Health crisis in Asia deepens

New research has exposed the rapidly rising consumption of ultra-processed foods in Taiwanese adolescents. Conducted by the School of Public Health, National Defences Medical Centre in Taiwan, the study compares Nutrition and Health Surveys of 16-18 year olds in Taiwan from 1993-1996 to the 2011 study. In the same period, consumption of traditional foods dropped from 55% to 39%.

ASEAN countries are also experiencing increasing levels of obesity and associated chronic diseases caused by similar moves away from traditional diets (and lifestyles) to more western processed and ultra-processed foods. Sun Life Financial Asia released its second annual Diabetes Awareness Survey. It revealed that, although there has been an improvement in the awareness and understanding of type 2 diabetes in ASEAN countries, there is a substantial gap between that understanding and the number of people actively seeking and taking preventative measures. The rising tide of chronic disease has led to a demand with which conventional healthcare systems are ill-equipped to deal with. This demand has become a key factor in the growth of teleconsultation apps in the region. Recognising these problems led ANH-Intl’s Rob Verkerk PhD and Meleni Aldridge to partner with international and local experts at their recent symposium for doctors and healthcare professionals in Kuala Lumpur.

Demented high carb diet advice from Oz?

Adding yet more grist to the dietary debate mill, a new Australian study could fool you into thinking that government advice that recommends you should eat lots of carbs is correct. Apparently a low protein, high carb diet can help you ward off dementia… But that’s only if you’re a mouse and therefore not a human, and only if you eat very specifically prepared mouse chow that bears absolutely no resemblance to high carb, highly processed junk food diets that now typify most high carb diets consumed in the West. The study compared four low protein, high-carb (LPHC) diets, which the mice were allowed to eat freely, against a 20% calorie-reduced diet. Despite the considerable PR spin, the conclusions of this study are limited and cannot – and should not – be applied to humans. This is especially true when it is known from a wealth of human studies that carbohydrate restriction, along with increased production of ketone bodies, has neuroprotective benefits.

Huge increase in children on autistic spectrum

Contradicting previous Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates of children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), shocking new research actually shows a huge jump in numbers. Earlier this year the CDC data reported a rate of 1:59 children with ASD diagnoses. Using data from the 2016 HRSA National Survey of Children’s Health researchers publishing in the journal Pediatrics estimate as many as 1 in 40 children aged 3 to 17 have received an ASD diagnosis. The burden on both families and the healthcare system is huge and the enormity of the problem should not be underestimated. Despite such conclusive data the CDC continues to obfuscate, trying to play down the seriousness of the issue.

FDA bans cancer causing food additives

Have you ever heard of benzophenone, ethyl acrylate, methyl eugenol, myrcene, pulegone or pyridine? No? They are all chemical compounds designed to mimic natural flavours. It’s unlikely you’ve ever seen them on a food label as most food manufacturers tend to simply label them as ‘artificial flavours’. Shockingly, most of these chemicals have never been tested for safety, using a loophole allowing food companies to deem them as ‘generally recognised as safe’ (GRAS) without further recourse or checks. Even worse they have been linked to cancer in animals. In response to legal action brought by a coalition of organisations, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has made the decision to ban these 7 ‘flavours’ from human consumption, acknowledging the results of the cancer trials as a main driver. Although a win for consumers, these 7 substances are a tiny fraction of the chemicals used in the grand scheme of food processing. To protect yourself and your family against such additives we recommend following a diet rich in nutrient-dense natural foods as set out in the ANH-Intl Food4Health guidelines.

Failing food systems

Ahead of the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24), a new report released last week concludes that, our food systems are failing us. Funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) the InterAcademy Partnership report sets out the scale of the problem facing global food systems, as well as suggesting potential solutions. To be able to provide healthy, nutritious, affordable and environmentally sustainable nutrition, a radical overhaul is needed of global food production systems. This comes alongside the severity of the problems facing the planet from climate change brought home by eminent naturalist Sir David Attenborough during his speechat the opening ceremony of COP24. The message is very clear. We have to act and act now to save this precious resource we all rely on.

Calls for New Zealand sugar tax

New Zealand could be the latest country to implement a sugar tax following others in east Asia, such as Malaysia, Taiwan, Singapore and the Philippines. The call comes after researchers found consumers of sugary fizzy drinks are more likely to have a generally unhealthy diet than non-consumers and be less likely to self-regulate consumption. As with many other countries around the world, New Zealand is facing a rising tide of obesity and related chronic diseases. New Zealanders are estimated to consume approximately 37 teaspoons of sugar per day, with 17% of intake coming from fizzy sugar-ladens drinks. As in the UK, many companies are choosing to reformulate with artificial sweeteners to avoid such taxes, which are known to be a driver of type 2 diabetes. As policymakers hail the success of such interventions, consumers believing themselves to be making healthier choices, unknowingly continue to put themselves at risk.