British Food Crowned the Healthiest in Major Global Survey

It turns out that British food isn’t that terrible, after all. A global survey has found that when it comes to having the healthiest packaged foods and drinks, the UK tops the charts, with the USA in 2nd place and Australia coming in at 3rd.

The George Institute for Global Health analysed more than 400,000 food and drink products from 12 countries and territories around the world. The survey highlights the high levels of sugar, saturated fat, salt and calories/kJ in many of our favourite food items.

The countries were ranked using Australia’s Health Star Rating system – which measures the levels of the nutrients such as energy, salt, sugar, saturated fat as well as protein, calcium and fibre and assigns a star rating from ½ (least healthy) to 5 (the most healthy).

It found that the UK had the highest average Health Star Rating of 2.83, followed by the US at 2.82 and Australia at 2.81. India got the lowest rating of just 2.27 followed by China at 2.43 with Chile coming third from bottom at 2.44. The results were published in Obesity Reviews.

Read the full text, ‘A comparison of the healthiness of packaged foods and beverages from 12 countries using the Health Star Rating nutrient profiling system, 2013–2018’
Lead author Dr Elizabeth Dunford said the results were concerning because packaged foods and drinks are driving a double burden of diet-related diseases in many low- and middle-income countries.

“Globally we’re all eating more and more processed foods and that’s a concern because our supermarkets shelves are full of products that are high in bad fats, sugar and salt and are potentially making us sick. Our results show that some countries are doing a much better job than others. Unfortunately it’s the poorer nations that are least able to address the adverse health consequences that have the unhealthiest foods.”

Key results

  • China’s drinks were some of the healthiest in the survey with an average Health Star Rating of 2.9 but packaged foods scored low at just 2.39.
  • South Africa on the other hand scored low with its drinks at an average 1.92 Health Star Rating whilst its foods came in at 2.87.
  • Canada topped the list for unhealthy salt levels in foods and drinks with an average of 291mg/100g of sodium, with the US coming in 2nd at 279mg/100g.
  • The UK scored best for sugar at just 3.8 grams per 100 g with Canada second best at 4.6 grams per 100 g.
  • China’s packaged foods and beverages had the most harmful levels of saturated fat. They also scored worst for average sugar levels at 8.5 grams per 100 g (more than 2x the UK’s average) – with India in 2nd place at 7.3 grams per 100 g.
  • India’s packaged foods and drinks were most energy dense (kilojoule content 1515 kJ/100 g) and South African products were least energy dense at an average of just 1044kJ/100 g.

Co-author Professor Bruce Neal, Acting Executive Director of The George Institute, Australia said with packaged foods progressively dominating the world’s food supply there was real cause for concern.

“Billions of people are now exposed to very unhealthy foods on a daily basis. The obesity crisis is just the first ripple of a tsunami of dietary ill health that is coming for us. We have to find a way that the food industry can profit from selling rational quantities of quality food, rather than deluging us with unhealthy junk. There are few greater priorities for human health.’’

The report notes that many of the world’s major food and drink manufacturers have signed up to the International Food and Beverage Alliance and made pledges to reduce levels of salt, sugar and harmful fat and that these findings could provide an impetus for companies to improve the healthiness of their product ranges.

Source: The George Institute for Global Health

Chart of the Day: America Experiences More Physical Pain Than Other Countries

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Source : The Atlantic

Charts of the Day: Healthiest Countries in the World

Source : Bloomberg

People’s Diets Must Change to Sustain Global Food Consumption Growth

Dennis Thompson wrote . . . . . . . . .

The average person’s daily diet will need to change drastically during the next three decades to make sure everyone is fed without depleting the planet, a panel of experts has concluded.

Global consumption of foods such as red meat and sugar will have to decrease by about half to make sure the Earth will be able to feed a growing population of 10 billion people by 2050, according to the EAT-Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems.

At the same time, people will need to double the amount of plant-based foods they eat, including nuts, fruits, vegetables and legumes, experts said.

Agriculture must to be redirected to focus on these new food goals, which will put less stress on the environment, researchers said. An effort also will be needed to protect land and ocean resources, and cut food waste globally.

