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Going gluten free and weight gain.  
Although a gluten-free diet is trendy, it’s not necessarily a healthy diet at all unless you stick to whole foods most of the time. According to Dr. Peter Green, director of Columbia University’s Celiac Disease Center in New York, most people who stop eating gluten products after being diagnosed with a gluten sensitivity actually gain weight, since avoiding gluten helps their digestive systems to work better. And, he said, ‘they tend to buy a lot of the prepared gluten-free foods that are substitutes for gluten-containing foods. And in order to improve the taste of those foods, the manufacturer may add more fat or sugar.’ A retrospective study of 679 people with biopsy confirmed coeliac disease who maintain a gluten-free diet has put some figures on this weight increase. Published in Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics the researchers report that at baseline the celiac cohort was significantly less likely to be overweight or obese than the general population. However, on beginning and maintaining a gluten-free diet, their mean BMI increased significantly with about 22% of patients increasing their BMI by more than 2 BMI points and about 16% of patients moving from a normal or low BMI class into an overweight BMI class.

Editor: In the GI News Kitchen this issue we include two deliciously healthy recipes – Portobello pizzas with parmesan crumb and and easy Prawn laksa.

Are diet sodas good or bad for you?  

Diet Drinks

A new study in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition sheds light on the impact that zero-calorie beverages may have on health, especially in the context of overall dietary habits. Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill analysed data collected over 20 years from more than 4000 young adults who participated in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study looking at the participants’ beverage consumption patterns and their eating habits.

In terms of eating habits, participants fell into two groups: people who ate what researchers dubbed a ‘prudent’ diet (one with more fruit, fish, whole grains, nuts and milk) and individuals who consumed a ‘western’ diet (which had higher amounts of fast food, meat and poultry, pizza and snacks).

People who were healthiest tended to be those who ate a prudent diet and did not consume diet beverages. They had a lower risk of high waist circumference, high triglyceride levels and metabolic syndrome (22%, 28% and 36% lower, respectively, than people who ate a western diet and did not drink diet beverages). But the second healthiest group was individuals with a prudent diet who also consumed diet beverages. In contrast, individuals who consumed the western diet had increased risk of heart disease, regardless of whether or not they drank diet beverages.

The UNC researchers found that many dietary factors contributed to a person’s overall health. Without taking diet beverage consumption into account, people who ate the prudent diet had significantly better cholesterol and triglyceride profiles and significantly lower risks of hypertension and metabolic syndrome than those who ate the western diet. Study author Dr Kiyah Duffey said that similar to previous studies, their new analysis found that people who consumed diet beverages tended to be less healthy than people who did not consume them. ‘However, there was an important interplay between overall diet and what people drink. It is important that people consider the entirety of their diet before they consider switching to or adding diet beverages, because without doing so they may not realise the health benefits they were hoping to see.’

Knowing the nutritional content of foods doesn’t equate to healthy eating.  

person reading food label

A study published in the British Food Journal shows that US consumers know surprisingly more about the fat content of the foods they buy than their French counterparts. Paradoxically, the obesity rate is nearly three times higher in the United States (35%) than it is in France (12%). In light of these results, the researchers cast doubt on the notion that providing nutritional information is an effective way to encourage healthy eating habits. Dr Doyon of the Faculty of Agriculture and Food Sciences and colleagues had over 300 French, Quebec, and American consumers answer a questionnaire designed to test what they knew about dietary fats.

The first finding: French respondents admitted to not knowing the answer to 43% of the questions, while the equivalents for Quebec and the United States were 13% and 4% respectively. Fifty-five percent of French respondents said they did not know the percentage of fat in whole milk, compared with 5% for Quebec and 4% for the United States. The same trend was observed for butter, margarine, and vegetable oils.

The second finding: when participants tried to answer, Americans were most likely to be right, followed by Quebecers, with the French bringing up the rear. And 6% of Quebecers, 9% of Americans, and 17% of the French did not know the recommendations regarding saturated and unsaturated fats in a healthy diet.

‘The difference among respondents’ knowledge,’ said Professor Doyon, ‘essentially indicates that the French don’t take much of an interest in the nutrients contained in the foods they eat. The information is on the package, but they don’t read it.’

According to the researchers, the correlation found between extensive nutritional knowledge and high obesity rates suggests that focusing on detailed nutritional information may not be the best strategy for encouraging healthy eating habits. ‘It’s an approach that presents information to consumers in a broken down form,’ suggested Dr. Doyon. ‘This may lead them to think of food in terms of its fat, carbohydrate, and caloric content and lose sight of the whole picture. It might be better to focus on what constitutes a healthy, complete, and balanced meal.’

