1 May 2017

GI News - May 2017

GI News

GI News is published by the University of Sydney, School of Life and Environmental Sciences and the Charles Perkins Centre.

Publisher:
Professor Jennie Brand-Miller, AM, PhD, FAIFST, FNSA
Editor: Philippa Sandall
Scientific Editor/Managing Editor: Alan Barclay, PhD
Contact GI News: glycemic.index@gmail.com


Sydney University Glycemic Index Research Service
Manager: Fiona Atkinson, PhD
Contact: sugirs.manager@sydney.edu.au


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FOOD FOR THOUGHT

THE BRAINPOWER DIET

What other species gleefully jiggles their jaws on the flames of a Jalapeno or laps up the tongue curling delights of a lemon? In The Conversation, Dr Darren Curnoe took a look at why is it that humans are so unusual compared to all other life. The key to solving this riddle lies in explaining the evolution of our large brains and exceptional intelligence he says. This edited extract is reproduced with his permission.

Chillis

For as long as humanity has been contemplating our existence we must surely have been struck by the fact that we are the only species capable of doing so. I don’t believe it’s an exaggeration to say that the evolutionary arrival of humankind – some 200,000 years ago – was a decisive moment in the long history of the universe. After 14 billion years in the making, and in the blink of an eye of cosmological time, human intelligence arrived and gave the universe the ability to comprehend itself. A new study finds that primate brain size is better predicted by diet than any measure of sociality, suggesting a revision is needed to prevailing hypotheses explaining brain size evolution.

To really understand how the human brain emerged we must first recognise that we share big brains with other primates. It’s our evolutionary inheritance, as primates are among the brainiest of all mammals; when taken kilo for kilo against body size. And apes are especially well endowed in the brains department. Why? Well, this has been a major puzzle for anthropologists for decades, and the most widely accepted explanation has been the cognitive demands placed on us by living in large social groups; the so-called ‘social brain hypothesis’ or ‘Dunbar’s Number’.

The main alternative has been that braininess evolved in response to the demands of sex. Polygynandrous species – where males and females have multiple partners in a given breeding season – possess larger brains than those using other systems of mating, such as a harem or monogamy.

Now a new study by Alex DeCasien and colleagues published in Nature, Ecology and Evolution has turned the debate completely on its head. They’ve found that the kind of diet a primate species consumes offers the best explanation for its brain size. While this idea is not an entirely new one, their work provides strong validation for the diet-brain connection.

When it comes to apes it turns out that fruit eating – the dietary niche present in most living apes and the one our ancient ape ancestors indulged in – is so cognitively demanding that it led to a big evolutionary leap in intelligence when it began. How come? Well, challenging diets require individuals to seek out or capture food; they have to judge whether it’s ready to be eaten or not; and they may even need to extract it, peel it, or process it in some way before it can be ingested.

Sound familiar? It should. Humans have the most specialised and challenging diets of all primates; and I have in mind here hunters and gatherers not urban foodies. The human dietary niche is exceptionally broad and involves behaviours aimed at not only obtaining food but also making it more palatable and digestible; activities like extraction, digging, hunting, fishing, drying, grinding, cooking, combining other foods to add flavour, or even adding minerals to season or make food safe to eat.

What other species would so gleefully jiggle their jaws on the flames of a Jalapeno or lap up the tongue curling delights of a lemon?

What’s more, our large fruit eating ape brains got even bigger late in human evolution because our diets became ever more challenging to obtain and prepare, especially as a result of our ancestor’s penchant for eating meat.

Hunter-gatherers typically have a diet comprising between 30% and 80% vertebrate meat, while for chimpanzees it’s only around 2%. Instead, chimps get 60% of their diet from fruit, but hunter-gatherers typically obtain only 5% or 6 % (on the odd occasion a lot more) of their nutrition from fruit.

Humans rarely eat raw meat though, and we cook many of our vegetables as well, so even after expending huge efforts to collect it we still have to process much of our food in drawn out ways.

All of this throws up a paradox for us. Why is it that our closest and now extinct relatives, such as the Neanderthals, who were capable of complex behaviours like hunting, cooking and perhaps even cultural activities like art, lacked the smarts to ponder the ultimate questions of life?

Why is it us, and not them, that are capable of pondering and explaining the existence of life and the universe, including human life itself? There is clearly something very unique about human intelligence and a lot more to this evolutionary tale than mere food for thought.

This is an edited extract. For Darren’s complete article, head over to The Conversation

Contact: Darren Curnoe is Chief Investigator, ARC Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage, and Director, Palaeontology, Geobiology and Earth Archives Research Centre, UNSW
Study: Primate brain size is predicted by diet but not sociality

WHAT’S NEW?

APPLES AND ORANGES FRUITFUL IN REDUCING RISK OF TYPE 2 DIABETES

Eating more fruit is linked to a lower likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes and diabetes-related complications reports a new study. The authors studied 500,000 Chinese people over seven years and found those who said they ate more fresh fruit were less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than others. Those who already had diabetes but ate a lot of fruit were less likely to die within a five-year period. “This large prospective study of Chinese adults with and without diabetes showed that higher fresh fruit consumption was significantly associated with a lower risk of developing diabetes, and also with a lower risk of dying or developing vascular complications among those who have already developed diabetes. These associations appeared to be similar in both men and women, in urban and rural residents, and in those with previously diagnosed and screen-detected diabetes. Moreover, higher fresh fruit consumption was not associated with elevated level of blood glucose,” conclude the researchers

Study: Fresh fruit consumption in relation to incident diabetes and diabetic vascular complications: A 7-y prospective study of 0.5 million Chinese adults

Contact: huaidong.du@ctsu.ox.ac.uk; lmlee@vip.163.com

Oranges

KIDS AND JUICE

The findings of a meta-analysis published in Pediatrics reports that consumption of 100% fruit juice:

  • is associated with a small amount of weight gain in children ages 1 to 6 years, that is not clinically significant 
  • is not associated with weight gain in children ages 7 to 18 years. 
“I think caution is definitely in order and that when possible, parents should give whole fruit to kids, instead of fruit juice,” says lead author Dr Brandon Auerbach. "Water or low-fat unsweetened milk are other good alternatives to 100 percent fruit juice.”

While we agree water and low-fat milk are good drinks for kids, they aren’t alternatives to 100% fruit juice because they don’t deliver vitamin C. It’s worth remembering that some young children won’t touch veg and fuss a fair bit about eating enough whole fruit so they may miss out. Call us old fashioned, but we think whole fruit or 100% fruit juice is better than vitamin drops or a chewable supplement.

We asked dietitian Nicole Senior, who has a 4-year-old, for some words of wisdom for parents of picky eaters. “Pure fruit juices are fine for kids but in small quantities. Use them as a flavour base and add water in a 1:3 (that will make up 1 cup) ratio to obtain their nutritional benefits without too many kilojoules (calories)” she says, adding, “just so you know, ¼ cup (60ml) 100% home-squeezed orange juice will provide a pre-schooler with 32mg vitamin C (that’s nearly the recommended intake (35mg/day) for this age group).”

Study: Fruit Juice and Change in BMI: A Meta-analysis

Contact: Address correspondence to Brandon Auerbach, MD, MPH, Division of General Internal Medicine, University of Washington, Harborview Medical Center, Box 359780, 325 Ninth Ave, Seattle, WA 91804. E-mail: auerbach@post.harvard.edu

Child with juice

MYTH BUSTERS 

Obesity myths are abundant, annoying, and problematic for people who want to move on to real solutions. Thanks to Ted Kyle of ConscienHealth for this report on Ruopeng An and Roland Sturm’s research funded by the Rand Corporation.

Myth #1: Obesity Is an Epidemic of Poorly Educated, Low SES People The truth is that people at all education and economic status levels are gaining weight. Different groups started with different rates of obesity. But all those groups have moved up in lockstep.

Myth #2: Obesity Is a Problem of Blacks and Hispanics Once again, different racial and ethnic groups are gaining weight in parallel. While black and Hispanic Americans have a higher prevalence, the problem is growing across all racial and ethnic groups.

