November 2018 - Proportion Foods
Proportion Foods - Nutrition for Active and Healthy Aging

Nutrition for Active and Healthy Aging

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The alarming rise of food allergies

Posted by ProPortion Foods Blog on Nov 23, 2018 in Research

The number of people with food allergies is rising dramatically around the world. In fact, data suggest that peanut allergies have tripled over the past couple of decades.


Food allergy – an abnormal immune response to specific proteins – affects around 1 in 20 children. The most common triggers are egg, cow’s milk, peanut, tree nuts, seafood, soy, fish and wheat.


Most reactions aren’t severe, and many children will outgrow them. But peanut, tree nut, seed and seafood allergies are more likely to cause lifelong problems. And it is possible to develop an allergic reaction to a food that was previously safe to eat.


By adulthood, around 2 in 100 people suffer from food allergies. Symptoms can include swelling around the face, hives or skin rash, stomach pain and vomiting. In some they can cause anaphylaxis, a life-threatening reaction to suspect foods.



Less known allergies


Not everyone with an allergy reacts to the common foods. More than 160 different foods have caused allergic reactions, including meat, sesame seeds, avocados, marshmallows (gelatin), corn, mango, dried fruit, and hot dogs.


Many less common food allergies are caused by oral allergy syndrome (OAS) or pollen-food allergy syndrome. People with OAS react to inhaled allergens like pollen from trees, weeds or grasses, and can develop “cross-reactivity” to foods with similar proteins.


For instance, many people with an allergy to birch and mugwort pollen also react to raw apple, and citrus fruit allergy can cross over to other citrus fruits, grass pollens, Timothy grass, birch and mugwort pollen.



Food labelling


Allergic reactions can impact quality of life. And because of serious and potentially fatal reactions in rare cases, common allergens must be listed on all foods.


Failure to list all ingredients can be tragic, like in the case of 15-year old Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, who died from an allergic reaction to a baguette in 2016. The culprit was sesame seeds, which was not on the ingredient list.


Hospitals and aged care facilities also need to be aware of new laws.


People who are allergic to peanuts (which are legumes, not nuts) might also be allergic to lupin, another type of high protein legume.


Australia’s food standards body, FSANZ, recently changed food labelling laws to require that lupin be declared as an ingredient – even if the food isn’t packaged.


Although lupin is not ordinarily used in Australian foods, it can be found in a range of common food items like bread, bakery products, pasta, sauces, beverages and even meat-based products like burgers and sausages.



Why the rise?


Experts are not sure why food allergies are rising, but environmental influences are most likely.


A probable factor is the human microbiome – the 100 trillion bacteria and other microbes that coexist with us, mainly in our gut. These microbes play crucially important roles in immunity.


A host of modern practices has diluted our microbial diversity, including excessive use of antibiotics and disinfectants, and replacing diverse plant food diets with highly processed foods.


Another intriguing link is the higher incidence of food allergies in areas with less sunlight, suggesting a possible role for vitamin D.


Drawing from these observations, experts advise that we increase our exposure to green spaces, natural environments and sunlight, and regularly eat a broad range of plant foods.


Note that food allergies are different to food sensitivities.


Food sensitivities or intolerances are more prevalent than food allergy. They are not caused by an immune response, so the only way to identify them is by eliminating suspect foods then challenging to see if they produce a reaction.





“A vision for a more active world”

Posted by ProPortion Foods Blog on Nov 16, 2018 in Mobility

Television, technology, and transport have transformed our leisure time, communication and movement. These luxuries have also added to a global crisis of inactivity and chronic illness.


Regular physical activity helps ward off diseases that are now plaguing the planet, like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, mental illness and Alzheimer’s disease.


Yet more than one in four adults around the world—1.4 billion people—are not active enough, according to a new study published in the Lancet. And countries that are economically more advanced are also more inactive.



Rebound effects


Beyond disease, the World Health Organisation warns that failing to increase physical activity will impact health systems, the environment, economic development, community wellbeing and quality of life.