Size matters.  

Prof Arya Sharma
Prof Arya Sharma
#1 How The Biggest Loser promotes weight bias … Writing in his daily blog, Prof Arya Sharma says: ‘Whatever the intentions of the producers, there is accumulating evidence that public displays of weight loss as in competitions, challenges, and reality TV do little else than promote anti-weight bias by promoting stereotypes, unrealistic weight loss goals, and simplistic (diet and exercise) messages about possible solutions. This notion is again supported by a recent study by Domoff and colleagues from Bowling Green State University published in Obesity. Given the impact that anti-weight bias has on all aspects of trying to find solutions to obesity (from public health messaging to funding for obesity research or treatments), not to mention its devastating emotional and physical impact on people living with excess weight, perhaps it is time to revisit social norms and acceptability of this form of entertainment. These shows are not a solution – they are part of the problem!’ Read More

#2 I weigh pretty much the same as I did 20 years ago but I am buying smaller sizes in clothing … Sound familiar? The Economist (a favourite read of ours) explored this phenomenon in April. Their research finds that ‘the average British size-14 pair of women’s trousers is more than four inches bigger at the waist today than they were in the 1970s, and over three inches wider at the hips. A size 14 today fits like a former size 18, and a size 10 fits like an old size 14. The same “downsizing” has happened in America where, to confuse matters further, a size 10 is equivalent to a British size 12 or 14, depending on the manufacturer. Size inflation flatters customers, but the danger is that it encourages overweight people to dismiss health risks and reduces the incentive to diet. For the roughly three-fifths of adult Britons who are overweight, size really does matter.’ Read More.

Some thoughts on dietary guidelines.  
Bill Shrapnel
Bill Shrapnel
#1 ‘The draft Australian Dietary Guidelines report was a very strange document with nutrition science jostling awkwardly with motherhood and ideology’ writes Sceptical Nutritionist’ Bill Shrapnel (former National Nutrition Manager with the Heart Foundation now Director of Shrapnel Nutrition Consulting Pty Ltd with clients like Goodman Fielder and Kellogg Australia) in his new blog. Bill’s major interest is in how dietary fats and carbohydrates affect our risk for chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease. In his first post he outlines seven problems he sees with Australia’s draft dietary guidelines. He writes: ‘Some important areas of the nutrition literature were reviewed in great depth, but others were not reviewed at all and significant shifts in the science were missed. The translation of the findings of literature reviews into dietary advice appeared to be compromised in two ways – by a conservatism that didn’t want to see change to long-standing messages about diet and health and an activism for change driven by environmental concerns, not by nutrition science.’ The seven areas where Bill feels that the Guidelines fall short scientifically are: low fat diets; saturated fat, carbohydrates and heart disease; added sugar; wholegrains; GI; trans fats; and fruit vegetables and cancer.’ Read More

#2 Food activists proved wrong about fat are now setting their sights on sugar according to James A. Bacon, author of Boomergeddon and publisher of the Bacon’s Rebellion blog in the Washington Times. ‘Once upon a time, there was a medical “consensus” that fats and cholesterol in the blood were major causes of heart disease. Armed with this “settled science,” the public health establishment moved in the 1970s to expunge the offending substances, beyond a basic minimum deemed to be necessary, from Americans’ diets. Food bureaucrats established dietary guidelines. Physicians ordered billions of dollars of blood tests. Pharmaceutical companies made tens of billions of dollars on drugs that suppressed cholesterol levels. Food companies, castigated in some quarters as soulless merchants of dietary corruption, were compelled to report the nutritional breakdown of their packaged products. Badgered by public officialdom and the media over the decades, Americans slowly, grudgingly changed their eating habits. What good did it do them?’ Read More.

Only one in ten Aussie kids ride to school.  

Children riding bikes

Only one in ten children ride to school, even though 80% of parents think it would
improve their kids health, according to a survey by the Cycling Promotion Fund and the National Heart Foundation of Australia. Nearly two-thirds of parents said they would let their children ride to school if there were safe routes ‘Cycling to school is clearly something that children are able to do and parents want to encourage, but they’re being let down by a lack of safe cycle paths,’ said Dr Lyn Roberts, National CEO of the Heart Foundation. ‘The number of children being driven to school has sadly reached a record high arriving at the school gates by car was rare in the 1970s, but now it’s the norm for 6 in 10 families. We’re missing a huge opportunity to tackle childhood obesity, reduce carbon emissions and ease congestion on the roads. We urge all levels of Government to invest to ensure the next generation is able to adopt healthy and active options for their daily trip to school.’ You can download the report HERE.