Myth #3: The South is Where the Problem Is Growing This myth has two big problems. First, as An and Sturm explain, obesity prevalence appears to be growing across the board in every state. But even more important is the flakiness of the numbers for state by state obesity rates. Those numbers are based on self-reports of height and weight. Self reports are unreliable. Worse, the degree of their unreliability varies from place to place and from time to time. We’ve explained this one here.

Myth #4: People Don’t Have Time to Exercise The truth is that Americans have more leisure time than ever. They report working out more than ever. Now of course, those self-reports need a grain of salt. But it’s not clear that running around in our yoga pants is doing much to fight obesity. Mainly, it’s a fashion and virtue statement.

Myth #5: Missing Out on Fruits and Veggies Is Making Us Fat Overall, Americans are eating more. And we are eating more fruits and veggies – just not enough to keep Mom and our dietitian happy. The message of “eat more” works perversely. People eat more of whatever’s being promoted – without cutting back on anything else.

Moving on An and Sturm admit that rock-solid, evidence based solutions don’t exist. They suggest that the “eat more healthy stuff” and “do more healthy things” strategies are not changing obesity trends. Perhaps we have not adapted very well to abundance. Being economists, they like the idea of taxing empty calories to drive calorie consumption down across the board. It’s a reasonable theory, but it needs to be tested. Otherwise we risk creating a new myth. Let’s see what happens in Mexico. Just driving down soda consumption is not the same as driving down obesity rates.

Studies: Click here and here to read more from An and Sturm.

Afterword: Prof Manny Noakes’ and colleagues study shows Australians are eating less added sugar, drinking less soft drink and less juice, but eating more whole fruit and a greater range of veggies, including more beans and legumes and more whole grain cereals so they deserve a big pat on the back for that. However, Aussies are still prone to falling off the wagon – drinking more calories in the form of alcoholic beverages and consuming more chocolate and confectionery.

MONITORING BGL MONITORS 

We recently received a query from a reader re BGL meters whose new one reads on the high side. “I have done the recommended calibration test” he says “and while in the appropriate range the results are in the higher half of the range. My older meter still works well and seems to be much more accurate, judging by my HBA1c results and personal experience of lower readings. Info on this area would be very valuable, as it bears directly on food choices and insulin dosage.” Diabetes UK provide a monitor guide that may be of use. Seems to us this is something every diabetes organisation should be providing.

NORDIC FOOD PATTERNS GOING GLOBAL FOR HEALTH: TED KYLE REPORTS 

The Nordic Way

Seeing good science translated into something that can enhance both life and health is a true delight. So, if you’re looking for something different, consider The Nordic Way. Like the Mediterranean diet, the Nordic diet is a satisfying way of eating, with deep roots in culture. And it has an impressive body of science to document health benefits. Arne Astrup, Jennie Brand-Miller, and Christian Bitz have just published a fine volume on the subject.

Compared to the Mediterranean diet, the Nordic diet is barely a blip in popular culture. But, it’s beginning to generate some buzz. Some of the iconic foods of this Scandinavian food culture – whole grain rye, unsweetened yogurt, wild berries, root vegetables, herbs, and healthful fatty fish – are becoming favorites for avant-garde chefs.

Beyond the distinctive flavors of this cuisine, you can find some solid evidence for health benefits. In January, a Danish cohort study found a 14% reduction in stroke associated with following a healthy Nordic diet. The whole grains abundant in the Nordic diet help to lower the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

The collaboration behind this latest volume on the Nordic diet is a bit of a surprise. It started with a scientific feud. Brand-Miller, a distinguished nutrition scientist from Sydney, took issue with a small study published by Astrup and others in 2004. On the opposite side of the world in Copenhagen, Astrup had suggested that the benefits of low-glycemic diets might be overstated. Brand-Miller – a pioneering researcher on glycemic index – wrote a sharp response in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Though Astrup’s findings were “useful,” she said, “the conclusions should be tempered.” From that disagreement, a collaboration was born. Astrup embarked upon the largest clinical study of low GI diets ever. Based on the results, he reversed his views. Thanks in part to that skirmish, we now have an excellent book of good insights on the Nordic diet. It covers the science. It explains how to make it work. And most of the book is devoted to some beautiful recipes.

Study: Diets with High or Low Protein Content and Glycemic Index for Weight-Loss Maintenance

Book: Click here for the book and here for more on the Nordic diet from Harvard Health.

PERSPECTIVES WITH DR ALAN BARCLAY

DON’T LET YOUR LIFE BE FRUITLESS

Infants prefer sweet tastes from day one and this preference continues into early childhood. Human breast milk contains the highest concentration of sugars of all mammalian milks and sweet tasting vegetables (e.g., pureed or well-mashed pumpkin, sweet potato, carrot, etc) and fruits (typically pureed) are some of the first weaning foods we give our babies. In nature, a sweet taste generally signals that a food is safe and desirable.

Most fruits that we cultivate and enjoy today are sweet. They are considered a core food group for the simple reason that they are highly nutritious. Depending on the type, they are good sources of a variety of good stuff including vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants.

Fruit


With a few notable exceptions (avocados, coconuts and olives), fruits are low in fat and high in water and carbohydrate (primarily in the form of sugars). Apart from melons and some tropical fruits, most have a low GI due to their naturally high fibre and fructose content (and acidity in the case of oranges). For these reasons, most fruits are not very energy dense (they don’t provide a lot of kilojoules per gram), so they generally fill you up without contributing to weight gain. Long-term observational studies indicate that people who eat more fruit weigh less and have a smaller waist circumference.

 “Sugar” is the dietary villain de jour. Because most fruits are good sources of a variety of sugars (glucose, fructose and sucrose) they have been singled out by some ill-informed zealots as foods to avoid, or at least limit, in the mistaken belief they may be contributing to rising obesity and associated type 2 diabetes rates. This kind of dietary reductionism may unfortunately lead to unintended consequences like scurvy, which we recently saw in Australia for the first time in modern history, due in part to people avoiding fruit.

Putting ill-informed reductionism aside, how likely is it that excessive fruit consumption is responsible for rising obesity rates in Australia? Dietary guidelines in most parts of the world recommend that people enjoy a minimum of 2 serves of fruit each day:

What’s a serve of fruit?

  • 150g/5oz (1 piece) medium-sized fruit – apple, banana, orange, pear etc.
  • 150g/5oz (2 pieces) small fruit – apricots, kiwi fruit, plums etc.
  • 150g/5 oz (1 cup) diced, cooked or canned fruit
  • 125ml/4fl.oz (½ cup) 100% fruit juice
  • 30g/1oz dried fruit – 4 dried apricot halves, 1½ tablespoons sultanas
Australia’s most recent national nutrition survey conducted in 2011/12 found that 77% of all Australians aged 19+ years consumed less than 2 serves a day. The same survey found that 62.8% of all Australians were overweight or obese. The numbers don’t add up. Most Australians aren’t eating much fruit at all.

Finally, a recent clinical trial examined the effect of a low fructose (less than 20 g a day) versus “moderate” (50-70 g a day – moderately high by Australian standards) fructose kilojoule-controlled diet in 107 obese American adults over a 6 week period and found that weight loss was 50% higher in the “moderate” fructose group (4.2 kg) compared to the low fructose group (2.8 kg). The authors concluded “the moderate natural fructose diet was rich in natural fruits that contain many beneficial antioxidants. In addition, patients in the very low fructose diet had a higher glycemic index and glycemic load...”

Whichever way you look at it, avoiding fruit makes absolutely no sense at all.

 Dr Alan Barclay

Alan Barclay, PhD is a consultant dietitian. He worked for Diabetes Australia (NSW) from 1998–2014 and is a member of the editorial board of Diabetes Management Journal (Diabetes Australia). He is author/co-author of more than 30 scientific publications, and co-author of The Low GI Diet: Managing Type 2 Diabetes (Hachette Australia) and The Ultimate Guide to Sugars and Sweeteners (The Experiment, New York). You can read a review of his latest book, Reversing Diabetes (Murdoch Books), in Glycosmedia Diabetes News.

