat as part of the tongue’s taste range (along with sweet, salt, sour, bitter and umami) and found that people who do not taste fat in food are more likely to overeat.

“It is becoming clear that our ability to taste fat is a factor in the development of obesity,” said head of the Centre, Professor Russell Keast.

“The results of this recent study, along with previous work, point to increasing fat taste sensitivity in those who are insensitive as a target for obesity treatment and prevention.”

For the current study, the scientists assessed the effect of a six week low fat or portion controlled diet on fat taste thresholds, fat perception and food preference in 53 overweight/obese people.

The participants were randomly allocated to eat either a low-fat diet (with less than 25 per cent of total kilojoules from fat) or a portion controlled diet (with 33 per cent of kilojoules from fat and designed to reduce energy intake by 25 per cent) for six weeks.

Their fat taste thresholds (the lowest fat concentration they could detect), perception of fat levels in food samples and preference for low-fat and regular fat foods were assessed before and after the diet along with height, weight, waist and hip measurements.
 

The scientists found that the fat taste thresholds decreased for participants on both diets, with the effect strongest for those on the low-fat diet. The ability to perceive different fat concentrations in foods increased only for those on the low-fat diet. While participants on both diets lost around the same amount of weight – 2.9 per cent weight reduction in the low-fat diet group and 2.7 per cent for the portion control group.
 

Dr Lisa Newman, who conducted the study for her PhD, said these results show that, through diet, it is possible to train the body to be sensitive to the taste of fat.
 

“This could then lead to people being less inclined to fatty foods, which in turn could impact on not only reducing weight in people already overweight or obese, but also in preventing weight gain in the first instance,” Dr Newman said.
 

 

Euromonitor modelling shows Australian shift away from soft drinks

Amidst a global debate concerning the implementation of excise tax proposals on sugary beverages, Euromonitor International has employed an inductive demand model to aid in five-year forecasting. 

The model attempts to identify several measureable and statistically significant demand factors against available data for retail and on-trade beverage category sales weighted in building 2015-2019 country forecasts. 

Australia is currently in the top 10 markets for carbonates consumption in terms of per capita retail volume sold, leading Euromonitor to consider potential impact of a soft drinks tax by recording historical price increases and the effect they’ve had on Australian retail sales of carbonates. 

In a Euromonitor blog post, Howard Telford said “There is greater uncertainty over the impact of a substantial soda tax in Australia, because there is simply no precedent for a substantial price shock in the Australian retail market.”

Telford believed that the introduction of a soda tax would be accompanied by a public health debate in the media that could impact consumer attitudes towards carbonates for reasons other than price. 

Euromonitor’s data showed significant declines in full flavoured cola and wider carbonated beverages in Australia that has resulted in declining prices and a consumer migration to low calorie cola (and non-cola carbonate) alternatives. 

Consumers making well-publicised concerns about existing cola were found to be doing so independent of price considerations and motivated instead by health or taste considerations. 

Whether or not a sugar tax is implemented, the Euromonitor International data clearly showed that consumers had been rapidly changing their attitudes towards health, sugar and lifestyle choices –a move that Telford suggests means that Australian consumers may have already found an alternative to implementing a sugar tax. 

 

What Might Be the Impact of an Australian Soda Tax?

What Might Be the Impact of an Australian Soda Tax?

By Howard Telford, Senior Industry Analyst with Euromonitor International

With the implementation of high profile sugar and soft drinks taxation in France in 2012, in Mexico in 2014 and Berkley, California in January of this year, the global debate concerning the purpose and efficacy of excise tax proposals on sugary beverages is inevitably moving in to other high per capita markets for carbonates.

Presently, the topic is on the agenda in Australia, a top 10 market for carbonates consumption in terms of per capita retail volume sold, and yet another country where obesity and other public health concerns are driving interest in added taxation as a potential policy solution. Fifteen years of volume and value sales data for carbonated drinks in the Australian market, published as part of Euromonitor’s non-alcoholic drinks research program, allow us to speculate on the potential impact of a soft drinks tax by considering the historic impact that price increases have had on Australian retail sales of carbonates, with a focus on cola.

