A new review on dietary fats: Putting its findings in context

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014 | Kate Sloane | 18 Comments

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Lisa Te Morenga, Jim Mann, Murray Skeaff, Rod Jackson, Tony Blakely, Nick Wilson, Rachael McLean

Bowl of almondsThis blog considers a newly published review on the evidence around dietary fat intakes and coronary heart disease. We have concerns about some aspects of this review, in particular the lack of context around the totality of the evidence. Hence we suggest that the best evidence for national guidelines is still that which encourages the replacement of saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats – with the latter ideally being long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (as found in fish, flax seed and nuts).

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Action needed to halt New Zealand’s obesity epidemic: Themes from Big Food Symposium

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014 | Kate Sloane | 1 Comment

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Associate Professor Louise Signal

International and national public health experts and delegates met on Monday this week to consider how to address New Zealand’s (NZ’s) increasing obesity epidemic. While they welcome the new Healthy Families NZ community-based initiative recently announced by the Minister of Health, they stress the critical need to focus on upstream policies to prevent obesity as well. Evidence-based policy options identified include: banning junk food marketing to children, introducing a tax on fizzy drinks, introducing easy to understand nutrition labels on foods, and ensuring families can afford to eat a healthy diet. Without supplementing community action with such upstream policy action, the experts at this Big Food Symposium believe obesity rates will stay high and possibly continue to climb. This blog explores some of these issues in more detail. Continue reading

Taxes on fizzy drinks in NZ: preventing premature deaths and raising funds for health

Thursday, February 13th, 2014 | TONY BLAKELY | 4 Comments

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   Tony Blakely, Cliona Ni Mhurchu  and Nick Wilson

A task of public health research is to quantify the health impact of interventions that are upstream and are political.  In the food environment, we strongly suspect that regulation of the food industry, food reformulation, marketing and price (i.e. taxes and subsidies) will be some of the most effective interventions to address obesity and poor nutrition.  Indeed, much international research supports this (e.g. [1]).  Today some of us have published research in the NZ Medical Journal that finds that about 67 premature deaths a year might be prevented by a 20% tax on fizzy drinks. And that there might be up to $40 million of revenue raised by such a tax.  (Also see TVNZ interview of Ni Mhurchu and Radio NZ interview of Blakely on this research.) In this blog we overview the uncertainty about these findings, the role of researchers in generating such findings, and possible policy implications.fizzy drink tax Continue reading

Obesity at last on Government agenda, but will Healthy Families NZ be good enough ?

Friday, February 7th, 2014 | Kate Sloane | 1 Comment

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Professor Boyd Swinburn, Professor of Population Nutrition and Global Health, University of Auckland, and, Co-Director, WHO Collaborating Centre for Obesity Prevention, Deakin University

The Government announced the Healthy Families NZ initiative to tackle our escalating obesity crisis. It will be based on Healthy Together Victoria (HTV) which the Health Minister, Tony Ryall, visited on a recent trip to Australia. Although no details are available, it is pertinent to ask – what is HTV, how could it be adapted for New Zealand, and will it work?

The launch of Healthy Together Victoria: Victorian Minister for Health, Hon David Davis, Prof Boyd Swinburn, Dr Alan Shiell, CEO of the Centre for Excellence in Innovation and Prevention Systems which is evaluating HTV.

The launch of Healthy Together Victoria: Victorian Minister for Health, Hon David Davis, Prof Boyd Swinburn, Dr Alan Shiell, CEO of the Centre for Excellence in Innovation and Prevention Systems which is evaluating HTV.

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Market deregulation → ↑ fast food consumption → ↑ obesity. Clever international study that includes NZ data

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014 | TONY BLAKELY | No Comments

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Professor Tony Blakely.

A clever study just published in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization has analyzed how changes in fast food transactions per capita within 25 high-income countries was associated with changes in body mass index (BMI).  The change-change analysis is important, as it addresses confounding bias that plagues many studies.  The study found that an increase of 10 fast food purchases per person per year is associated with increases in BMI by 0.33 units (or 1 kg for an average height person).  Of note, the increase of 10 fast food purchases per person per year was exactly that observed for NZ during the 1999 to 2008 period covered by this study. Continue reading