VIEWPOINTS FROM THE CHARLES PERKINS CENTRE, SYDNEY UNIVERSITY

CAN A DETOX ACTUALLY CLEANSE YOUR LIVER? 

Many over-the-counter products claim to “clean” your liver of “toxins”. But does the liver really respond to an over-the-counter product that claims to “detoxify” or “heal” its function? In The Conversation, Dr Nick Fuller recently took a look at liver detox or liver cleanse products. Here he answers a couple of basic questions: Can the liver be cleansed and what we do we need to do to have a well-functioning liver.

The human adult liver weighs about one-and-a-half kilograms, making it one of the largest organs in the body. It is responsible for a range of functions. It helps break down fats, carbohydrates and proteins into substances the body can utilise.

The liver acts as a storage unit for these substances (including vitamins and minerals) and supplies the body with them when they need it. For example, when your blood glucose level drops, the liver will release stored carbohydrate (glucose from glycogen) to rectify the problem. It also acts by metabolising toxins into harmless substances or by eliminating toxic substances from the body. Clever marketing has led us to believe it is the food that contains toxins and, hence, following a diet that eliminates certain foods and taking over-the-counter products that “cleanse” your liver of “toxins” will detoxify the liver.

Can the liver be ‘cleansed’? We have a misconception we can “cleanse” the body by following a “detox” diet. This is a complete fallacy. To explain this process one must first understand exactly what a toxin is. A toxin is a harmful substance that enters your body from the environment. Examples include carbon monoxide from motor vehicles, bisphenol A (BPA) from consumer plastics, and heavy metals such as lead and mercury. Toxins can also include drugs and poisons.

However, substances are only toxic based on the quantities in which we ingest them. The situation in which “detoxification” is required is when someone is being treated in a hospital for a dangerous level of a substance that is life-threatening.

The liver is otherwise working to eliminate unwanted substances in the body through our faeces and urine. These are the toxic by-products from metabolising food. For example, excessive amounts of protein can be dangerous to the liver.

A healthy liver To have a well-functioning liver you simply need to eat healthy foods and limit your consumption of substances, such as alcohol, that cause it to work harder. Excessive consumption of any one food may contribute to an increased load on the liver. Therefore, a healthy, well-balanced diet based on national guidelines is the best liver “cleanse” available, rather than spending disposable income on over-the-counter products that are not backed by scientific literature supporting such claims.

Complementary medicines are one of the largest growing markets in the world. Governing bodies must continue to incentivise companies to conduct innovative research to support the specific claims accompanying their products. It’s imperative companies are transparent in their advertising claims so consumers know what they are spending their money on from both an efficacy and safety point of view.

Evidence for approved ingredients should not be generalised from product to product. This is because the evidence supporting one such product is made up of a unique combination of ingredients and dosages. The most recent review of the regulatory framework for complementary medicines is available on the Department of Health website.

To read what Nick has to say about typical detox ingredients such as milk thistle and dandelion, head over to The Conversation

Dr Nick Fuller

Dr Nick Fuller is Research Fellow, Clinical Trials Development & Analysis, University of Sydney Charles Perkins Centre. His work focuses on the causes, prevention and treatment of obesity and associated mental and physical health disorders. He has worked across a diverse range of areas, including dietary and exercise treatments, conventional and complementary medicines, commercial weight loss programmes, medical devices, bariatric surgery, and appetite regulators. To take part in a weight-loss trial involving natural medicines, contact Nick here: www.metabolictrial.com

FOOD UN-PLUGGED

Nicole Senior pulls the plug on hype and marketing spin to provide reliable, practical advice on food for health and enjoyment.

DAIRY, DAIRY QUITE CONTRARY
For years, health professionals have recommended reduced-fat dairy products over their full-fat counterparts as a more heart-friendly option. Yet recent studies are showing that saturated fats in full-fat dairy products may not be harmful to our cardiovascular health after all. Does the fat content of dairy products still matter? Let’s take a closer look at the evidence.

Until recently, scientific evidence suggested that saturated fats from any source were associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD). Recommendations were made by the US MyPlate guidelines and the Australian Dietary Guidelines to reduce saturated fat intake across all food groups, including meat and dairy products. Reduced fat dairy products were also recommended to help reduce kilojoule (calorie) intake for weight control. However, there are now questions being raised whether such advice is necessary. A cohort study of 222,234 people found saturated fats in dairy did not significantly increase CVD risk, and were less risky than saturated fats in meat. A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials on the impact of dairy foods and dairy fat on cardio-metabolic risk found there is no apparent risk of harm from dairy consumption, irrespective of fat content. The authors concluded the advice to consume low-fat dairy foods wasn’t fully supported by the evidence. So, what’s going on here?

Dairy foods

 What’s special about dairy? Dairy products not only contain saturated fats, they are complex foods that also contain proteins, lactose, calcium and various vitamins, minerals and bioactives that may influence their impact on heart health. In emerging research, talking about food in its entirety rather than its component nutrients is referred to as the whole food matrix and it appears to be important in the case of dairy; a case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. For example, the probiotics in yoghurt and cheese produced during the fermentation process may mitigate cardiovascular risk. Another study found that calcium might be protective against stroke. We need future research to investigate these mitigating components.

Are dairy products fattening? According to the evidence, dairy foods are probably not fattening, but they probably don’t help with weight loss either, although a meta-analysis showed they can help increase satiety and studies with yoghurt have shown weight control benefits. We know dairy foods like milk and yoghurt have a low GI, and that’s a plus.

A recent systematic literature review has recommended that more research is needed to determine if the amount of fat in dairy products influences weight gain. But maybe we should stop thinking about the fat content of a food and think more about the whole food. Dairy foods are nutrient dense and many of us don’t eat the recommended amount. You can’t go wrong swapping sugary drinks, confectionary, cakes and cookies for milk, cheese and yoghurt and you’ll feel satisfied after eating them. For weight-loss, reduced-fat, reduced-kilojoule dairy products might be a better option to meet calcium requirements within a smaller energy allowance.

Why is this important? The dairy sector says consumers prefer whole milk and that health professionals telling people to drink reduced fat milk, may in fact make them decide to drink less milk or stop drinking milk altogether because they don’t like the taste. Considering dairy foods are the richest source of bioavailable calcium and most of us don’t get enough calcium, this is a valid concern. On the other hand, reduced fat milk (not fat-free/skim milk, which tastes very different) has become so common perhaps we don’t miss the whole stuff anymore. When it comes to yoghurt, reduced fat yoghurt can have more sugars (natural and added) and starch thickeners to make up for the flavor and texture of whole milk, and may have a similar kilojoule content so this swap may not be an improvement. There may also be satiety benefits to the fat in whole dairy products too.

The un-plugged truth

  • When it comes to dairy food, the other good stuff in it appears to offset the adverse effects of the saturated fat on the heart
  • Dairy products (milk, yoghurt and cheese), regardless of fat content, have important health benefits and should be included as part of a healthy balanced diet.
  • For those wanting to lose weight, reduced-fat dairy products may help you to meet your calcium requirements while maintaining a lower energy intake.
–Thanks to Rachel Ananin AKA TheSeasonalDietitian.com for her assistance with this article.

Nicole Senior

 Nicole Senior is an Accredited Nutritionist, author, consultant, cook, food enthusiast and mother who strives to make sense of nutrition science and delights in making healthy food delicious.

Contact: You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram or check out her website.

KEEP GOOD CARBS AND CARRY ON

VEG SOUP VEG

It’s so good to pull out the soup pot when those icy blasts announce there’s a change in the weather. Good carbs and good soup are joined at the hip and without the good carbs there’s no good soup, it’s as simple as that. There’s nothing like a hearty veg soup that’s a meal in a bowl. In the GI cookbooks we have published with Hachette Australia – The Low GI Family Cookbook and The Low GI Vegetarian Cookbook – you’ll find numerous hearty soups. A favourite with GI News readers is Anneka Manning’s Chicken and Pumpkin Soup. However, Monday Morning Cooking Club’s Chicken and Barley Soup is hard to beat when you want a serious winter warmer.

