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Food shortfalls

Shortfalls ... the new dietary guidelines.

Shortfalls ... the new dietary guidelines. Photo: Marco Del Grande

There has been a mixed response to the new national dietary guidelines, which were released on Monday.

While generally the industry has welcomed the recommendations, by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), there has been some backlash as well.

Many, including The Dietitian's Association of Australia (DAA) and the Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA), are pleased the public now have an updated point of reference to help them navigate "the maze of inaccurate information on food and nutrition."

"The Guidelines drive home how crucial nutrition is to the health and wellbeing of Australians – and especially children," said DAA spokeswoman, Claire Hewat.

However, the DAA also say the guidelines are generalised - they caution people to seek individualised advice - and have expressed frustration at long it has taken.

"There will always be some people who will say the Guidelines aren't perfect, but... our last set of guidelines, released in 2003, [were] well past their used-by date.

'We've been disappointed with how long it's taken to get to this point. The process has been bigger than Ben Hur, despite the hard work and commitment of all involved."

Given the collosal commitment, the PHAA feel that the guidelines fall short in several areas. This includes their submission to incorporate sustainable eating practices.

"It is a missed opportunity that this aspect of the advice was not taken more seriously," said Michael Moore, CEO of the PHAA.  "Food, health and the environment form an integrated system.  It is appropriate and imperative to let people know how to eat to protect the future environment as well as their health...

"If we destroy the environment that sustains our food supply we will not be in a position to produce good nutritious food and such advice will become redundant."

The PHAA are also unsatisfied with the breastfeeding guidelines, which have been revised to six months of age, from 4 to 6 months. According to Dr Jennifer James Senior Lecturer in the Discipline of Nursing and Midwifery at RMIT University, this change will help to ease the "considerable confusion" on the matter.

But, the PHAA believe more could have been done.

"Breastfeeding advice is based on solid evidence," said Associate Professor Heather Yeatman, President of the PHAA.  "The real challenge is supporting mothers to continue to breast feed.  More than 90 per cent of Australian women start breastfeeding, but rates at 6 months fall far short of NHMRC targets...

"More research is needed into how to support breastfeeding when mum returns home and perhaps back to work. There is also a key role for health workers to strengthen their advocacy of the benefits of breastfeeding."

Bulletproof guidelines were always going to be a challenge. And there is clearly still a way to go in addressing the health and dietary issues in Australia. Poor nutrition is still implicated in more than 56 per cent of all deaths in Australia. Obesity alone is estimated to cost the economy in excess of $58 billion per year.

But, the new guidelines, which push good fat over low fat and pure instead of processed, are a positive and long-awaited step forward.

"The new Australian Dietary Guidelines and Infant Feeding Guidelines must now rank among the world's best and most significant," said Mark Wahlqvist, Emeritus Professor of Medicine, Monash University and Past President of the International Union of Nutritional Sciences.

101 comments so far

  • While these committees continue to worship at the altar erected by a particular powerful industry-health lobby group, they will continue to promote nonsense psuedo-science about good fats and bad fats.
    As usual low-fat dairy is in, while dairy foods that still contain natural levels of fats and fat-soluble vitamins are shunned - and completely contrary to scientific evidence that it is the full-fat varieties of dairy that associated with the better health outcomes.
    The guidelines continue to push the dangerous idea that we should consume more polyunsaturated fats, when these are the refined oils which most Westerners are way over-consuming.

    It must trouble the committee that the food they are promoting for babies fails to tick any of their own boxes - high in calories,cholesterol and saturated fat! Ah yes, but that is for babies you say, when we reach the age of two suddenly and mysteriously saturated fat becomes bad for us?

    Commenter
    Gordon Rouse
    Location
    Yinnar South
    Date and time
    February 21, 2013, 8:50AM
    • # Gordon Rouse. You say "As usual low-fat dairy is in, while dairy foods that still contain natural levels of fats and fat-soluble vitamins are shunned". Actually the article says "the new guidelines, [which] push good fat over low fat and pure instead of processed".

      Commenter
      Catherine
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      February 21, 2013, 12:40PM
    • Catherine, they may say that in the report, but then they go on to recommend that a healthy diet comes out of a packet, jar or tin, and recommend eating low fat everything. Contradictory? absolutely. Take a look at those sample menu plans.

      Commenter
      Shelley
      Date and time
      February 21, 2013, 1:32PM
  • "the DAA also say the guidelines are generalised - they caution people to seek individualised advice"

    Well they would, wouldn't they?

    Commenter
    Kate
    Location
    Brisbane
    Date and time
    February 21, 2013, 9:00AM
    • Exactly what I thought when I saw it.

      Commenter
      DM
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      February 21, 2013, 11:29AM
  • I'm disappointed that the guidelines still demonise high fat foods and foods containing natural saturated fats. I'm also disappointed (but not surprised) that the recommendations are still to eat more grain based foods. Also, when are the guidelines going to recognise the differences between pasture-fed, farm raised meats as opposed to factory farmed meats?

    Commenter
    Shelley
    Date and time
    February 21, 2013, 9:01AM
    • "when are the guidelines going to recognise the differences between pasture-fed, farm raised meats as opposed to factory farmed meats?"

      The scope of the Australian Dietary Guidelines does not include animal welfare, animal nutrition or the ethical treatment of livestock. Its concern is only the promotion of the nutritional health of Australians by providing a guide fro eating which based on scientific evidence. This includes a huge amount of evidence of the harmful effects of a high amount of animal fats in one's diet.

      If you don't like the guidelines you are free to ignore them, just like most of the population.

      Commenter
      djm
      Date and time
      February 21, 2013, 10:32AM
    • Unfortunately battery farming is actually better for the environment.

      More pasture land for grass fed cattle means more land needs to be cleared as populations continue to grow. This means the native animals lose their habitat. Tough choice, but the farm animals are bred for our food, the native animals help maintain the ecosystem. So I have little sympathy for the call for reducing factory farming methods. Unless of course we all decide that natural roo meet is the better source of protein. That would be a win for all sides.

      Commenter
      Panaitan
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      February 21, 2013, 11:02AM
    • I would disagree with Panaitan. Blinding clearing land and following modern heavy agricultural industry will of course degrade the environment. It is possible to pasture feed animals through environmentally enhancing agricultural practises. Read any book by Joel Salatin.

      Commenter
      Misinformed
      Date and time
      February 21, 2013, 11:24AM
    • "The scope of the Australian Dietary Guidelines does not include animal welfare, animal nutrition or the ethical treatment of livestock. Its concern is only the promotion of the nutritional health of Australians by providing a guide fro eating which based on scientific evidence. This includes a huge amount of evidence of the harmful effects of a high amount of animal fats in one's diet. If you don't like the guidelines you are free to ignore them, just like most of the population."

      Crikey, just as well I do ignore them. The women's sample meal is - cereal with low fat milk for breakfast. sandwich for lunch. pasta for dinner. tinned fruit for dessert. After all that money and time and "scientific evidence"... that's really the best we can offer Australians?

      Also, don't you think sustainable farming practices should matter when determining where our food supply will come from in the future? Fact - free range eggs contain up to ten times the amount of omega 3 EFAs, an essential fat for human health that seems to be ignored totally, at least going by the sample meals I've looked at. Fact - the fats coming from pasture fed animals are better for us and have less of an inflammatory effect than farm raised animals. They also contain less omega-6 and more omega-3s. The imbalance between omega-6 and omega-3s is a huge problem in the Australian diet and it's promoted through our national guidelines. No wonder we're all so sick and fat.

      Commenter
      Shelley
      Date and time
      February 21, 2013, 11:40AM

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