COLA AS A CASE STUDY
As part of non-alcoholic drinks research published this January, Euromonitor International employed an inductive demand model to aid in five-year forecasting. The forecast model attempts to identify several measureable and statistically significant demand factors (including retail price) from historic data sets of the 80 markets researched. These factors are tested against historically available data for retail and on-trade beverage category sales, and then weighted to assist in building 2015-2019 country forecasts.

Australia-cola-sales.png

For Australia, the results demonstrate that a 1% increase in the retail selling price of regular, full flavour cola carbonates can be expected to yield just a 0.2% decrease in retail volume. Consequently, even a relatively substantial (and hypothetical) 7% increase in pricing in 2015 would yield only half a percentage point difference in expected declines: from a 6.5% forecasted reduction in off-trade regular, full-flavour cola volume for 2015, to a 7.0% reduction in 2015 under a soda tax scenario.

Discounting other factors, this finding suggests a weak relationship between price hikes and volume declines in Australian standard cola. However, this finding is simply based on observable data from the market and should not be oversimplified. 

In constant 2014 Australian dollars, retail unit prices for cola carbonates (including regular and low calorie cola alternatives) have fallen consistently over the review period – by 17% in total over 2000-14. There is greater uncertainty over the impact of a substantial soda tax in Australia, because there is simply no precedent for a substantial price shock in the Australian retail market. Furthermore, the introduction of such taxation would necessarily be accompanied by a high profile health and public policy debate in the media that may further impact consumer attitudes and behaviours towards the cola and wider carbonates category for reasons other than simple price.

WOULD THERE BE A PUBLIC HEALTH BENEFIT TO A SODA TAX?
The policy argument for excise taxation on carbonates – or similar Pigovian taxation on other products, including alcohol and tobacco – is that taxes ultimately raise prices to the consumer, driving down overall consumption of unhealthy products. The low sensitivity of standard, regular cola retail volume consumption to changes in retail price in Australia and the relative importance of other demand drivers makes it difficult to draw hard conclusions about the immediate impact such a tax might have on consumption and health.

Additionally, as a developed soft drinks market, consumers in Australia have a wealth of diet, low-calorie, zero calorie, and other non-cola alternatives to replace regular cola carbonates in their diet. In fact, Australian low-calorie carbonates have gained considerably on regular cola over the review period. Crucially, for the first time in 2014, Euromonitor’s data suggests that low-calorie cola outsold regular cola carbonates in terms of retail volume in Australia.

We know that there have been substantial declines in standard, full flavour cola (down 22% in off-trade volume over 2000-2014) and wider carbonated beverages in Australia over the recent review period. Interestingly, these declines have taken place in an environment of flat or declining prices in real terms and have been accompanied by consumer migration to low calorie cola (and non-cola carbonate) alternatives. 

Recent volume declines, independent of observable category price increases, have had an impact on sugar consumption received from soft drinks, according to Euromonitor International’s Nutrition system. In 2011, Australians received an estimated 12.62g of sugar per capita, per diem from cola carbonate beverages. By 2014, this figure has fallen to 11.83g of sugar per capita, largely as the result of a 3% decline in cola carbonates retail volume over that same period. The amount of per capita, per diem sugar from cola carbonates is expected to fall to 10.28g by 2019, independent of excise tax legislation.

IS A SODA TAX NECESSARY?
It may be worth considering whether consumers in Australia – and indeed in many developed markets – are addressing well publicised concerns about the category by exiting cola for other alternatives, independent of price considerations and motivated instead by health or taste considerations.