Chicken and Barley Soup

Soups like these start with the magical mirepoix and its key ingredients: onion, carrot and celery. Carrots and celery are easy. But which onion? Here are Kate McGhie’s tips on which onion to use where.

Dry onions

The good pantry staples are brown onions. These have the longest storage life, the most pungent flavour and the longer you cook them the sweeter and milder they become.
Super-crisp white onions have a sharp strong taste making them ideal in chutney, stir-fries and spicy dishes.

  • Red onions are milder and sweeter than brown, which is why you can eat them raw. Often added for a splash of colour in salads, or gently sautéed as a base for soups or stews.
  • Pickling onions are the small brown onions that are ideal for dropping whole into stews or casseroles and of course for pickling.
  • Shallots are good raw for crunch, and gently cooked for mellow sweetness. Browning makes them bitter.
Fresh onions
  • Spring onions (scallions, or shallots, green onions or eschalots) are mild immature onions with long green hollow fleshy tops. They are most often used raw, but can be lightly cooked or pan-fried as a garnish.
  • Salad onions (sweet onions) with long fleshy green tops and a golf-ball sized white bulb are mature spring onions. They have a stronger flavour than the juvenile version and can be used raw or cooked

IN THE GI NEWS KITCHEN

SOUP IT UP WITH SIAN

First-ever Great Australian Bake Off winner, Sian Redgrave, dropped by the GI News Kitchen and effortlessly threw together a minestrone to make the most of new season winter veg. She may have taken out top prize in 2015 with her impressive layered dessert of profiteroles topping a chocolate mud cake (not one for us), but what she loves to cook most of all is simple, flavoursome Italian fare. Watch this space.

Minestrone

The key to making a minestrone (or any soup) says Sian is not rushing to get a meal on the table, but relaxing and enjoying the cooking time in the kitchen, adding each vegetable at the right moment to preserve and enhance its flavour. Sian used ditalini pasta, a tiny pasta that’s perfect for minestrone or pasta e fagioli. Barilla was the brand she found. As for the potato, look for a lower GI one if you can such as Carisma, Nadine or Nicola.
Prep: 15 mins • Cook: 45 mins • Serves: 6

Minestrone

3 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 red chilli, seeded, finely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 red onion, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
3 medium carrots, diced
3 lean rashers bacon, diced
Chunk parmesan rind
1 bay leaf
1 medium potato, diced
4 cups good quality chicken stock
1 can cherry tomatoes, drained (reserving the liquid)
½ cup ditalini pasta
1 can borlotti beans, drained
1 zucchini, cut into rounds
2 handfuls finely sliced cabbage
2 handfuls finely sliced cavolo nero

To serve

1 tablespoon basil pesto
Grated parmesan
Handful basil leaves
Salt and pepper to taste


In a soup pot, place the olive oil, garlic, chilli, oregano and onion and cook until the onion is translucent and caramelised. • Stir in the carrots, celery, and bacon and continue cooking until they start to soften. • Add the parmesan rind, potato, reserved tomato juice, and stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the potato is nearly cooked. • Add the pasta and cook until almost al dente. • Stir in the beans, then add the cabbage, cavolo nero, zucchini and cherry tomatoes and let them heat through for 1–2 minutes – no longer as you want them to retain the vibrancy and texture of the greens. • Serve with parmesan cheese (grated or finely peeled with a vegetable peeler), little dollops of pesto dollops and basil leaves. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Per serve 
1520 kJ/ 365 calories; 17g protein; 16g fat (includes 4g saturated fat; saturated : unsaturated fat ratio 0.33); 31g available carbs (includes 10g sugars and 21g starch); 12g fibre; 1348mg sodium; 1007mg potassium; sodium : potassium ratio 1.34.

STICKS, SEEDS, PODS and LEAVES

Kate Hemphill is a trained chef. She contributed the recipes to Ian Hemphill’s best-selling Spice and Herb Bible. You will find more of her recipes on the Herbies spices website. Kate’s recipes are made with Herbies spices, but you can use whatever you have in your pantry or that’s available locally.

Mexican Carrot Soup
One of the highlights of a trip to Mexico was discovering soup with slices of avocado and soft cheese. Add them just before serving so they warm and melt into the soup. If the chipotle powder garnish is too hot for you, sprinkle with smoked paprika instead.
Prep: 10 mins • Cook: 40 mins • Serves: 4

 Mexican Carrot Soup

1 brown onion, finely chopped
1 tsp Mexican spice blend
1 kg (1lb 2oz) carrots, peeled and chopped into chunks
5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 ripe avocado, peeled and sliced
250g (9oz) queso asadero or firm mozzarella, cut into 1cm (½in) dice
1 cup fresh coriander leaves

To serve
crème fraiche or light sour cream
Chipotle powder
Toasted corn tortillas

Sweat the onions, covered, in a little oil until soft. Add spices, cook for 1 minute, then add carrots and stock. Simmer for 30 minutes, or until carrots are very tender. Puree soup until smooth, and season to taste. • Divide avocado and mozzarella between shallow soup bowls, then ladle over soup. Add a dollop of crème fraiche and garnish with coriander leaves and chipotle powder and serve immediately.

Per serve
2270 kJ/ 542 calories; 21g protein; 30g fat (includes 14g saturated fat; saturated : unsaturated fat ratio 0.88); 40g available carbs (includes 17g sugars and 23g starch); 14 fibre; 1855mg sodium; 1080mg potassium; sodium : potassium ratio 1.72.

FEEDBACK 

RYE AND CARAWAY BREAD

We ran this recipe from Alan’s book, Reversing Diabetes, in 2016. Peter Johnson, one of our readers, recently made it on a very warm morning in Sydney, enjoyed some with lunch with his wife and sent us feedback and a photo. Here’s his report.

“Firstly, although I rested the dough for 15 minutes before attempting to knead it, I found it to be far too wet for comfort. I added flour using a shaker and I guess about 125 grams before it seemed ‘right’. I did add 1½ teaspoons salt. The dough only took 1 hour to complete the first rise. The second rise in the bread tin was very quick too; in fact, I barely had time to preheat the oven. However, the loaf cooked beautifully. It is a dense loaf – which I like – and is very tasty. Next time though I won’t sprinkle seeds on top. They simply fell off after cooking and created a mess. I hope the feedback gives an incentive to others to make this loaf. I've been trying other similar recipes but yours is a winner and I will be making it again. I've been making bread, purely as an unqualified cook, for over 40 years and still love the process – and the product.”

RYE AND CARAWAY BREAD

 Daily bread For trivia fans, we have just discovered thanks to the Dutch Anglo-Saxonist, that “the etymology of the Old English words for lord, lady, retainer and slave reveal rather traditional (perhaps pre-Anglo-Saxon) role patterns in a household based on bread.

  • hlāford ‘lord’ (< *hlāf-weard ‘guardian of the bread’) 
  • hlǣfdige ‘lady, woman’ (< *hlāf-dige ‘kneader of the bread’) 
  • hlāfǣta ‘dependant, retainer’ (< *hlāf-ǣta ‘eater of the bread’) 
  • hlāfbrytta ‘slave’ (< *hlāf-brytta ‘dispenser of the bread’)
“Vocabulary reflects culture. Indeed, Old English words such as gafol-fisc ‘tribute fish’, cēapcniht ‘bought servant’, þri-milce-mōnaþ ‘May; lit. three-milk-month’, demonstrate that the Anglo-Saxons could pay tribute in fish, buy servants and milked their cows three times a day in May.”

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Nutritional analysis To analyse Australian foods, beverages, processed products and recipes, we use FoodWorks which contains the AusNut and Nuttab databases. If necessary, this is supplemented with data from www.calorieking.com.au and http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/search.

Disclaimer GI News endeavours to check the veracity of news stories cited in this free e-newsletter by referring to the primary source, but cannot be held responsible for inaccuracies in the articles so published. GI News provides links to other World Wide Web sites as a convenience to users, but cannot be held responsible for the content or availability of these sites. All recipes that are included within GI News have been analysed however they have not been tested for their glycemic index properties by an accredited laboratory according to the ISO standards. 

