Chewing the fat over new health guidelines

Chewing the fat over new health guidelines

AUSTRALIANS are being urged to choose the right kind of fats, cut down on sugary drinks and avoid adding salt to food, in new national dietary guidelines.

The National Health and Medical Research Guidelines are the most authoritative source of information on nutrition, a reference for health professionals, policymakers and educators and the subject of intense debate and lobbying by the food industry, health campaigners and academics.

Lisa Phillips hold Gemma and Rose, who are three months old.

Lisa Phillips hold Gemma and Rose, who are three months old.

For the latest version, the first update in a decade, researchers reviewed 55,000 pieces of scientific research and modelled about 100 dietary patterns.

Much of the advice is little-changed from the 2003 version, with people encouraged to eat plenty of vegetables and fruit, wholegrain foods and legumes, lean meats and fish and reduced fat dairy products.

But the latest guidelines mark a change of emphasis on fat, with a move away from calls to cut fat intake, and a distinction between foods containing mainly unhealthy saturated fats such as butter and cream and those containing mainly beneficial polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats such as olive or canola oil, nut butters and pastes and avocados.


The shift was welcomed by the Heart Foundation, which said while it was important for people to reduce their intake of bad fats, they should replace these with good fats.

''People should not cut all fats from their diet,'' foundation chief executive Lyn Roberts said. ''It's good to eat some healthier fats and oils such as canola oil, nuts and fish, as they provide essential nutrients for heart health and protect against disease,'' Dr Roberts said.

The guidelines take a stronger line on foods containing added sugar. While the 2003 guidelines said people should ''take care to consume only moderate amounts'' of these foods, the new guidelines urge people to ''limit'' their intake of things such as sweetened soft drinks and lollies. Rosemary Stanton, a public health nutritionist who also served on the committee said this had been driven by stronger evidence about the link between sugary drinks and weight gain.

The advice on salt has also been toughened, from ''choose foods low in salt'' to urging people to limit their intake of foods containing added salt, reading labels to choose lower sodium products, and not adding salt in cooking or at the table.

The council says 60 per cent of Australian adults and 25 per cent of children are overweight or obese, and if trends continue, by 2025, 83 per cent of men and 75 per cent of women over the age of 20 will be overweight or obese.

Coburg mother Lisa Phillips welcomed new dietary guidelines that recommend non-breastfeeding mothers be ''respected'' and ''supported'' by health workers in their informed decision not to breastfeed.

Ms Phillips, who gave birth to twins, Gemma and Rose, 13 weeks ago, says the recommendations should help relieve the guilt some new mothers feel.

The first-time mother who is partially breastfeeding her newborns and supplementing their feeds with infant formula says she has felt ''quite guilty'' at times.

''I would like to be breastfeeding exclusively but sometimes you just have to do what is going to be practical and feasible and in our case to make sure our two were getting enough to eat basically.''

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