There is a weak observable relationship in historic volume data between cola consumption and price in Australia. This is primarily because there is little precedent for substantial price increases in retail cola, supported by a strong consumer expectation for discounting that has kept the price environment in the category flat or declining. It may be the case that a substantial price shock could have a disruptive and unexpected impact on consumption. However, even in a low price, discount oriented environment for full flavour cola, volume sales have declined substantially as consumers migrate to alternative beverage categories, including low-calorie colas (led by the brands Pepsi Max and Coca-Cola Zero).

Cola consumption (regular and low-calorie) is expected to decline by 9% over 2015-19, with regular, full-flavour cola expected to decline by a staggering 25% in just five years, independent of any tax increase. Consumption of total carbonates is expected to decline by 5% in retail. 

While soda taxes will gather political and media attention as a response to public health issues across food and beverages, it is worth considering whether consumers are already responding to health concerns in their soft drinks, largely independent of price considerations. Regular standard cola carbonates in Australia have declined, to the benefit of low-calorie alternatives, with a positive impact on per capita, per diem sugar consumption.

Australia-Cola-forecasts.png

It is therefore worth wondering whether sugar and soda taxation proposals are seeking to address a health question to which the The chart above demonstrates this point clearly. In light blue, we have an industry demand model forecast estimate built only on core economic factors that influence consumer goods: population growth, average income growth, price and habit persistence (a lagged effect of growth in the previous year). If these factors alone were used to predict growth in Australian cola, a flat performance might be expected over the next five years. However, in dark blue, the actual published Passport forecast shows a CAGR of -5.4%, in stark contrast to the -0.6% CAGR expected by the industry demand model.

The consensus forecast is revised down by 4.8 percentage points to account for unmeasured factors outside the demand model, most prominently rapidly changing attitudes to health, sugar and lifestyles. These consumer-led factors are expected to be the driver behind declines in the Australian cola category. It is therefore worth wondering whether sugar and soda taxation proposals are seeking to address a health question to which the Australian consumer has already found an answer. consumer has already found an answer.

Beware the multipack: it may hinder rather than help your diet

Offering smaller portions is one way of encouraging people to eat less. But while a single, smaller portion does lead to less consumption, having multiple smaller portions on offer can encourage some people – notably the diet-conscious – to eat more.

Based on evidence that portion sizes have been growing since the 1970s, some researchers have speculated that this is the cause for obesity’s increasing prevalence. But correlation doesn’t equal causation. Since the 1970s, our lifestyles have also become very much more sedentary. The rise in obesity is probably a function of what we eat as well as how active we are.

Shrinking portion sizes

Nonetheless, controlling portion sizes can at least help. We have compelling evidence that smaller portions lead people to consume less, for instance. Encouragingly, a number of longer-term studies show that smaller portions have led people to lose weight.

The power of smaller portions has encouraged at least some public health agencies to actively promote related ideas, such as 100-calorie snacks. And a willingness by customers to choose smaller portions has encouraged food manufacturers to respond by providing them.

Coca-Cola, for instance added a 250-millilitre can to its range last year and already has 200mL mini-can multipacks. But smaller portions and multipacks are distinct packaging formats with subtle but important effects.

A number of other food companies have introduced large packs partitioned into multiple, smaller “snack-size” packs. The presumption is that partitioning a larger portion into smaller portions will encourage people to eat less in line with the portion-size effect.

But research shows providing multiple smaller packs leads to a paradoxical effect among the diet-conscious. They tend to eat more when offered multiple smaller packs.

In 2008, two independent research teams showed that when participants in lab studies were provided with multiple packs of M&Ms or cookies or chips, people who identified as diet-conscious tended to eat more than people presented with the same quantity in one single, unpartitioned pack.

 

Smaller packets can ‘trick’ some people into eating more. Mike Mozart/flickr, CC BY

But the results from the three studies (two from one team, one from the other) were equivocal. While partitioning reduced consumption among non-diet-conscious people across all three studies, the difference was statistically significant in just one. Partitioning also increased consumption among the diet-conscious in all three studies, but again the effect was significant in just one.