While the recommended dietary changes might be wrenching for some, they come with a tremendous benefit in terms of human health, said co-lead commissioner Dr. Walter Willett, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

“About 11 million premature deaths per year could be avoided if everyone adopted this healthy diet,” Willett said. “That’s because this reduces unhealthy parts of the diet but substantially increases health-promoting parts of the diet.”

The globally sustainable diet recommended by the commission said that people get most of their daily protein from either plants (dry beans, lentils, soy-based foods and nuts) or dairy products.

Cut back on meat, eggs and fish

Red meat intake should be cut to about half an ounce per day, with total meat consumption of no more than a single ounce per day, the report said.

Even eggs and fish would be drastically cut back, with only an ounce of fish per day or an egg and a half per week allowed under the guidelines.

This might seem onerous, but Willett argued that people in the United States and elsewhere are already adopting diets somewhat similar to this.

“This diet would definitely include the traditional Mediterranean diet, and we have seen there is a lot of interest and a lot of people who are shifting to that way of eating,” Willett said.

“We’ve also seen in the U.S. that red meat consumption has come down 40 percent since it peaked in 1970, which is a big change. We need to go further, but we have lots of evidence that people can make changes,” he noted.

The red meat limits would allow a “fairly hefty hamburger” every week, or a big steak once a month, Willett said.

For three years, 37 experts from 16 countries have been working on the report released Wednesday. They include people with expertise in health, nutrition, environmental sustainability, food systems, economics and politics.

Commission members calculated the Earth’s available resources, and then set out to create a daily diet backed by directed agricultural production that would keep everyone fed in a sustainable way.

Increased food production has contributed to improved life expectancy and reductions in hunger worldwide, but these benefits are being offset by global shifts toward unhealthy diets high in excess calories from sugar and meat, the researchers said.

“Agriculture priorities need to shift,” said commission member Jessica Fanzo, an associate professor of global food and agricultural policy at the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics in Baltimore. “The agriculture sector, while it has been successful in feeding the world, has not been successful in feeding the world well.”

The commission recommended that agriculture cut red meat production by 65 percent, Fanzo said in a media briefing Wednesday.

There would need to be hardly any increase in the production of whole grains, poultry and dairy products, but drastic increases in production of plant-based foods, nuts and fish, Fanzo said.

Waste less food

Emphasis would need to be placed on protecting agricultural land and fisheries, while also tackling the problem of wasted food, Fanzo added.

“We know up to 30 percent of the food produced in the world is lost or wasted, which is incredible considering being that we still have over 800 million people go to bed hungry every night,” Fanzo said.

The recommended diet poses challenges to just about every region of the world, the commission admitted.

For example, countries in North America eat almost 6.5 times the recommended amount of red meat, while countries in South Asia eat only half the recommended amount.

All countries are eating more starchy vegetables (potatoes and cassava) than recommended, with intakes ranging from between 1.5 times above the recommendation in South Asia and 7.5 times above in sub-Saharan Africa.

Whitney Linsenmeyer, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, noted that the diet recommended by the commission is “mostly consistent” with the current dietary guidelines recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Diet shift requires education, planning

“The dietary pattern proposed by the EAT-Lancet Commission and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans is certainly possible, but may require more nutrition education and meal planning guidance,” said Linsenmeyer, an instructor of nutrition at Saint Louis University in Missouri. “For example, while many cultures around the world rely heavily on beans and legumes, others may not be as accustomed to buying and preparing them as part of their regular diet.”

Linsenmeyer recommended a few options for people interested in shifting their diet toward the commission’s recommendations:

  • Planning “Meatless Monday” meals that emphasize plant-based protein sources.
  • Incorporating plant-based foods into traditional dishes, such as putting sauteed mushrooms into hamburger patties.
  • Eating plant-based meals at breakfast and lunch, while reserving meat, chicken and fish for dinnertime.

The new report was published in The Lancet journal.

Source: HealthDay

Infographic: Food Sustainability Index

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