Hong Kong Begins to Cut Salt in Students’ Lunches

Naomi Ng wrote . . . . . . .

Officials revealed that since the start of the academic year this month, the 13 suppliers had already reduced sodium levels by nine per cent in meals served at 440 primary schools, exceeding the yearly target of five per cent, or a 50 mg reduction per meal.

A government study in 2013 revealed that 99 per cent of school lunch samples contained an average of 950 mg of salt per meal, exceeding the recommended intake of 500mg.

Primary school pupils only need a teaspoon, or 1,500 mg of salt a day, according to the Department of Health.

Although participation in the low-salt drive will not be mandatory, the government hopes to cut down sodium levels in primary school lunches by 47 per cent by 2027.

Health authorities will also conduct a citywide test to evaluate nutrition levels in all primary school lunches early next year, which will also ascertain how much sodium levels have gone down since 2013.

Dr Anne Fung Yu-kei, the department’s assistant director for health promotion, said the drive would gradually improve children’s health in the long run.

“Excessive intake of sodium could lead to hypertension, or high blood pressure. It is also the major cause of cardiovascular diseases and stroke,” Fung said.

Condiments and seasonings such as chicken powder, soy sauce, ketchup and Worcester sauce are known to be major sources of high sodium levels in the Chinese diet.

Fung added it was important for schools not to label the lunchboxes as “reduced sodium” meals.

“We worry that children will form subjective connotations [if they are labelled]. A phased sodium reduction approach will help [pupils’] palates gradually adapt to the change in taste and increases their acceptance of less sodium in food,” she said.

A 47 per cent reduction target was in line with international standards, the department said. In the United States, a nationwide programme was introduced in 2012 to help schools reduce sodium in lunches by 53 per cent to 640mg by 2022.

There are no statistics on the prevalence of hypertension in children and adolescents, but government figures show an increasing rate of students with abnormal blood pressure levels being referred to hospitals.

Lunch suppliers have had to make alterations to recipes to meet the annual target, but they say that less salt does not necessarily mean bland meals.

In a pilot project last year, six suppliers sold more than 107,000 sodium-reduced lunchboxes to 306 primary schools, with only one complaint that the meal was tasteless.

Nicole Wong Ho-yan, a nutritionist at Danny Catering Service, said the company was able to meet the goal by reducing one tablespoon of sauce per lunchbox.

Another caterer said it used alternative seasonings in its marinade, such as ginger and herbs, which contained less salt.

Source: SCMP

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Health Canada Trans Fat Ban Takes Effect Next Year

Artificial trans fat will finally be off our plates, Heart & Stroke says, nearly 12 years after the move was recommended to the federal government.

Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor announced Friday the final step to ban partially hydrogenated oils in all foods sold in Canada.

The oils are the main source of trans fats in foods that raise levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad” cholesterol and lower “good” cholesterol, which can take a toll on our heart health.

Trans fats are used in the production of pastries, other baked goods and some packaged goods to extend shelf life. 

Eliminating the main source of industrially produced trans fat from the food supply will help to protect the health of Canadians, Petitpas Taylor said in a statement.

Canadian researchers estimate a ban could prevent 12,000 heart attacks in Canada over 20 years.

The ban will come into force one year from today on Sept. 15, 2018, to give the food industry enough time to find suitable alternatives, the regulator said.

It will apply to all foods sold in the country, including imported products and foods prepared and served in restaurants and food service establishments.

Heart & Stroke said it will reduce the number of heart attacks in Canada and save lives.

Heart & Stroke co-chaired a task force with Health Canada in 2006 that first recommended the ban. 

In the U.S., manufacturers must ensure that their food products no longer contain trans fats unless otherwise authorized by June 18, 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration  says.

Source: CBC

A Fast and Hearty Breakfast Treat with Crisp, Egg-dipped Multigrain Bread

Ingredients

1/4 cup orange juice
2 eggs
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
4 slices multigrain bread

Topping

1/2 cup extra orange juice
2 tablespoons strawberry jam

Method

  1. In shallow dish, whisk together orange juice, eggs and cinnamon. Set aside.
  2. In frying pan, melt half the butter over moderate heat.
  3. Dip bread slices into egg mixture, turning to thoroughly soak both sides.
  4. Add bread to pan in batches, adding more butter as needed, and fry until golden brown, about 1 minute per side. Place on heated serving plates.
  5. In small saucepan, combine extra orange juice and jam. Heat, stirring until jam is melted. Drizzle as desired over french toast.

Makes 2 servings.

Source: Family Circle magazine

In Pictures: Breakfast Toasts

Antidepressants Associated with Significantly Elevated Risk of Death, Researchers Find

Antidepressant medications, most commonly prescribed to reduce depression and anxiety, increase the risk of death, according to new findings by a McMaster-led team of researchers.

It’s widely known that brain serotonin affects mood, and that most commonly used antidepressant treatment for depression blocks the absorption of serotonin by neurons. It is less widely known, though, that all the major organs of the body–the heart, kidneys, lungs, liver–use serotonin from the bloodstream.

Antidepressants block the absorption of serotonin in these organs as well, and the researchers warn that antidepressants could increase the risk of death by preventing multiple organs from functioning properly.

The researchers reviewed studies involving hundreds of thousands of people and found that antidepressant users had a 33% higher chance of death than non-users. Antidepressant users also had a 14% higher risk of cardiovascular events, such as strokes and heart attacks. The findings were published today in the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics.

“We are very concerned by these results. They suggest that we shouldn’t be taking antidepressant drugs without understanding precisely how they interact with the body,” says author Paul Andrews, an associate professor at McMaster University who led the research team.

Taken by one in eight adult Americans, antidepressants are among the most frequently used medications. They are often prescribed by family doctors without a formal diagnosis of depression, on the assumption they are safe. Since depression itself can be deadly–people with depression are at an increased risk of suicide, stroke and heart attack–many physicians think that antidepressants could save lives by reducing depressive symptoms.

However, McMaster researcher and co-author Marta Maslej, says, “Our findings are important because they undermine this assumption. I think people would be much less willing to take these drugs if they were aware how little is known about their impact outside of the brain, and that what we do know points to an increased risk of death.”

Benoit Mulsant, a psychiatrist at the University of Toronto who was also involved in the study, says the findings point to the need for more research on how antidepressants actually do work.

“I prescribe antidepressants even though I do not know if they are more harmful than helpful in the long-term. I am worried that in some patients they could be, and psychiatrists in 50 years will wonder why we did not do more to find out,” Mulsant says.

Interestingly, the news about antidepressants is not all bad. The researchers found that antidepressants are not harmful for people with cardiovascular diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. This makes sense since these antidepressants have blood-thinning effects that are useful in treating such disorders. Unfortunately, this also means that for most people who are in otherwise good cardiovascular health, antidepressants tend to be harmful.

Source: EurekAlert!


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