Why traffic light labelling of foods won’t work

The policy makers are desperate to do something about obesity but traffic light labelling would achieve nothing. The nutrition criteria at the heart of the concept are wrong.

Health authorities around the world have struggled to find effective ways of addressing the obesity epidemic. One recommended strategy is the introduction of traffic light labelling of food products to make it easier for the general public to choose healthier foods in the supermarket. It is argued that healthier food choices would not only tackle the obesity issue but could also address many other diet-related chronic diseases. Sounds good in theory but it simply won’t work. Continue reading

Wholegrains, whole foods and health: where does the science end and the philosophy begin?

When nutrition experts review the same data and come to different conclusions we have to ask why?

Nutrition experts review scientific evidence for different reasons. On the one hand a review might be conducted during the development of healthy eating advice for the general public – this has occurred recently in Australia during the preparation of the new Dietary Guidelines. In the United States and Canada, another reason for reviewing scientific evidence is to apply for a health claim – a government-sanctioned claim for use on food packaging. Such claims are a boon to marketing and are highly sought after. Whatever the motive for a scientific review on a particular topic, the results should be pretty much the same. Evidence is evidence. But it doesn’t always turn out that way.

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‘Is low fat milk unhealthy?’

A current affairs program broadcast last week posed the question: ‘Is low fat milk unhealthy?’ And then followed up with ‘For more than two decades we’ve been encouraged to go low fat or even no fat when it comes to milk, but stunning new results may change all that.’ Really? What are these stunning new results?

Whenever new scientific findings are announced via current affairs programs on television my scepticism antennae start to twitch. It’s a safe assumption that a public relations firm has been engaged to push the story through to the general public. Let’s look at the science behind it.

The trigger for the program was a review published in the European Journal of Nutrition exploring possible links between the consumption of high fat dairy foods and risk for cardiovascular disease and obesity. This is one of a series of reviews of epidemiological evidence relating to dairy foods published over the last few years.

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