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Food advice and health just don’t add up

There is a clear link between non-communicable disease and diet. Sometimes those we depend upon for facts let us down

Looking for information about food policy, I checked out the Australian Government Department of Health website

Under the heading What we’re doing about food and nutrition, I read that:

 “Poor diet is responsible for 7% of Australia’s disease burden”

Australin Government

I guess this means that 93% of disease in Australia is not the result of a poor diet.

OK…

The most common cause of death in Australia is coronary heart disease, this is well documented by the Australian Department of Health. Indeed, there was $29 Million allocated for research into ‘the nation’s two biggest killers – heart disease and stroke’ in 2020.

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare

This graphic from The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, a statutory body, set up under Australian Government legislation and accountable to the Australian Parliament through the Minister for Health, shows the five leading causes of death in 2019.

Heart disease as a killer of Aussies is recognised by the Australian Department of Health’s National Strategic Action Plan for Heart Disease and Stroke. This document tells us that heart disease is responsible for 30% of all deaths in Australia, it is also quite clear about the ‘risk factors’ that are ‘modifiable’ (under the control of the individual) – blood pressure, cholesterol, diet, physical activity, weight, smoking, and alcohol intake. 

There is also strong evidence from the published literature linking diet and heart disease. There are thousands of papers exploring this link.

Here are a few examples:

This 2019 systematic review of 123 reports explored the relationships between several food groups (Grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts legumes, dairy, fish, meat, eggs, and sugar-sweetened beverages) and concluded that an ‘optimal’ intake of these foods lowered the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, and heart failure.

This editorial in the British Medical Journal ‘Open Heart’ argues that the primary cause of coronary heart disease is not saturated fat but added sugars. This is an ongoing argument in medicine and worthy of its own post. Wherever the evidence eventually takes us on this, both are about diet.

This 2018 study, published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, titled Nutrition and Cardiovascular Health, sought to analyse how some foods and eating patterns are protective against heart disease. The paper concluded an “intimate relationship between nutrition and cardiovascular disease”. Although interestingly, they also noted many contradictions in the literature about which foods and dietary patterns were the most protective.

The World Health Organisation also concurs, stating:  ‘Most cardiovascular diseases can be prevented by addressing behavioral risk factors such as tobacco use, unhealthy diet and obesity, physical inactivity and harmful use of alcohol’.


Dietary guidelines 

Australia, like most countries, has published dietary guidelines. The webpage explaining them is called eatforhealth.gov.au.

Eat for health.

Reasons for needing these guidelines include ‘protects against chronic disease’ and:

 Unfortunately, diet-related chronic diseases are currently a major cause of death and disability among Australians.”

So why is the same government providing such conflicting information?

Good question.

Sustainable FED can only suggest how important it is to engage your ‘healthy sceptic’ when making decisions about something as important as your health and your diet.

There is little doubt that diet is an essential factor in our health.

Being informed about healthy food and diet is a challenge when those we might trust for credible information give mixed messages.


Hero image modified from photo by AllGo – An App For Plus Size People on Unsplash

Chris

Chris is a latecomer to ecology but has happily landed where he should have been all along as an ecological practitioner in his bush regeneration business. When not out passionately managing land, trawling the evidence on nutrition, diet and health or carefully advising NGOs and government, he grows plants in his commercial nursery

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