Mind what you eat

We conducted additional research replicating key elements of the previous three studies. We then combined our study with the previous published studies in a meta-analysis. This confirmed the operation of two opposing effects: partitioning reduces consumption among the non-diet-conscious, but increases consumption among the diet-conscious.

But does the effect work beyond the artificial setting of the laboratory? One striking feature of all the studies showing this contradictory partitioning effect was that participants were blind to the fact that their food consumption was being monitored. They were actively engaged in another study (completing a questionnaire, or evaluating advertisements), with the snacks being offered as an incidental treat.

To examine the importance of participant awareness, we did another study examining an additional sample of diet-conscious participants who were explicitly told they would have to provide an evaluation of the snacks afterwards. They no longer ate more.

It appears that the partitioning effect is sensitive to whether people are aware that their consumption is being monitored. This finding is consistent with a recent meta-analysis showing consumption is generally reduced when people are aware they’re participating in a food study.

Smaller portions do appear to help reduce consumption, but people who are diet-conscious, those who are watchful of their weight and what they eat, ought to be careful about multipacks containing multiple smaller portions. This packaging format seems to encourage them to eat more.

The effect of multipacks fits with other research showing the way food is presented can unconsciously affect consumption. If you serve the same amount of food on a small plate, for instance, it may look bigger and lead people to eat less. And tall, thin glasses look bigger than small, squat ones with an equivalent volume; they encourage people to serve and drink less.

The key is to trick the mind into eating less. As eating behaviour scientist Brian Wansink says in his book, Mindless Eating:

The best diet is one you don’t know you’re on.

If you are diet-conscious and intending to buy snacks, you’re better off buying large, unpartitioned packages, or a single small pack. But the best option would be not to buy the snacks at all.

The Conversation

Stephen S Holden, Honorary Associate Professor, Macquarie Graduate School of Management and Natalina Zlatevska, Assistant Professor

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

How marketers condition us to buy more junk food

Fast food giant McDonald’s has been under a cloud in recent years as its US customers turn to alternatives. In this “Fast food reinvented” series we explore what the sector is doing to keep customers hooked and sales rising.


While excess weight and obesity is a growing global concern, there has been more and more advertising and promotional effort encouraging the consumption of unhealthy food.

In many cases this marketing is targeted at children, and takes place online. In our recent study we investigated the impact of online marketing communications on children and their intention to consume unhealthy food. We found fast food ads on social networking sites can manipulate young audiences – their purchasing likelihood, their views of fast food and their eating habits.

The qualitative study included a sample of 40 Australian children who use social networking sites. Half (21) of the children were male and the average age was 14 (the youngest being 12 and the oldest 16). Their parents were also present during the interview, however they agreed not to intervene during the conversation.

A growing problem

The prevalence of excess weight and obesity among Australians has been growing for the past 30 years. Between 2011 and 2012, around 60% of Australian adults were classified as overweight, and more than 25% of these fell into the obese category. In 2013, more than 12 million, or three in five Australian adults, were overweight or obese. On top of that, one in four Australian children were overweight or obese. Excess weight and obesity is only beaten by smoking and high blood pressure as a contributor to a burden of diseases.

Despite this, the food industry is succeeding in using marketing communications to change attitudes, perceptions and perceived norms associated with unhealthy food.

Consumers are lured by surprisingly cheap deals, which are especially attractive to teenagers and young adults with low income. But sales promotions such as discounts and coupons often offer only short-term benefits to consumers and are usually not effective among middle-age adults.

However, if a promotion is offered for a long period of time (i.e. more than three months), it can actually influence customer habits, encouraging repeat purchases – for example, the $1 frozen Coke.

Similarly, sales promotions can make other brands be perceived as less attractive by customers after a period of time. For instance, the $1 frozen Coke campaigns by McDonald’s and Hungry Jack’s affect the perception of frozen Coke in terms of monetary value. Many consumers become less willing to buy a frozen Coke that is more expensive than $1. The same can be said of $2 burgers or $5 pizzas.

