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Highlights from the Nutrition Society of Australia Annual Scientific Meeting

By Rebecca Williams
The Nutrition Society of Australia Annual Scientific Meeting was held in Melbourne from the 29th of November to 2nd of December. The conference brought together nutrition scientists from around the world to hear the latest research on the association between food and health. Some of the highlights from the conference included:
A Systematic Approach to Estimate the Legume Content of Australian Foods
GLNC’s University of Wollongong student Anna Ross gave an oral presentation which showcased some of the results of her Masters research project. This included the expansion of the AUSNUT 2011-2013 database to include legume content data from three legume subgroups: non-oil seed legumes, soy foods and beverages, and peanuts. Cereal based products and dishes formed the largest proportion (23%) of the database. This database will provide a tool for use in a range of research and practice settings.
Role of Nutrition in Immune Homeostasis
Professor Mimi Tang from Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Victoria spoke about the critical role diet plays in regulating immune homeostasis through shaping the gut microbiota and promoting the production of short chain fatty acids. Children are born with a largely sterile gut which rapidly evolves in early life depending on the mode of delivery (vaginal vs caesarian section), maternal microbiota, whether the baby is breast fed vs formula fed and the types of first foods. The greatest shifts in the microbiota is believed to occur in the ‘first 1000 days’, particularly during the transition onto solid foods. Diets that contain high fibre foods are associated with favourable immune homeostasis, increased short chain fatty acid production (particularly butyrate and acetate) and a reduced risk of non-communicable disease.
Food Group and Dietary Fibre Consumption on Paleolithic and Australian Guide to Healthy Eating (AGHE) Diets
A four week randomised intervention of 39 healthy females from Edith Cowan University showed that those following a Paleo diet had a higher intake of fruit, vegetables and protein, but a lower intake of grains, legumes and dairy compared to those following the AGHE diet. While there were no differences in total fibre, soluble and insoluble fibre intake, consumption of resistant starch was significantly lower on the Paleo diet. Therefore while the Paleo group did consume more fruit and vegetables, their reduced intake of grains and legumes appears to negatively impact resistant starch intake. This may have an unfavourable effect on gut microbiota and risk of chronic disease.
Fun Facts from Research Presented at NSA
  • One third of all food produced for human consumption in the world is lost or wasted.
  • Dietary factors are now the leading contributors to the global burden of disease.  
  • It is estimated that around one third of the most common cancers are preventable through appropriate dietary intake, maintaining a healthy weight and regular physical activity.
  • Transmissible diet-induced epigenetic changes can occur in a single generation.
  • Australians consumed nearly half of added sugars (as a proportion of daily intake) at non-main meal occasions, most of which came from energy dense nutrient poor foods.

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