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Highlights from the Nutrition Society of Australia Annual Scientific Meeting

GLNC was one of the over 250 participants gathered in Hobart in the last week of November to hear the latest research on the link between food and health at the Nutrition Society of Australia Annual Scientific Meeting. GLNC has picked just some of the highlights to share with you.

‘Is Dissemination the Weakest Link in the 2013 Australian Dietary Guidelines?’
Dr Anita Lawrence from Dairy Australia presented the findings of a survey of Australian General Practitioners (GPs). The survey of 300 GPs was conducted in 2014 and compared to a survey of a sample from the Australian population. GP respondents indicated 31% of consultations involved the provision of nutrition advice. However, only 13% of the GPs were familiar with the 2013 Australian Dietary Guidelines, with female GPs more aware then male GPs. This was similar to the sample of the general population with 12% reporting awareness of the Australian Dietary Guidelines. While GPs rated their own confidence in their nutrition knowledge as 7 out of 10, only 8% were able to correctly identify dairy requirements for teens.

Nutrient Intakes of People on a Palaeolithic Diet
A small study of 39 healthy women compared the nutrient intakes of those on a Palaeolithic diet compared to those on a diet recommended by the Australian Dietary Guidelines. Participants followed the diets for four weeks and food intake was not restricted. The Palaeolithic group had a reduced intake of calcium and the B vitamins thiamin and riboflavin, with increased intakes of Vitamin C, E and beta-carotene.

Latest Insights on the Mediterranean Diet
Associate Professor Catherine Itsiopoulos, Head Dietetics and Human Nutrition at La Trobe University, gave an overview of the latest research on the Mediterranean diet. She described how the understanding of heart disease has shifted and it is now understood that low grade inflammation and oxidative stress are the key indicators of heart disease rather than lipid accumulation.  In light of this she suggested that perhaps it is not what we are eating that we should be focussing on, but what we’re not eating.

Dr Itsiopoulos suggested it is perhaps through the effect of polyphenols on chronic inflammation and oxidative stress that the Mediterranean diet is working to reduce risk of cardiovascular disease. She used the recent PREDIMED study to demonstrate this. The PREDIMED study, a large randomized clinical trial of 7,000 people investigating the effect of a Mediterranean Diet on cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk over 5 years, found 30% reduction in CVD mortality.  However, a recent reanalysis of the data to examine the relationship between polyphenol intake and health found a 37% reduction in CVD mortality with higher polyphenol intakes. The polyphenols with the greatest impact included isoflavones, the main source of which was legumes.  This is not surprising given the diet in the intervention included three 150g serves of legumes each week.

Dr Itsiopoulos also highlighted several additional studies currently underway in Australia investigating the effects Mediterranean diet on health including the MEDINA trial of people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, the AusMED intervention to reduce secondary acute myocardial infarction, as well as the HELFIMED study looking at the effect on mental illness.

At the end of the presentation an audience member suggested that while research indicates the health benefits of a Mediterranean diet it is perhaps not advisable to insist everyone follow the diet regardless of their cultural diet and that many diets from around the world have been shown to be linked to longevity and better health. Dr Itsiopoulos agreed but suggested that if we are looking for foods to include in a healthier diet for longevity there are common food elements to these diets including leafy green vegetables and legumes.

Fun Facts from the Scientific Meeting

  • Australia’s Bogong moth has a similar nutritional profile as a handful of pumpkin seeds.
  • Calcium bioavailability varies over life stages. For lactating mothers the availability is 80% compared to 30% for other adults.
  • One hectare of land could produce 150 tonnes of insect protein per year (PROteINSECT study).

For more information about the Annual Scientific Meeting, visit www.nsa.asn.au.

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