The role of social networks

More than half (16 out of 30) of the respondents admitted they tended to change their eating habits after repeatedly being exposed to advertisements on social networking sites.

“Yes, many people say that it is not good to eat fast food. I used to think so but not anymore. Look at their ads, they are colourful, many options and cheap.”

“I just cannot resist it… I had been looking at the ads day after day and I decided that I needed to try these”.

Interestingly, fast food was associated with socialisation and fun among young consumers.

“The ads make me feel like this is where we belong to. This is our lifestyle…where we hang out and can be ourselves.”

“This is about our culture, young, active and free. We are kids but also not kids. We are different.”

Peer pressure

Peer pressure is heavily related to eating habits, especially during puberty when there is usually a shift from home influence to group motivation. Teenagers and young adults in particular tend to choose a particular type of food under peer pressure.

More than 70% of teenagers will choose a food according to the preference of their friends. This means marketing communications promoting fast food consumption can create a snowball effect within this group of customers. For example, Jack, Sara and Park go out together. If Jack and Sara order Big Burgers with extra cheese, the likelihood that Park will order another Big Burger with extra cheese is approximately 75%. In contrast, only 2.7% of people aged over 40 choose fast food because of their peers.

It’s clear marketing efforts by fast food chains can promote unhealthy eating habits. Also, peer influence plays an important part in forming eating habits. This means the intervention of government and health organisations should concentrate on increasing customers’ attention to health issues, self-efficacy and perceived norms, and at the same time, lessening the influence of marketing efforts aimed at motivating unhealthy eating habits.

The Conversation

Park Thaichon, Assistant Professor of Marketing, S P Jain School of Global Management and Sara Quach, PhD Student, Swinburne University of Technology

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

The convenience food industry making our pets fat

Fast food giant McDonald’s has been under a cloud in recent years as its US customers turn to alternatives. In this “Fast food reinvented” series we explore what the sector is doing to keep customers hooked and sales rising.


Commercial dry foods are the ultimate “convenience food” for pets. They are manufactured by the same companies that make such foods for humans, specifically Mars (Masterfood, Uncle Bens, Royal Canin), Nestle (Nestle-Purina, Friskies), and Proctor and Gamble (Iams and Eukamuba). The other big player (Hills) is owned by Colgate Palmolive.

These convenience food giants don’t just make staple diets, but also expensive treats (beef and chicken jerky and desiccated liver) that cost more per gram than fillet steak.

The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) has endorsed overseas policy guidelines that recommend feeding commercially prepared dry and canned food to cats and dogs. This is in stark contrast to how veterinarians and animal nutritionists feed carnivores in zoos.

Why the difference?

In zoos, big cats (lions, tigers, etc.) and wild dogs (dingoes, wolves) are fed predominantly fresh meat on the bone, to mimic what occurs in nature. Typically, whole chicken or turkey carcasses and portions (usually limbs) of cows and sheep comprise the major portions of the ration. Fresh meat, some offal and fresh bones are all normal food constituents in nature.

This ration requires vigorous mastication, as is the case when a carnivore dines in nature. Eating such tucker is hard work but clearly pleasurable. When finally satiated, carnivores generally have a long nap. For ethical reasons, we cannot reproduce the thrill of “the kill” when keeping carnivores in captivity, but we can certainly reproduce the enjoyment of a “natural feed”. Tearing apart flesh and stripping it off the bone is a physiologic way to “floss”, reducing plaque and calculus which otherwise build up on teeth. The mouth and digestive system of carnivores has adapted over millennia to this type of diet.

Cats, like their larger relatives, are hypercarnivores – carnivores who have evolved through natural selection to eat the flesh and bones of prey animals exclusively. The only carbohydrate normally eaten is in the liver and intestinal tract of prey. Dogs are carnivores, although they have less stringent nutritional requirements. One might therefore think that the ideal food for cats and dogs would include regular portions of fresh meat on the bone.

