Red and processed meat is back on the menu

This week the Annals of Internal Medicine (the official journal of the American College of Physicians) published, what is proving to be, an extremely controversial series of systematic reviews and meta-analyses concluding that the current dietary advice to eat less red and processed meats is not supported by science and that the evidence is not sufficient to advise people to change the amount of meat they eat. Contrary to established dogma and an uptick in calls for meat consumption to be reduced, the studies led by researchers from McMaster and Dalhousie universities, peer reviewed by a panel of international scientists, found a very small association between eating red and processed meat with the risk of developing cancer and cardiometabolic disease. The group focused solely on health outcomes and did not take into account environmental or animal welfare concerns. Endorsed by researchers from 7 countries, the resulting dietary guideline recommendations caused howls of outrage and outright attack from mainstream public health researchers. An accompanying editorial calls for a major overhaul in the way nutritional studies are communicated, acknowledging the myriad reasons for reducing meat consumption. Undoubtedly this is a heated debate that will run and run as the push for a meatless, increasingly processed new-to-nature food chain grows.

Dietary supplement use continues to increase

Some good news as new figures from the Council for Responsible Nutrition’s latest CRN Consumer Survey on Dietary Supplements indicate that increasing numbers of people are choosing to take control of their health. Figures illustrate the trend by revealing that 77% of Americans now use dietary supplements. This is the highest reported usage to date. Vitamin and mineral supplements continue to be the most commonly used supplements, but the survey also underlined consumer confidence and trust in the efficacy of dietary supplements. In Australia, a new report, from Complementary Medicines Australia, shows similar levels of food/dietary supplement use and at the same time reports a doubling in size of the market in the last 10 years. Empowered citizens focused on creating and optimising their own health are the only antidote to the current healthcare crisis. Self-care sits at the heart of our model for a sustainable health system because you can’t foist top-down health change on an unwilling population.

Calls for a moratorium on Golden Rice project

Such is the concern over the safety, efficacy and viability of genetically modified Golden Rice, that 3 organisations are collaborating to safeguard citizens in the Philippines. MASIPAG, Stop Golden Rice Network and RESIST Alliance are calling for a moratorium on the release of Golden Rice in the Philippines. The call comes as a coalition of organisations across Asia continues to campaign for Golden Rice and other genetically modified rice to be banned across the region amidst fears its introduction could lead to a loss of bio-diversity as well as damage to the environment, traditional farming systems and people’s health. Despite the hype, it is unlikely that those most at risk from vitamin A deficiency would even be able to afford to buy Golden Rice. Calls for efforts to be redirected towards promoting consumption of the plethora of locally produced vegetables and fruit that are naturally rich in beta-carotene appear to be falling on deaf ears.

Most commonly used antidepressant barely works

A major new study has revealed the most commonly prescribed antidepressant, sertraline, barely relieves depression. Published in The Lancet Psychiatry as part of the PANDA trial researchers examined the effects of antidepressants on people with mild symptoms of depression. No significant reduction in depressive symptoms was found after 6 weeks with only a weak improvement after 12 weeks. A 23% reduction in symptoms of anxiety was found. The researchers expressed shock at such poor results calling for better treatments to be made available. Despite the research, doctors have been quick to defend the use of the drug, no doubt because there is little else in their arsenal and mental health issues are on the rise. The time for treating emotional and mental health challenges with drugs is over. The new medicine is all about regenerating health, instead of managing disease.

GM is not a silver bullet

OF&G Organic has hit back at a report on BBC Farming Today, which allowed a Bayer representative to blatantly promote the use of GM technologies claiming they are successful and popular and use less pesticides. The OF&G response emphasises the complex challenges facing modern food systems quoting NFU president Minette Batters who said, ”The conversation must be around a healthy, balanced diet and climate friendly food, not searching for a silver bullet.” The importance of solutions that work with nature has also been emphasised by a new study published in Nature Communications by researchers from Michigan State University. Conducted over a nine-year period the study reveals the importance of improving the sustainability of agricultural systems by promoting plant diversity to enhance soil fertility and carbon capture.

Sugar intake worsens autoimmune disease

A new study in mice found that a high sugar intake worsens autoimmune disease. Researchers from NIH’s National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) fed mice bred to develop autoimmune conditions, sugar-sweetened water in amounts similar to sugary drink consumption in humans. Compared to mice drinking plain water, drinking sugary water worsened disease progression by promoting inflammation through the stimulation of pro-inflammatory immune cells. With the huge increase in autoimmune disease now affecting us, changing our diet is one of the easiest and safest ways to step back from the autoimmune cliff before you teeter on the edge.