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1 April 2017

GI News - April 2017

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FOOD FOR THOUGHT

TELL-TALE TEETH: WHAT NEANDERTALS ATE

With no toothbrushes or toothpaste let alone dental floss or oral hygiene products, Neandertal teeth were plaque heaven, that’s the unsightly build up that makes teeth feel fuzzy to the tongue. Hardened plaque (dental calculus) is a goldmine for scientists who study human evolution. It “traps microorganisms that lived in the mouth and pathogens found in the respiratory and gastrointestinal tract, as well as bits of food stuck in the teeth, preserving the DNA for thousands of years,” says Dr Laura Weyrich, lead author of a new paper published in the journal Nature. “Genetic analysis of that DNA ‘locked-up’ in plaque, represents a unique window into Neandertal lifestyle, revealing what they ate, what their health was like and how the environment impacted their behaviour.” It also tells us they were locovores as well as omnivores.

An international team of researchers led by the University of Adelaide's Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD) and Dental School, with the University of Liverpool in the UK examined two Neanderthals from El Sidrón cave, Spain, and one from Spy cave in Belgium and found drastic differences in their diet that correlated with changes in their microbiomes. The samples range from 42,000 to around 50,000 years old.

“We found that the Neandertals from Spy Cave in Belgium (on the edge of a steppe-like environment of grassy hills and plains, populated with megafauna) consumed woolly rhinoceros and European wild sheep, supplemented with wild mushrooms. On the other hand those from El Sidrón Cave (in dense mountain forest) showed no evidence for meat consumption, but appeared instead to have a largely vegetarian diet, comprising pine nuts, moss, mushrooms and tree bark,” says Professor Alan Cooper, Director of ACAD.

“One of the most surprising finds, however, was in a Neandertal from El Sidrón, who suffered from a dental abscess visible on the jawbone. The plaque showed that he also had an intestinal parasite that causes acute diarrhoea, so clearly he was quite sick. He was eating poplar, which contains the pain killer salicylic acid (the active ingredient of aspirin), and we could also detect a natural antibiotic mould (Penicillium) not seen in the other specimens.”

“Apparently, Neandertals possessed a good knowledge of medicinal plants and their various anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties, and seem to be self-medicating. The use of antibiotics would be very surprising, as this is more than 40,000 years before we developed penicillin. Certainly, our findings contrast markedly with the rather simplistic view of our ancient relatives in popular imagination.”

Neandertals, ancient and modern humans also shared several disease-causing microbes, including the bacteria that cause dental caries and gum disease. The Neandertal plaque allowed reconstruction of the oldest microbial genome yet sequenced (Methanobrevibacter oralis), a commensal that can be associated with gum disease. Remarkably, the genome sequence suggests Neandertals and humans were swapping pathogens as recently as 180,000 years ago, long after the divergence of the two species.

The team also noted how rapidly the oral microbial community has altered in recent history. The composition of the oral bacterial population in Neandertals and both ancient and modern humans correlated closely with the amount of meat in the diet, with the Spanish Neandertals grouping with chimpanzees and our forager ancestors in Africa. In contrast, the Belgian Neandertal bacteria were similar to early hunter gatherers, and quite close to modern humans and early farmers.

“Not only can we now access direct evidence of what our ancestors were eating, but differences in diet and lifestyle also seem to be reflected in the commensal bacteria that lived in the mouths of both Neandertals and modern humans,” says Professor Keith Dobney, from the University of Liverpool.

“Major changes in what we eat have, however, significantly altered the balance of these microbial communities over thousands of years, which in turn continue to have fundamental consequences for our own health and well-being. This extraordinary window on the past is providing us with new ways to explore and understand our evolutionary history through the microorganisms that lived in us and with us.”

Study: Neanderthal behaviour, diet, and disease inferred from ancient DNA in dental calculus. Nature 10.1038/nature21674

Contact: Dr Laura Weyrich, lead author, laura.weyrich@adelaide.edu.au; Professor Alan Cooper, study leader, alan.cooper@adelaide.edu.au

WHAT’S NEW?

TELL-TALE NUMBERS: WHAT AUSSIES ATE

Although generally not eating in a manner consistent with dietary guidelines, the CSIRO’s 2016 study comparing the 1995 and 2011 national nutrition survey results found some positive changes in what Australians are consuming.

  • What’s up? Whole fruit, a greater diversity of vegetables, more beans, peas and pulses, less refined sugar, and increased their preference for brown and wholegrain cereals. Adult Australians also increased their intake of nuts and seeds. But on a less positive note, they also drank more wine (+44%). And both young and old tucked into lots more cocoa products (aka chocolate) – 32% more for younger Australians and 84% more for adults.
  • What’s down? Added sugar and butter. The reduced intake of added sugar is partly explained by a decrease in per capita consumption of sugar sweetened beverages in Australia over time. Fruit juice consumption also markedly declined, especially for younger Australians.
Study: Changes in Food Intake in Australia: Comparing the 1995 and 2011 National Nutrition Survey Results Disaggregated into Basic Foods

TOO MUCH SUGAR AND TOO FEW NUTS?

Too much sugar and too few nuts are killing us, apparently. That’s how
press reports distilled a recent paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Hype and fear about good and bad foods probably does more harm than good. Emphasizing a single food or nutrient in isolation seldom leads to better health. What does work is to pay attention to overall dietary patterns. If you have real concerns about your health and nutrition, the best help comes from working with a smart dietitian.

Inconvenient Facts About Australia’s Sugar Consumption


The facts simply don’t support such a simple “too much sugar” story. A new study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition finds in Australia, 4 independent data sets confirmed shorter- and longer-term declines in the availability and intake of added sugars, including those contributed by SSBs (sugar sweetened beverages). The findings challenge the widespread belief that energy from added sugars or sugars in solution are uniquely linked to the prevalence of obesity. Co-author Dr Alan Barclay says that people have been listening to guidelines in Australia. Those guidelines have, since 1980, been telling people to limit sugar. These data suggest they’ve been doing just that. But the population has been increasing its intake of confectionary (chocolate especially) and alcohol. So, simply demonizing or taxing sugar sweetened beverages might not solve the problem of obesity.

In Praise of Nuts

On the other side of the equation, exalting the life-saving virtues of eating more nuts might help the nut growers ring up more sales. But it probably won’t extend our lives. And that headline about “too few nuts” is grossly misleading. In the context of a healthy dietary pattern, like a Mediterranean diet, nuts contribute to good health. By themselves, not so much. – Thanks to Ted Kyle of ConscienHealth http://conscienhealth.org/ for this report.

Studies: For the paper in AJCN, click here. The JAMA study of dietary patterns is here, along with a worthwhile commentary here.

GLUTEN-FREE FAD DIETS MIGHT HAVE A DIABETES DOWNSIDE

For millions of people who don’t really need a gluten-free diet, eating less gluten might have a downside. Research presented at the AHA EpiLifestyle meeting yesterday found that people who ate less gluten had a slightly higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The investigators found no difference in the risk of weight gain.

A gluten-free diet is a no-brainer for someone with celiac disease or confirmed non-celiac gluten sensitivity (gluten intolerance). But gluten-free fad diets have reached far beyond folks with actual gluten sensitivity or celiac disease. Some people falsely believe it will help them lose weight or magically give them better health. This new data is a useful reminder that food fads can have a downside and becoming fixated on demonizing a particular food or nutrient can lead to surprises down the road.

This research does not prove that gluten-free diets cause diabetes. All these data show is an association, not a cause and effect relationship. Maybe gluten helps to lower diabetes risk. Or maybe people who avoid gluten eat less fiber. But it’s equally possible that something else is confounding these findings. Sorting those questions out will require more definitive research. Until then, avoid gluten if you must. But unless you have a confirmed sensitivity, cutting gluten is pointless. In fact, it limits your choices for whole grains. And whole grains have real benefits for health. Thanks to Ted Kyle of ConscienHealth for this report

Studies: For the abstract of this study, click here. Further perspectives, click here and here.

