New research has found that people who take mineral supplements actually consume more minerals from their normal diet than non-supplement users. The notion of the 'worried well' is certainly alive and kicking
Vitamin and mineral supplements are big business. Reported figures in Australia suggest that 27% of women and 15% of men take some form of supplement with vitamin C, B complex, multivitamins, vitamin E and calcium all being popular choices.
Contrary to the rationale for needing supplements in the first place, people who take supplements are more likely to be healthier than people who don’t take supplements. Supplement users also tend to be leaner, smoke less, exercise more, and eat more fruit and vegetables.
Today marks the release of the revised Australian Dietary Guidelines. So what has changed since the last update in 2003? Very little in the way of the main recommendations, but the evidence base for the guidelines has grown stronger.
A simple bowl of soup has been found to be an effective way to curb appetite and promote feelings of fullness.
True hunger is a rare experience for most people in the developed world. What people typically experience are feelings of desire for particular foods or a need to feel ‘full’
Satiety is the term scientists use to mean the feelings of fullness we experience after a large meal. What drives satiety is a complex mix of psychological and physiological factors including physical stretching of the stomach and small intestine from food and a cascade of release of hormones that feed back into the brain to tell us we are full.
Recently, human growth hormone (or HGH) has found media attention for its use by sports people to gain an unfair competitive advantage.
HGH is naturally produced in the body just below the brain in the anterior pituitary gland as part of a family of peptide hormones. HGH performs a wide (and not yet fully understood) range of signaling functions in the body, such as stimulating the immune system and strengthening bone through increased calcium retention; but, from a doping point of view, it’s ability to trigger the secretion of insulin like growth factor (IGF-1) is of interest.
During the past forty years global rates of overweight and obesity have risen dramatically. In 2010 more than 155 million children worldwide were overweight (more than one in ten) and of these approximately 30-45 million were obese, or between two and three per cent of the world’s 5-17 year-old children.
In Australia, more than 14 million people fall within the overweight or obese range, and Australia is ranked as one of the fattest nations in the developed world. The prevalence of obesity in Australia has more than doubled in the past 20 years, and children are at particular risk of overweight and obesity.
But the answer is probably not a ban on all marketing to children. In the first instance, simply the practicalities of a blanket ban would be incredibly difficult, particularly in trying to keep up with the constantly changing promotional environment.
A comprehensive review of clinical trials involving a wide range of popular dietary supplements has found that with the exception of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, there is little evidence to support their use in Western countries by the general population.
Dietary supplements are big business, with around half of the Australian population using at least one type per year; most commonly a multivitamin and mineral pill. Many people take supplements as a form of dietary insurance in case they are not meeting their nutrient needs from foods alone. Others take them as a form of health insurance – to protect against certain diseases. Some just take them out of habit.
Supplements do have a role to play in some situations. People with a diagnosed deficiency, those with malabsorption conditions, women planning pregnancy, and people with very poor diets all can benefit from specific nutrient supplementation.
It is the question that underpins the search to find an answer to the obesity problem: what drives us to eat? No matter what a person’s genetic profile, environment or activity levels, eating more food than what the body needs to meet its energy demands results in just one outcome: weight gain.
Pervasive food marketing and 24 hour access to cheap, energy-dense food are important drivers of making us eat more. Other factors such as lack of sleep, endocrine disorders, air conditioners (which reduce the energy needed by the body to regulate temperature), and even increasing maternal age are just some of a long list of factors that can each explain a small part of the weight gain problem.
Medical-legal partnerships have broken down the barriers to accessible legal services for people experiencing health issues in the United States. Such programs demonstrate the health benefits of effective legal advocacy on behalf of patients and Australia could learn from this model to improve access to justice and deliver better health outcomes.
In the search for the solution to the growing waistlines of Australians, many popular diets have been tried and eventually discarded. There are literally hundreds of dieting books and programs to choose from, with many popular ones substantially departing from mainstream nutrition and medical advice.
So should it be low-fat, low-carbohydrate, high-protein, low-glycaemic index, small meals or any one of a myriad of other popular dieting approaches? The scientific jury is now firmly in with dozens of high-quality randomised controlled trials showing that no one dieting option is the magic solution for everyone.
State of the evidence
Apart from some short-term success for particular approaches, mostly low-carbohydrate diets, all of the popular dieting approaches fare poorly in terms of weight loss, weight maintenance and adherence once the 6-month milestone is passed.
There is a lot we know about the best food and lifestyle choices to help someone lower the risk of developing cancer. But what about once a person has cancer? New nutrition and physical activity guidelines give the best advice for what cancer survivors should aim for.
Thanks to earlier detection and much better treatment options, cancer today is certainly not a death sentence. Well over half of people diagnosed will be alive after 5 years.