Why then are most commercial foods for cats and dogs dry extruded rations based on plant carbohydrates, with added fat, minerals and hydrolysed protein? And why do most veterinarians recommend such diets?

 

Domestic cats, like their wild relatives, benefit from a diet of raw meat and bones. Image sourced from Shutterstock.com

Marketing machine

My view is that our profession has been misdirected by the exceptionally clever marketing of multinational pet food manufacturers. In the human arena, such companies are often called “big food” and “big soda”.

Dry extruded diets are clean, convenient, have a long shelf-life, are easy to serve and store. They don’t need to be bought fresh every few days. They contain a lot of goodness and are balanced for vitamins, minerals and macronutrients. Indeed, as a component of a balanced diet, “premium dry food” has much to offer (more for dogs than cats and particularly for growing animals). But they tend to be consumed quickly, with little effort. If they are fed without careful portion control, you quickly end up with a fat pet.

The coating with tasty oils makes this food irresistible, just like salted potato crisps are to us. But it doesn’t have the physical qualities to remove calculus from teeth and many have excess carbohydrate and insufficient protein, especially for hypercarnivores. Cats fed these diets exclusively have the propensity to develop diabetes, obesity and osteoarthritis.

Pet food manufacturers provide most of the money for nutritional research in companion animals. They thus control the research agenda, and the “evidence base” for canine and feline nutrition. They donate money and products and sponsor functions at veterinary schools, thereby subliminally influencing the feeding practices of impressionable young vets and their teachers. They fund also clinical nutrition lectureships and residencies. University management appear unconcerned by this arrangement. Pet food companies also sponsor seminars, webinars and sessions at scientific meetings. They run advertisements in leading veterinary journals and are a major sponsor of the AVA.

The final masterstroke of pet food companies is that they enlist veterinarians to actually sell, and thereby endorse these diets, right in the waiting rooms of their hospitals.

It doesn’t need to be this way. The concerted efforts of a number of forward-thinking veterinary scientists have meant that Australasian pet owners probably feed more raw meaty bones as part of a balanced ration than in many countries overseas. This is commendable. But we have some way to go.

Richard Malik, Veterinary Internist (Specialist), University of Sydney

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Fanta soft drink Ad leaves some viewers with bad aftertaste

According to reports, Coca-Cola Amatil (CCA) has been forced to pull a Fanta marketing campaign after it was found to be breach industry guidelines designed to fight obesity advertising a product to children.

The Advertising Standards Bureau (ASB) found a TV advertisement and tablet app in their latest campaign for soft drink Fanta called ‘Fanta Tastes Like’ was directed at children as it featured an animated Fanta Crew engaging in activities like catching fruit and landing in a bubble-filled pools.

However following a complaint lodged by The Obesity Policy Coalition (OPC) with the ASB, Coca-Cola said the campaign was aimed at teenagers aged 15 to 17 and the animated characters were depicted as teens and also further noted the app was created at its US headquarters and was not for sale in the children's section.

The main issue the OPC had seemed to stem from the fact that parts of the animation in the app showed a Fanta bottle filled with oranges, which they said was suggestive of Fanta being a fruit drink.
In its original complaint, the OPC said the Fanta campaign was “a communication directed primarily to children; Fanta does not represent a healthy dietary choice consistent with established scientific or Australian government standards; and [CCA] does not promote healthy dietary habits or physical activity.”

Handing down its findings, the ASB noted that some of the TV ad and app elements of the campaign were "primarily" directed at children, which was a breach of Australian advertising guidelines.
According to the ASB website, the opening scene features six characters sitting on a lawn drinking Fanta…and is “a fun cartoon fantasy featuring animated figures talking about “what their Fanta tastes like”.