REVERSING DIABETES

While type 2 diabetes cannot be cured as such, it can be put in to remission in people who have been newly diagnosed. We use the word ‘remission’ rather than ‘cure’ because diabetes may return years later, either due to people slowly regaining weight or simply due to advancing age,” says Dr Alan Barclay in Reversing Diabetes (Murdoch Books).
  • Clinical trials show that around one in eight people can put type 2 diabetes into remission for between 2 and 10 years by losing a significant amount of body weight following a healthy lifestyle.
  • In the medium to long term (2 to 5 years), bariatric surgery is more effective than lifestyle interventions, helping between three and seven out of 10 people to go into remission.
  • A review of clinical trials has shown that short-term (2 to 3 weeks) use of insulin by those newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes can cause medium-term (2 years) remission in about four out of 10 people.
The Diabetes Research Group in Newcastle (UK) used magnetic resonance spectroscopy and imaging to explain the abnormal storage of fat and glycogen in pancreas, liver and muscle in type 2 diabetes. Too much fat within liver and pancreas prevents normal insulin action and prevents normal insulin secretion. Both defects are reversible by substantial weight loss. A crucial point is that individuals have different levels of tolerance of fat within liver and pancreas. Only when a person has more fat than they can cope with does type 2 diabetes develop. In other words, once a person crosses their personal fat threshold, type 2 diabetes develops. Once they successfully lose weight and go below their personal fat threshold, diabetes will disappear.

The group’s current DiRECT study is a cluster randomised controlled trial to find out how well reversal of type 2 diabetes works when done by Practice Nurses in General Practice in the UK. It will also investigate how durable the return to normal glucose control is, how people cope with the programme and what underlying changes in liver and pancreas determine outcome. If you want to find out more about it, visit the DiRECT website.

Chief investigators: Professor Mike Lean, Professor of Human Nutrition at Glasgow University and Professor Roy Taylor, Professor of Medicine and Metabolism at Newcastle University.

PERSPECTIVES WITH DR ALAN BARCLAY

SUGAR DIABETES?

There is a wide-held belief that people who consume too much added refined sugar will develop diabetes. Similarly, there is a common belief that people with diabetes need to limit or avoid added sugar to manage their condition. To help address these common diabetes myths, two globally recognised experts on sugars (Dr Mike Lean and Dr Lisa Te Morenga) recently reviewed the evidence for the British Medical Bulletin. They analysed the evidence using four theoretical rationales for why, in principle, added sugars might be of concern with respect to (type 2) diabetes.

1. Sugar causes, or contributes to causing, diabetes.

There is a lack of experimental evidence from randomised controlled trials in humans for a causal role for added sugars in the development of type 2 diabetes (T2DM). There is an association between consuming 1–2, 355 mL regular (i.e., 10% added sugars) sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) a day and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in observational studies, but it is “...small and substantially reduced when data are adjusted for BMI [Body Mass Index].” There are also associations between consuming intensely (“artificial”) sweetened beverages and risk of type 2 diabetes, but there isn’t an association between fruit juices (which contain around 10% sugars) and risk of diabetes. “These studies provide strong evidence that the association between SSBs and T2DM relies on associated lifestyles and patterns of food and drink consumption, rather than on the sugar itself.

They conclude that: “given the multifactorial causes of weight gain, sugar reduction as a stand-alone action is unlikely to impact strongly on diabetes incidence.

2. Sugar consumption aggravates glycemia with diabetes.

Randomised controlled trials do not provide any evidence that consumption of added sugars has any detrimental impact on blood glucose management in people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, and there is in fact some evidence that moderate consumption (less than 60g per day, or around 10% of energy) may improve glycemic control.

They conclude that: “despite a common assumption that sugar must be hazardous for people with T2DM, the evidence says otherwise.

3. Sugar consumption promotes macrovascular complications of diabetes.

Randomised controlled trials provide evidence that when people with and without diabetes are given large amounts (average of 124 grams per day, or around 24% of energy) of free sugars their total, LDL and HDL cholesterol, and triglycerides, increase slightly (0.02–0.16 mmol/L), and their diastolic blood pressure increases (1.4 mm Hg). However, despite these small but statistically significant effects on cardiovascular disease risk factors “Studies among people with diabetes found no effect of SSBs on heart disease.”

They conclude that: “the evidence supports limitation of free sugar to 10% EI [energy intake] to reduce macrovascular complications for people with T2DM.


4. Sugar consumption promotes microvascular complications of diabetes.


High blood glucose increases the risk of microvascular complications of diabetes like retinopathy, neuropathy and nephropathy. However, there is no evidence from randomised controlled trials that sugars increase the risk of microvascular complications of diabetes.

They conclude that: “Reducing glycaemia does reduce the progression of microvascular complications of T2DM, but the relatively low glycaemic index of sucrose would not suggest any special role.

Lean and Te Morenga’s overall conclusion

The media noise generated by belief-based claims that sugar is as toxic and addictive as tobacco or heroin arises from a poor grasp of scientific methods and evidence. The media debate has also undermined consumer understanding of healthy nutrition. There is now a widespread belief that sugar is the sole cause of rising rates of obesity and diabetes. This, unfortunately, plays directly into the hands of the food industry, by providing new opportunities for it to peddle highly processed nutrient-poor foods to confused and concerned consumers.

Sugar does not cause diabetes and people with diabetes do not need to avoid it completely. However, it’s prudent to consume less than 10% of energy from added/free sugars to limit unwanted calories and reduce the risk of tooth decay whether or not you have diabetes.

Dr Alan Barclay

Alan Barclay, PhD is a consultant dietitian. He worked for Diabetes Australia (NSW) from 1998–2014 and is a member of the editorial board of Diabetes Management Journal (Diabetes Australia). He is author/co-author of more than 30 scientific publications, and co-author of The Low GI Diet: Managing Type 2 Diabetes (Hachette Australia) and The Ultimate Guide to Sugars and Sweeteners (The Experiment, New York). You can read a review of his latest book, Reversing Diabetes (Murdoch Books), in Glycosmedia Diabetes News.

VIEWPOINTS FROM THE CHARLES PERKINS CENTRE, SYDNEY UNIVERSITY

WHAT’S IN THAT HERBAL MED?

In The Conversation, Dr Nick Fuller recently took a look at how complementary meds end up on the shelves of our pharmacies and supermarkets, and why it’s still very much buyer beware. Here he takes us through the regulatory process, and why you should only purchase supplements with an AUST-L number.

Complementary medicine has received a lot of attention in Australia recently. First, a study focused on potential safety concerns about taking herbal products. Second, ABC’s Four Corners looked at the need for better regulation of product claims, and questioned the credibility of the pharmacy industry for endorsing and selling these products. Both of these are particularly relevant, considering complementary and alternatives medicines are widely used by different populations and by more than half of all people. People like complementary medicines often because they find such natural alternatives to be more in line with their values and beliefs, and desire to lead a more “natural” life.

However, in many instances complementary medicines have no added benefit when compared to placebo, or weak evidence. These include dietary supplements such as vitamin C and echinacea for the common cold, and weight-loss supplements. On the other hand, there is evidence for complementary medicines in preventing or managing a range of conditions. Some examples include improvement in mental health conditions, managing menopausal symptoms, and for healthy outcomes during pregnancy.

How complementary meds end up on our shelves

In contrast to pharmaceuticals (otherwise known as conventional “Western” medicines), government typically does not subsidise complementary medicines. Therefore, the cost burden is shifted to consumers. While this is good news for government budgets, consumers need to have confidence the products they’re spending their money on are safe and effective.

All herbal medicines (these are products derived from plant sources and fall under the complementary medicines umbrella) must be listed on the Australian Registry of Therapeutic Goods before they are made available for sale. This gives them an AUST-L number. However, this still relies on the manufacturer’s honesty with respect to its effectiveness.

This stands in stark contrast to pharmaceuticals. These have high up-front development costs, go through rigorous registration processes and have no guarantee of approval. Once pharmaceuticals are approved they are given an AUST-R number, which is different to the AUST-L number.

