Posted by ProPortion Foods Blog on Sep 24, 2018 in Nutrition
Every year, food operators including chefs, restauranteurs, café and bar owners gather to showcase new foods, tools of the trade, and industry insights. This year’s show in Melbourne was the biggest event yet.
Temptations from the recent food fest ranged from chocolate masterpieces by artistic chocolatier Stephane LeRoux and patisserie innovations to premium beer, wine and spirits and Peruvian superfoods like Camu Camu fruit and Sacha Inchi seeds.
We presented a variety of possible ways to serve our portion-controlled cakes, from a tray display to plated up portions with garnishes and accompaniments.
The baked cheesecake was a big hit, with people coming back wanting more. We were delighted with compliments on the expert styling by My, and about how delicious our products are.
“It was great to catch up with our current suppliers and customers who stopped by to visit us at our stand, including interstate visitors,” says Nikki. “It’s always nice to be able to put a face to a name.”
Gluten-free products received less attention than in previous years, perhaps owing to their transition from a healthy living niche to mainstream fare. Their appeal has reached beyond people with allergens or intolerance as gluten-free fare has become part of a healthy lifestyle for many.
Hemp – the nutritious, protein-packed, non-psychoactive version – was one of the new kids on the block. Its nutty tasting seeds featured in many novel hemp-based products, owing to Australian legalisation last year that allowed it in foods.
“This is very exciting as it is a complete protein source with a natural health halo,” says Nikki. She thinks that we can expect to see more hemp protein powders, fortified foods and beverages.
Always fascinated to try new foreign foods and beverages, Nikki tried an animal from our own backyard in Australia: wallaby – grilled and as a “salami”.
“Less gamey than kangaroo, it has a soft texture similar to lamb,” she recalls. “A novelty taste testing, but I don’t think I’ll be eating it again.”
Jane is 52 years old. She suffers chronic neck pain and impaired mobility, resulting from an occupational violence attack. But she needs to continue her activities in the domestic domain and understands the importance of staying active despite the pain.
This is not easy. Although Jane’s house was designed for her ageing parents, the surrounding footpaths are dangerous, and she has already tripped a couple of times. Jane is also a quiet person who enjoys intimate social interactions in the comfort of her own home.
John is a socially and mentally active 44-year old who admits to mildly excessive alcohol consumption and periods of depression. He stays physically active to keep fit and get around.
With an aversion to driving, cycling is his preferred mode of transport. He hopes his physical health will allow him to continue. John lives close to a natural enjoyment which facilitates outdoor physical activities.
As Jane and John age, mobility will become an increasingly important theme in their lives. Their independence will count on it.
A comprehensive survey of long-term studies covering 12.6 million older adults found that mobility improved quality of life and body function capacity and reduced medical expenditure.
Grocery shopping, housework, gardening, visiting friends and family, personal hygiene, going to appointments are things we take for granted. But impaired mobility and chronic conditions in aging can have a significant impact on these daily activities.
“Life space”, the space within which people move in their daily lives, impacts mobility – people who have restricted life space tend to be less mobile.
Walking is an activity that can easily be included in a daily routine as a form of transport to increase life space, thereby enhancing mobility and health.
John and Jane both identify Tai Chi as an activity that they could enjoy in 25 years. It is low impact, and as a bonus includes meditation and breathing for mental relaxation.
Global public health policies increasingly target healthy aging. To this end, a lifestyle index was developed to identify key factors related to aging well.
Core components of the index are vigorous and moderate physical activity, consuming fruit and vegetables, regular meals, plenty of fluids, and psychosocial factors – social engagement, networking and life satisfaction.
There is an interactive element to these. For instance, eating well reduces risk of overweight and chronic disease, both of which restrict mobility. Being socially active, like John, will enhance opportunities to be active.
In turn, higher mobility will enable greater engagement in social networks and activities.
Active aging policies could support people like Jane to be mobile by improving sidewalks and providing walking trails.
More broadly, policies across multiple sectors will empower older adults to remain independent, active community members – characteristic of a healthy, humane society.
Although health is core business for hospitals, junk food and soft drinks have long dominated kiosks and vending machines that line hospital foyers and corridors.
But now Queensland is leading the way with a long overdue move to ban these items, which are driving contributors to obesity, poor health and chronic disease.
The ban is motivated by a call to reduce junk food advertising and availability to children. But other hospital goers will also benefit from moves to promote healthy food.
Making these changes is not easy. The food and drink industry, which has long enjoyed binding contracts with hospitals, has complained that it was not consulted in the decision.
Australian Beverages Council spokesperson, Geoff Parker, called the move “an insult to people’s intelligence,” arguing that “People don’t want governments snooping around in vending machines or hospital cafeterias.”