To address this problem, members of the WHO met in 2009 to develop physical activity guidelines. Yet low activity levels have remained unchanged, according to the Lancet study.


Taking effective action, then, will need to be powerfully tackled at multiple levels, according to the WHO.


“Effective implementation will require bold leadership combined with cross-government and multisectoral partnerships at all levels to achieve a coordinated, whole-of-system response,” they declare.



The WHO’s vision


The WHO has set a goal to bring global physical inactivity levels down by 10% before 2025 and 15% by 2030.


They say policy action on physical activity is intertwined with 13 sustainable development goals, ranging from healthy weight to environmental conservation and reduced fossil fuel consumption, academic achievement and equality to stronger communities and sustainable infrastructure.


Their recommendations include creating active societies by improving social norms and attitudes towards physical activity and creating active environments to enhance opportunities for people to move more.


As well as this, they recommend creating and promoting access to programs and opportunities across multiple settings, so individuals, families and communities can be active regardless of age or surroundings.


In support, active systems will be needed at government and policy levels to promote strong leadership and multisectoral partnerships that help mobilise resources and opportunities for physical activity.



Being active


The WHO recommends that all adults should do at least 150 minutes (two and half hours) of moderate-intensity physical activity each week, or at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise, or a combination of both.


This includes people over 65. The importance of mobility in older age cannot be underestimated—even in adults with limited movement or dementia, who might benefit from a personalised activity program.


Physical activity in over-65s can take many shapes and forms.


Leisure time activities could include walking, dancing, bowling, hiking or swimming. Transport needs provide opportunities to be active by walking or cycling to the local shops, for instance. Even household chores and gardening rate as physical activity.


Recommendations say that aerobic activity—to get the heart pumping—should be done for at least 10 minutes at a time.


Regular muscle strengthening exercises—at least 2 or more days a week—are also extremely important for preventing a host of health problems including sarcopenia, risk of falls and even diabetes.









Ageism in an ageing world

Posted by ProPortion Foods Blog on Nov 8, 2018 in Aging

If you ask the average young person how old is ‘old’, they would say over 50. Ask an older person and they would say over 65.


To complicate things further, chronological age is not necessarily the same as biological, social or psychological age. Some 65-year-olds might look, feel and act younger than someone who is 50.


In any case, the discrepancy in perceptions of ageing fuels stereotypes, one of the issues at the heart of ‘ageism’ – prejudice against older people that causes discrimination.


Our “youth-obsessed culture” doesn’t help, worshipping glossy images of young people and pushing treatments and lotions to hide grey hair and iron out wrinkles.


According to gerontologist Robert Butler, ageism – like racism or sexism – sets people apart from other groups. It allows “the younger generations to see older people as different than themselves; thus they subtly cease to identify with their elders as human beings.”


Ageism pervades our culture and language, as Associate Professor Briony Dow observes, with attitudes like “stupid older drivers.” It creates all manner of discrimination including housing and services. In the workplace, ageism causes unfair hiring, training, retention, promotion and work assignments.


In the media, old people tend to be portrayed as forgetful, frail, slow, helpless and sick, according to a survey of over 2,000 older adults. These prevailing stereotypes would now be frowned on with different races or genders.


For decades, many aged care residents have even been abused or neglected, leading to a long overdue royal commission.



The growing old


Unlike sexism or racism, ageism affects us all directly. Why? Because, if we’re not struck by lightning, a fatal accident or disease in the meantime, all of us will be old one day – whatever age that is.


And the number of people aged 65 and over is set to double between 2009 and 2020. In fact, this cohort is set to exceed the number of children under 5 for the first time in history by 2020, according to Dow.


This growing aging demographic is causing retirement ages to increase while pensions are threatened as society struggles to support older adults. But their recognition or protection is not yet explicitly reflected in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


Even where workplaces have put equal opportunities policies into place, they don’t necessarily align with attitudes, behaviour and practice.