Natural or herbal medicines do not face the same regulatory scrutiny as pharmaceutical drugs because of their origin from “natural” sources. However, as the recent piece in the Medical Journal of Australia points out, some products (particularly traditional Chinese medicines) often inaccurately list ingredients and may contain undeclared products (including DNA from endangered animals such as the snow leopard) or toxic and pharmaceutical contaminants. Similar findings have been reported previously for traditional Chinese medicines. If a complementary medicine product does not have an AUST-L number you should not buy it: you are putting yourself at risk.

Not all bad eggs

It’s often the poor compliance of a few companies tarnishing the industry as a whole. One example is “Hydroxycut”. Not only has the product been banned in the US several times, it has put consumers’ health in serious jeopardy. Other dietary supplements have led to questions being asked of the industry due to case reports of liver damage from taking products containing, for example, green tea extract. It’s the concoction of different ingredients in these supplements that often makes it difficult to pinpoint the exact root of concern. Therefore, tighter regulation of the industry is needed. But many companies are meeting regulatory requirements and performing good-quality research to support their product claims.

One recent example is an extract from the green–lipped mussel for those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or learning difficulties. This supplement showed some benefits in reducing hyperactivity and inattention, and improving memory in children and adolescents. Similar studies with other products are under way.

Regulatory reform is needed to protect those companies performing good-quality research from other companies “piggy-backing” off this evidence for their similarly marketed product, perhaps with the same or similar ingredients. The Therapeutic Goods Administration should require manufacturers to have independent testing performed on their products before marketing to ensure the ingredients listed on the packet are accurate. However, this still doesn’t stop people purchasing complementary medicine over the internet, despite clear warnings against this.

We need to encourage and better incentivise research and development of complementary medicines. And we need to give adequate resources to a relevant body capable of more closely regulating the listing of complementary medicines to ensure patient safety. Until this happens, make sure you only purchase supplements with an AUST-L number to ensure it’s safe – and do some research into the efficacy to ensure you’re not wasting your money.

THE CONVERSATION — Do You Know What’s in the Herbal Medicine You’re Taking?

Dr Nick Fuller

Dr Nick Fuller is Research Fellow, Clinical Trials Development & Analysis, University of Sydney Charles Perkins Centre. His work focuses on the causes, prevention and treatment of obesity and associated mental and physical health disorders. He has worked across a diverse range of areas, including dietary and exercise treatments, conventional and complementary medicines, commercial weight loss programmes, medical devices, bariatric surgery, and appetite regulators. To take part in a weight-loss trial involving natural medicines, contact Nick here: www.metabolictrial.com

FOOD UN-PLUGGED

Nicole Senior pulls the plug on hype and marketing spin to provide reliable, practical advice on food for health and enjoyment.

SUGAR-FREE CHOCOLATE

Easter is the season that will test the New Year’s resolutions of many. You will be quietly going about your grocery shopping and the chocolate bunnies will literally hop right into your shopping trolley! If you’d like to stay on the path of health over Easter, are sugar-free chocolates a better option? Let’s look at what’s in them.

First up, what are the typical ingredients in regular chocolate?

  • Lindt Excellence Smooth Blend 70% Cocoa Dark Chocolate: Cocoa mass, SUGAR, cocoa butter, emulsifier (soy lecithin), vanilla.
  • Lindt Lindor Milk Block: SUGAR, vegetable fats, cocoa butter, whole milk powder, cocoa mass, lactose, skim milk powder, milk fat, emulsifier (soy lecithin), barley malt extract, flavourings.
  • So, what are the typical ingredients in sugar-free chocolate? Numerous alternative sweeteners are used to add flavor, texture and bulk (underlined).
  • Well Naturally Rich Dark Chocolate: Cocoa mass; cocoa butter (70% cocoa solids), polydextrose, erythritol, soy lecithin, natural flavour, stevia.
  • Healtheries No Added Sugar Milk Chocolate: Chocolate 57% [Cocoa Solids 40% (Cocoa Butter, Cocoa Mass), Maltitol, Full Cream Milk Powder, Emulsifier (Soy Lecithin), Natural Flavour, Natural Sweetener (Steviol Glycosides)] Filling 43% [Maltitol, Vegetable Fat, Cocoa Powder, Emulsifier (Soy Lecithin), Natural Flavour].
In sugar-free chocolate, polydextrose, maltitol, erythritol and stevia (steviol glycosides) provide the sweetness and mouth-feel that is normally provided by sugar. While they are safe to eat in moderation, the body is unable to completely absorb polydextrose, maltitol and erythritol and they may produce unwanted side effects if consumed in excess, hence the warning printed in capitals on sugar-free chocolate wrappers: “EXCESS CONSUMPTION MAY HAVE A LAXATIVE EFFECT.”

Well Naturally claims their sugar-free chocolate is:
  • Naturally sweetened with stevia. Contains no artificial colours, flavours, preservatives or sweeteners.
  • A suitable treat for those wanting to reduce their sugar intake, such as diabetics and those watching their weight [when eaten in moderation].
Are sugar-replacers “natural” ingredients?

Companies such as Well Naturally claim the sugar-replacements they use are natural, not artificial. Then why do these sugar-replacements (polydextrose, erythritol and stevia) sound so artificial?

While the leaves of the stevia plant are sweet, the manufacturer does not simply crush leaves and mix them into the chocolate. Stevia is produced using a five-step process that involves interactions with chemicals such as resins and alcoholic solvents to change the stevia leaves into steviol glycosides. Natural? Not really. Not like honey from the hive. The word ‘natural’ is not well regulated in the food industry and tends to be subjectively interpreted by manufacturers.

What about “no artificial” claims?

“No artificial” claims often make baddies of things that are chemically identical to their “natural” counterparts. For example, synthetic amyl acetate made in the laboratory (artificial) is exactly the same as the amyl acetate extracted from a banana (natural) and both are banana flavours. Massoya lactone can be sourced from the Malaysian massoya tree or synthesised in a lab to give coconut flavour. The flavours are the same, only the source differs. When you get right down to it, if we ate less processed foods the “artificial” colours and flavours problem would almost disappear. A cynic might say the proliferation of “no artificial” claims just gives us permission to eat other versions of highly processed, nutrient-poor foods …

It’s true that there’s a very small proportion of the population who are very sensitive to “artificial” colours and flavours, but they are sadly also sensitive to naturally occurring chemicals in food as well. While some artificial colours have been implicated in behavioural changes in children, the doses are large and the effects small, and the mechanism of effect is poorly understood. A systematic review and meta-analysis found there isn’t enough evidence to support eliminating artificial colours in children with ADHD. What about preservatives? Chocolate doesn’t typically have any – and in our house it doesn’t last long enough to need them.

Is sugar-free chocolate suitable for people with diabetes or who are trying to lose weight?

We put together the following table to see how the nutritional content differs in 100g of dark and milk chocolate compared to the same amount of sugar-free chocolate.

Comparison table of sugar free chocolate

Well Naturally claim that when eaten in moderation, their sugar-free chocolate is a suitable treat for people living with diabetes and those who are watching their weight. The Well Naturally Rich Dark Chocolate contains 28% fewer calories while Healtheries No Added Sugar Milk Chocolate Smooth Centre contains 14% fewer calories; therefore it does offer a saving (if you can stop at one). Despite these calorie savings, sugar-free chocolates are still calorie-dense and contain large amounts of saturated fats. Just a few bites (21g bar) of Healtheries No Added Sugar Milk Chocolate Smooth Centre contains the same amount of calories as a 200g (7oz) large apple with far less tummy-filling power.

The significantly lower carbohydrate content of sugar-free chocolate may be of benefit for people counting carbs to manage their diabetes, but this is less of an issue if portions are limited (100g chocolate is too much at a sitting for anyone).