But the world’s leading obesity researchers say making unhealthy foods less available is needed to address the global health crisis. The ubiquity of food that is energy dense and nutritionally poor is a clear contributor to its overconsumption.
The executive summary of The Lancet’s 2015 obesity series argues that “Today’s food environments exploit people’s biological, psychological, social, and economic vulnerabilities, making it easier for them to eat unhealthy foods.
“This reinforces preferences and demands for foods of poor nutritional quality, furthering the unhealthy food environments.
“Regulatory actions from governments and increased efforts from industry and civil society will be necessary to break these vicious cycles.”
Targeting individual behaviours does not work, the researchers contend. They say a broad environmental focus on ‘denormalising’ unhealthy food consumption is needed – much like campaigns to reduce smoking.
That means changing social norms by creating an environment in which consuming unhealthy food and drinks becomes less attractive, less conventional and less accessible.
When trialled, healthier vending machine food and drink options have produced successful outcomes in schools, workplaces, hospitals and health services.
Evaluations of these initiatives not only reported that people bought healthier food items, but also that sales increased.
Behavioural economics tells us that people don’t necessarily make decisions based on careful weighing of risks and benefits. Behaviours are influenced by emotions, identity and environment – including the options available to us.
Based on this, contemporary research is considering how to ‘nudge’ people towards healthier behaviours and improve population health. When it comes to food, a grouped analysis of 42 trials in developed countries found that, on average, nudging strategies produced a 15.3% increase in healthier choices.
Healthier options in hospital vending machines and kiosks may not benefit the processed food and sugary drink industry, but people’s health and wellbeing could surely profit.
Advances in mapping the human genome have fostered understanding of our genomic blueprint and its influence on molecular processes, health and disease. This has extended to investigations of nutritional genomics.
Proponents hope nutritional genomics will lead to greater understanding of how specific food components influence metabolic pathways and long-term disease-risk, enabling individual tailoring of dietary advice and preventive medicine.
This field consists of two primary areas of investigation:
Nutrigenomics is concerned with how food and nutritional components influence gene expression and gene regulation, and their resulting impact on metabolism. It aims to identify individual nutritional needs.
Nutrigenetics, conversely, investigates individual genetic differences in how people respond to dietary intake, and why people have different reactions to the same nutrient.
Ultimately the aim is to achieve better health outcomes by understanding links between genes and diet. According to Ruth Debusk, “The future of dietetics is unquestionable intertwined with nutritional genomics.”
It cannot be disputed that poor diet plays a pivotal role in modern chronic lifestyle diseases like cancer, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, neurological and inflammatory disorders.
But why do some people gain weight more easily, or develop heart disease when others with similar diets don’t? Nutritional genomics hopes to answer these questions so that therapeutic intervention and nutrition guidelines can be individually tailored.
For instance, the APOE gene has a variant that is associated with high LDL cholesterol – so people with this genetic variant may be more vulnerable to the adverse effects of a high fat diet.
Another genotype has been associated with higher concentrations of the “good” HDL cholesterol, but only if saturated fat from animals is less than 30% of energy intake. People with these genes might benefit from a diet higher in vegetable fat.
Other research found that caffeinated coffee increased the risk of heart attacks in people carrying a particular gene that slows caffeine metabolism, while having no effect on those lucky fast coffee metabolisers.
Inflammation is a common feature underlying chronic diseases. Some individuals may produce more inflammatory markers than others, so anti-inflammatory nutrients like omega-3 or turmeric could reduce their susceptibility.
People also have different nutrition requirements, and these vary at different life stages. A vitamin deficiency could be caused by inadequate intake, or because of a genetic variation that impacts its metabolism. These people may need higher amounts of that nutrient, and that could be further impacted by aging.
Although nutritional genomics is generating much excitement and challenging the “one size fits all” approach to nutrition throughout the lifespan, there is much yet to understand.
Unlike single-gene diseases, diet-gene interactions likely involve multiple genes that have multiple interactions with multiple environmental factors – of which bioactive dietary nutrients are not the only contributors.
For instance, several genes are involved in lipid transport alone – just one factor that can influence heart disease risk – including lipid transport proteins, their receptors and lipid-processing enzymes.
New research on the 100 trillion microbes that live in our gut has added further complexity to the broader picture of genetics and human health. And metabolomics seeks to pinpoint metabolites at each step of metabolic pathways that might also help to fine tune dietary advice.
Finally, the unhealthy diets and sedentary behaviours that dominate modern lifestyles will not be solved by nutritional genomics. They bring epigenetics into the bigger picture – the impact that diet and environment has on our genes.