Honouring age


Honouring all people, young and old, is pivotal to a truly civilised society. It acknowledges not only everyone’s fundamental humanity, but older adults’ contribution, raising and nurturing of children, and years of hard work.


“Each time we see an older person, we need to imagine them as our future self, and rather than recoil from their wrinkles or infirmities, applaud their resilience. We need to re-humanise older people,” says British writer Anne Karpf.


Importantly, older adults bring a wealth of wisdom, resilience and maturity that can come with greater experience and lived years if we take the time to slow down and listen to them.


In the workplace, older adults can contribute their knowledge to help younger people handle complex or emotionally challenging situations that they are not yet equipped to deal with.


It’s time to revisit policies and attitudes to reflect that.


Meanwhile, some baby boomers are actively embracing retirement as they reinvent themselves in their “third age”, “encore stage” or “unretirement”.


Are you game to take stock of your attitude to ageing? You can explore it via the Attitudes to Ageing Questionnaire in the video or link below.





Four-legged therapists

Posted by ProPortion Foods Blog on Nov 1, 2018 in Aged Care


In 2017 Nikki took her mini foxie Daphne for regular visits to Bupa Aged Care. They were “pet therapy” volunteers.


Every week, Nikki would have to reintroduce herself and Daphne as many of the residents didn’t remember who they were.


But after a few months some residents started recognising them…well not so much Nikki – they would remember Daphne.


Residents would join them in the living room for cuddles, pats and doggy licks. Or if they preferred to stay in their rooms, Nikki and Daphne would pay them individual visits.


Lucy was a huge dog lover with dog stuffed toys and ornaments in her room. She would always thank Nikki for remembering to visit her.


Many residents would share stories about their dogs and cats, usually from childhood.


One resident didn’t know that it was her birthday the next day. But seeing Daphne reminded her all about her beloved childhood dog – a mini foxie called Kimmy – and how her dad taught Kimmy to do tricks like sit up and shake hands.


Another lady who was confined to bed asked if Daphne could sit on her lap. “Daphne curled up and the lady started crying tears of joy because she just loves dogs so much and missed her dogs,” said Nikki.


“The pure gratitude and love that I witnessed between Daphne and the residents brought me to tears a few times,” she says. “I can’t even put it into words how it made me feel, it was just so special for everyone involved.”



A multitude of benefits


Pets can boost emotional and physical wellbeing. As well as being social catalysts, they offer social support and unconditional love, reducing loneliness and feelings of isolation.


Owning pets has been linked to lower risk factors for heart disease, like reduced blood pressure. Pets can reduce stress levels, and cancer patients have reported that their pets helped them during treatment.


They can also make people laugh, says Janette Young, pet researcher at the University of South Australia, which has known health benefits. “You can’t be depressed when you’re laughing.”


Furry companions can help older adults make the transition to aged care. “We know that people’s depression increases when they go into care, because there’s all these losses,” says Young.


As well as providing comfort, pets can give people “a reason to wake up in the morning,” Young says. The sense of purpose, “that something in the world would miss you,” she adds, “that’s actually protective.”


In interviews with older adults, Young surprisingly uncovered a strong theme of suicide prevention, with people suggesting that without their pets, “they wouldn’t be here”.



Taking pets seriously


“Not taking pets seriously in how we consider and support ageing means we may be condemning some older people to isolation and loneliness,” Young wrote for The Conversation.


She argues that we need to find ways to support older adults to keep their pets when they go into full time care.


Some aged care centres – like Bupa – are welcoming pets because of their demonstrated health benefits. Weighing up the challenges, evidence suggests that the benefits are well and truly worthwhile.


Perhaps pet therapy should be included in new standards for aged care?


Young points out, though, that it’s important to consider the pets’ welfare. Research shows that dogs can be stressed, for instance, but people are unaware of the signs – like looking away, lip licking and yawning.


Some breeds are more anxiety-prone than others. “So we just need to be conscious of the animals as well.”