Diabetes Australia says, “a healthy eating plan for diabetes can include some sugar…however foods that are high in added sugars and poor sources of nutrients should be consumed sparingly…foods and drinks that have been sweetened with an alternative sweetener such as…sugar-free lollies etc, are best enjoyed occasionally…” And not to promote overconsumption in any way, but the fact is regular chocolate has a low GI. Everybody – including people with diabetes – can enjoy small portions of regular treat foods and don’t need sugar-free versions. In our experience reframing treats as better for you because there’s no sugar added gives us license to eat more and negates any kilojoule saving- we’re illogical creatures!

The un-plugged truth

While sugar-free chocolate may offer some advantages at Easter time there is no real need for it. Don’t mistake sugar-free chocolate for a health food. Enjoy small portions of the best chocolate you can afford and savour it slowly and mindfully with respect and appreciation. – Thanks to Rachel Ananin AKA TheSeasonalDietitian.com for her assistance with this article.

Nicole Senior

Nicole Senior is an Accredited Nutritionist, author, consultant, cook, food enthusiast and mother who strives to make sense of nutrition science and delights in making healthy food delicious.

Contact: You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram or check out her website.

KEEP GOOD CARBS AND CARRY ON

GRAPEFRUIT

Grapefruit is a relative newcomer to the fruit bowl. Our hunter-gather forebears would not have bumped into it in the forest. But they may have met its parents, the pummelo and the orange because it’s a shining example of citrus doing what comes naturally – cross pollinating. The deed was probably done in Barbados sometime in the eighteenth century (the parents were immigrants from Asia). Now fast forward a hundred years to 1823 to Odet Philippe planting the first grapefruit seeds in Florida and the beginnings of a billion-dollar American success story that was massively boosted from the 1930s by fad diets extolling its miraculous “fat-burning” powers.

Does it have them? No it won’t burn off the fat or melt the pounds report researchers who looked at the evidence for the effectiveness of consuming grapefruits (Citrus paradisi) on body weight, blood pressure, and lipid profile in a systematic review. Their meta-analysis failed to reveal a significant difference between grapefruits and controls re body weight, but did show a decrease in systolic blood pressure. However, they point out that the paucity of randomised controlled trials, the short durations of the interventions, and the lack of an established minimum effective dose limit the conclusions that can be drawn about the effects of grapefruit on body weight and metabolic parameters. So we end up with the usual “more studies needed”.

What’s in grapefruit?

While it may not burn fat, a small grapefruit (about 210g or 7½oz) will add zest to your day and deliver more than 100% of your daily dose of vitamin C and provide 240 kilojoules (57 calories), 2g protein, no fat, 10g carbs (sugars), 1g fibre, 250 mg potassium. It has a very low GI (25). In fact, fresh grapefruit has the lowest GI value of all fruit tested so far. It’s not just the acid that has a blood glucose-lowering effect, it’s also the pectin (a type of soluble fibre). Canned grapefruit segments (GI 47) and commercial grapefruit juice (GI 48) are easy year-round options when fresh fruit isn’t available.

 Grapefruit

Med Alert: Some compounds in grapefruit can interact with some medicines making the dose stronger or weaker than it should be. So, check with your doctor or pharmacist about potential problems with any prescription medicines you take.

IN THE GI NEWS KITCHEN

KATE HEMPHILL’S EASTER EGGS

Pass on the chocolate eggs and opt for the free-range, organic real deal on Easter morning (or any morning). Kate uses Herbie’s spice mixes, but of course you can substitute with your favourites. Note these recipes use a regular 15ml tablespoon.

Turkish Poached Eggs

There are many variations of this Turkish breakfast dish, Cilbir, that dates back to the fifteenth century, but essentially thick cool yoghurt is topped with soft poached eggs and spiced butter or oil. Herbie’s Turkish spice mix – parsley, sumac, Aleppo pepper, tomato powder, cumin, spearmint, bay leaves – enhances lamb, chicken, kebabs, pide and vegetarian dishes.

½ tsp Spanish mild paprika

2 tbsp olive oil

300g (10oz) thick plain yoghurt

1 tbsp Herbie's Turkish spice mix

4 free-range medium eggs, at room temperature

1 tsp sumac, to serve

Toasted Turkish bread, to serve



Prep time: 5 mins

Cook time: 10 mins

Serves: 2

Turkish Poached Eggs


For paprika oil, mix paprika and olive oil in a small dish until well combined then leave to settle. • Combine yoghurt with Turkish spice mix and a salt to taste. Spoon into two shallow serving dishes. • Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and carefully crack eggs into water (or crack into a small cup then pour into pan). Simmer for 3 minutes and remove with a slotted spoon onto kitchen towel to remove excess moisture, then place two eggs in each dish of yoghurt. • Drizzle the paprika oil over eggs, sprinkle with sumac and a little salt, and serve with toasted Turkish bread. Can also be served with extra Aleppo pepper and fresh mint and/or parsley.

Per serve (excluding Turkish bread)

1705kJ/ 410 calories; 19g protein; 32g fat (includes 9g saturated fat; saturated : unsaturated fat ratio 0.39); 10g available carbs (includes 8g sugars and 2g starch); 2g fibre; 350mg sodium; 520mg potassium; sodium : potassium ratio 0.68

Brazilian Breakfast Mushrooms

Try adding chorizo, spinach or avocado t this South American take on mushrooms and eggs, or make a large batch in a roasting tray and bake the eggs on top when feeding a crowd, serving with soft tortillas. Sprinkle Herbie’s Brazilian spice blend – paprika, ginger, salt, garlic, onion, cumin, coriander seed, coriander leaf, allspice, cinnamon, pepper, and chilli – on mushrooms when sautéeing or barbecueing.

600g (1lb 5oz) large portobello mushrooms, halved and thickly sliced

1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp olive oil

1½ tbsp Herbie's Brazilian spice blend

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

½ tsp salt

2 large eggs

micro coriander, to serve (optional)



Prep time: 5 mins

Cook time: 15 mins

Serves: 2 as a meal

Brazilian Breakfast Mushrooms

Melt butter with olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add spice blend and mushrooms and saute for 5–8 minutes until tender. Stir through red wine vinegar and salt and cook for a further minute. Mushrooms can be kept warm at this stage. • Poach or fry (in a non-stick frying pan) the eggs until they are cooked to your liking. Place on top of mushrooms and garnish with micro coriander and a pinch of Brazilian spice blend and serve immediately.

Per serve (poached eggs)

1325 kJ/ 315 calories; 14g protein; 24g fat (includes 9g saturated fat; saturated : unsaturated fat ratio 0.6); 4g available carbs (includes 3g sugars and 1g starch); 7g fibre; 750mg sodium; 1270mg potassium; sodium : potassium ratio 0.59

STICKS, SEEDS, PODS & LEAVES

Kate Hemphill’s light and easy everyday fare with culinary spices and herbs. She is a trained chef who has worked as a recipe writer and cookery teacher. She contributed the recipes to Ian Hemphill’s best-selling Spice and Herb Bible and you will find more of her wonderful recipes on the Herbies spices website.

Juniper Roasted Trout with Fennel & Orange Salad

Enjoy the pine-like aroma of juniper with seafood, which also goes well with the fruit in this quick and easy salad. Use lower GI Carisma potatoes if available.

2 trout fillets (120g/4½ oz each)

1 tsp juniper berries, lightly crushed

2 handfuls of mixed leaves

1 large (or two small) orange, peeled and sliced into rounds

1 large (or two small) bulb fennel, very finely sliced

4 small new potatoes, skin on, cooked until tender and halved

10 mint leaves

2 tbsp pomegranate arils



Prep time: 10 mins

Cook time: 15 mins

Serves: 2

Juniper Roasted Trout with Fennel & Orange Salad

Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. • Rub juniper berries onto fillets and season with salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Wrap lightly in foil and place on a baking tray. Cook for 12–15 minutes until flaking easily. • Combine salad ingredients and dress with a little olive oil. Arrange on a plate or plates and top with trout.

Per serve

Energy: 995 kJ/238 cals; protein: 17g; fat: 5.5g; saturated fat: 1.5g (saturated : unsaturated fat ratio 0.38); available carbohydrate 30g; fibre: 8g; 110mg sodium; 1210mg potassium (sodium : potassium ratio 0.1)

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