A Coca-Cola spokesperson said: “Coca-Cola South Pacific always works to localise and ensure our marketing campaigns are not only relevant to an Australian audience but also meet local regulations and guidelines."

"The findings of the Advertising Standards Bureau decision allows us to make positive adjustments to the campaign ongoing."

Junk food advertising aimed at children takes another cut

Changes to voluntary industry codes means junk food will not be promoted during television programs that attract a child audience of at least 35 per cent.

The campaign to stop junk food advertising will be widened by some of Australia’s largest food companies in a bid to cut childhood obesity.

The current Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) restrictions apply to programs with a child audience of 50 per cent.

However, critics say the restrictions do not go far enough and warn that children will still be hounded by unhealthy food ads, news.com reported.

"It does not go far enough to reduce exposure because it won't actually pick up programs that are watched by the greatest number of children overall," Obesity Policy Coalition executive manager Jane Martin said.

It is believed shows like Big Brother, The X-Factor and Junior Masterchef , all have a high number of younger audiences.

Company websites will also be affected with those directly marketing to children under 12 only able to promote healthy alternatives.

Nestle, Mars, Campbell Arnott's, Coca-Cola, Kellogg's, McDonald's and Hungry Jack's are all companies who support  the industry's Responsible Children's Marketing Initiative.

However, health experts have slammed the self-regulation of the food industry, saying children are being bombarded with advertisements for junk food.

According to a new study by the University of Sydney and the Cancer Council the number of junk food ads aimed at children has not slowed.

The study looked at all ads on three television channels over five years and found children were exposed to the same number of advertisements for junk food brands now as they were before ''regulation''.

''We know that parents have the most important role to play in terms of what kids eat but it is a bit like road safety,'' Chapman, a nutritionist and director of health policy at the Cancer Council, said.

''Parents can teach their children road safety but it doesn't mean we don't also have speed limits and crosswalks to make their job easier.

“Messages for unhealthy foods on television, the internet … means there are lots of ways messages from parents are being undermined.

''These studies combined show industry codes of practice are not having an impact and we are seeing such big loopholes for the food industry to get away with this.”

Meanwhile, a poll by the Australian National University on attitudes to food security found more than 75% of Australians support a ban on junk food advertising in children’s television, and almost 20% support a total ban.

Earlier this year, Cristel Leemhuis from the AFGC told Food Magazine the industry was part of the solution in improving the rate of childhood obesity.

“Responsible marketing to children is absolutely essential, so we do limit what children see in this area, and the research is very much showing that marketing in those areas decreased dramatically since we implemented that in 2010,” she said.

Woolworths fast food court opposed by residents, Heart Foundation

Plans by supermarket giant Woolworths to develop a centre food court for fast food chains is facing opposition from local residents and the Heart Foundation.

Woolworths wants to develop a 121-seat food court in the new Woolworths complex in Western Australia’s Margaret River.

Woolworths said in a statement that the food court would be a “necessary” change to allow bakery products, hot food, and a fish and chips store in the centre.

But the residents are not happy about the potential development, with 350 submissions arguing against the proposal already received.

Some argue that the coastal town known for its wineries, fresh produce, high quality dairy and, which make it a prime tourist and retirement destination would be ruined by the fast food court.

The WA Heart Foundation has also offered its support to the submissions from residents opposing the Woolworths food court, saying the proposed location is too close to the local primary school.

“While fast food is unhealthy at any stage of life, young children are targeted by junk food marketing and should be educated about the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle,” Swanson said.

The Heart Foundation WA has also issued a statement urging people from Western Australia to boycott the fast food plans by the supermarket giant.

Western Australia has the highest proportion of overweight and obese people in Australia, with almost 70 per cent of adults overweight or obese according to Australia Bureau of Statistics (ABS) statistics obtained by WA Heart Foundation.

The Woolworths full proposal is expected to be considered by the Margaret River council before the start of 2013.

What do you think of the proposal? Do Woolworths have a responsibility to look after customer's health?