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Showing posts from June, 2012

Obesity and social disadvantage

Frequently, when chatting with my middle class friends on nutrition and health, I have to argue long and hard against some preconceived notion of the truth behind the topic of discussion. Of all of these issues, the one I encounter most frequently and the one that meets most resistance to change is the view that the problem of obesity is really a problem of the lower socio-economic groups.A frequent argument put forward is that“if you look at their shopping trolleys in supermarkets, they are laden with all sorts of junk foods”. So let me give you the facts. Taking the Irish population as a whole and using the IUNA database, body mass index (BMI kg/m2) is 26.8 among the professional workers, 27.4 among non-manual workers, 28.4 among skilled workers and 26.0 among the unskilled workforce. An acceptable level of BMI is 25 and I should add that the variance (standard deviations) of these figures is broadly similar. Now you can look at this and say: ”See I told you so. There is a graded ri…

Brain food ~ get it early

The human brain is, pro rata bigger and is far more complex in structure than in any other species. It tends to be a very busy organ and consumes about 25% of the daily caloric intake of an average person. This increases to about 50% of caloric intake in the children aged 1 to 6 years and reaches 55% in 4-6 month olds and a staggering 75% in newborn babies. Around about the age of 30, the human brain begins to shrink at the rate of 1 milligram per year and if that seems a small rate of decline (a lifetime reduction of 8% volume), the evolution of the human brain to its present size was also 1 milligram per year. Without question, the biggest fear people have in entering old age is a loss of cognitive function with Alzheimer’s disease the worst-case scenario. The issue is so important that it attracts all forms of snake-oil merchants promising this or that diet to stave off any decline in cognitive function.
The best place to start the task of ensuring a healthy brain throughout adult l…

Sugar taxes re-visited: An economic and nutritional analysis

Following an extremely successful Policy Workshopof the UCD Institute of Food and Health last Friday, I return to the issue of fat and sugar taxes. We had two economists and two nutritionists from UCD.The main focus was a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, which interests the Irish government, such that they have created a Health Impact Assessment exercise to explore this option.Just under half or Irish adult males are overweight while the comparable figure for females in just under one third. The respective figures for obesity levels are one quarter and one fifth. So, we have a problem as has most developed countries. Anne Nugent presented data from the National Adult Nutrition Survey and used these data to examine various parameters across quartiles of calories from sugars (non-milk sugars). From the lowest to the highest quartiles, there were no differences in any measure of obesity or of fat distribution.It could be argued that total non-milk sugars is a poor tracker of the intake …