By Val Cocksedge OAM

NCWQ Nutrition Adviser

New UN Decade: The General Assembly decided 2016-2015 will be the Decade of Action on Nutrition, recognising the need to eradicate hunger and prevent all forms of malnutrition world-wide, particularly under nourishment; stunting; wasting; underweight and overweight in children under 5 years of age. It also states the rising trend in overweight/obesity should be reversed and the burden of diet-related, non-communicable diseases in all age groups be reduced. (Refer FAO website:

Australia’s obesity epidemic cannot be denied or ignored. Alarming statistics show that 63% or just under 2 in 3 adults are so overweight they are classified as obese and 1 in 4 young people already obese. There are 1.4 million Australians with type 2 diabetes. The financial, personal and social costs cannot be ignored – our rising health bill increases by $56 million with people suffering diet-related diseases.

A 47-point obesity action plan drawn up by up to 100 nutrition experts from 53 organisations in conjunction with governments would ban junk food in schools and sports venues (A crackdown on using junk food vouchers as rewards for sporting performance and for fund-raising); put pressure of state government to improve the healthiness of foods in settings controlled by them – hospital, workplaces and government events, also changes in urban planning rules to restrict unhealthy food venues and to make space for healthy food outlets. Australians receiver 35% of their energy from discretionary foods which include fried food, processed meats, soft drinks, confectionary – for those aged 14 – 18 the number rises to 40%.

Half of all Australians are exceeding WHO recommendation that they consume less than 13 teaspoons of sugar a day – with most hidden in soft drinks, processed foods (cereals, pre-prepared meal choices, baked beans, yoghurts, soups etc.)

The Australian Bureau of Statistics Health Survey shows it is time for politicians to put the interest of people’s health above food industry lobbyists. The UK will introduce a sugar tax next year. Chile has passed a number of laws to curb the country’s high obesity level, particularly among children. They have an 18% tax on sugary drinks, warnings on any packaged food wrappers that exceeds a set amount of kilojoules, sodium, sugar and saturated fat. Mexico imposed a sugar tax 3 years ago and has recorded a drop of 12% in the consumption of sugary drinks. A sugar tax on beverages in California saw a drop of 9.6% sales.

A new Choice investigation has revealed that labelling of added sugar could help consumers avoid 26 teaspoons of unnecessary sugar per day and up to 38 kg a year. However, these savings can only be achieved with true and meaningful information. There are 42 different names for added sugar – e.g. dextrose, sucrose, fructose, invert sugar, muscovado, lactose, palm sugar, agave nectar/syrup, molasses, coconut palm sugar etc.

At their most recent meeting, food ministers from states, territories and federal government renewed their commitment to improve the health of Australians. They want more information and research on sugar labelling before they make their decision in November of this year. If you wish to add your voice to clearer labelling, join the campaign at

Energy/sports drinks and sugar-laden soft drinks have been removed from sale at Caboolture hospital; Lady Cilento is pushing for a ban on soft drinks sales, removing soft drinks from vending machines and eateries. Other metro north hospitals are expected to reduce the availability and size of sugary drinks by the end of the year.

World Food Day is 16 October, with the theme – “Try for 5”, encouraging the inclusion of fruits and vegetables in the daily diet.

The world population is expected to soar to 8 billion by 2025. Demand for protein is set to skyrocket. With many suggesting meat production is environmentally and economically unsustainable at the high levels needed, it is believed the alternative source of protein – chickpeas – may provide the answer. High quality chickpeas help lower cholesterol. The UN declared 2016 the “International year of Pulses”, which saw India’s appetite for Queensland’s  clean, green chickpea crop soar.

The quality of Australian’s toddlers’ diet has been found to deteriorate between the ages of 14 to 24 months as they consume foods high in salt and fat rather than fruits, vegetables, wholegrains and meat. The nation’s peak body of nutrition is calling for an overhaul of university campus food after a study highlighted the high level of snacks and drinks students buy from vending machines. The Dietetics Association of Australia report found 95% of snacks and 49% drinks were high in kilojoules – at odds with nurturing academic performance.

With new research there is evidence the benefits of a Mediterranean Diet can slow down cognitive decline as well as improving heart health. (Frontiers in Nutrition Journal). The main foods in a Mediterranean Diet include plant food – leafy greens, fresh fruit and vegetables, cereals, beans, seeds, nuts and legumes. It is lower in dairy, has minimum red meat and uses olive oil as its source of fat. Researchers from the Centre for Human Psychopharmacology at Melbourne Swinburne University of Technology analysed data from 2006-2015 found that attention, language and memory were positively affected by the inclusion of the Mediterranean Diet.

The Queensland government is encouraging the consumption of different coloured fruit and vegetables with different nutrients and health benefits – helping give your body vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants it needs to stay healthy by developing a coloured wheel “Give Colour a Spin” shown on TV and in the newspapers. Discover more at You can spin the coloured recipe wheel for a variety of coloured-coded recipes.

Other Queensland government advertisements in newspapers include “Multivitamins are no substitute for Fruit and Vegetables”; “Coconut oil (popular with food bloggers),is not the healthiest type of oil – high saturated fat-raising blood cholesterol and links to heart disease.” The Free Fruit for Kids Program with baskets of complimentary seasonal fruits placed in the supermarket giants aims to encourage children to eat more fruit.

Second Bite was founded to provide fresh, nutritious food for people across Australia and to reduce the amount of food being wasted. Food Bank Queensland collects food for 300 welfare agencies and 200 school breakfast programs.

Palm Oil has more than 50% of saturated fat and can raise cholesterol. Manufacturers at present are not required to distinguish the vegetable oil used in their products. The UN estimates that this product is used in about half of all packaged goods. More than 80% of palm oil comes from SE Asia where forests that house the already endangered orang-utans are destroyed to make way for palm oil plantations. In the US and European Union products using palm oil must be clearly labelled.

Recently invented GM techniques (CRISPR; ZFN; TALENs, RNA; Gene Drives now dominate biotechnology research and commercial development. Using new GM methods, all living things are being genetically manipulated, monopoly patented and owned and could soon be released without regulation or labelling. Only GM canola and cotton are grown in Australia on a small scale. Over 95% of Australian farmers are GM free and GM canola earns big premiums. Tasmania, South Australia, ACT and NT remain proudly GM free. GM-free shopping lists are available at

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