Over the past few years, I have called for an overhaul of Australia’s dietary guidelines, including Australia’s Health Star Rating System, which has too often ignored the prevalence of sugar while demonising natural saturated fats.
I have also criticised Australian dieticians’ staunch defence of existing failed dietary guidelines that promote a high carbohydrate / low fat diet.
Classic examples of this dietary idiocy are illustrated in the below examples (photographed at my local super market) showing sugar laden foods given healthy ratings, while natural foods containing so-called ‘unhealthy’ saturated fats are given low ratings.
First, consider reconstituted apple juice, which contains a whopping 26.8 grams of free sugars per serve, but receives a 5-star health rating:
Next, here’s a highly processed box of cereal, like the one shown below, which receives a healthy 4-star rating and the Heart Foundation Tick despite containing 23.5% sugar:
And how about a processed sugary chocolate-flavoured “Up and Go” milkshake, which contains 19.3 grams of sugar per serve, receive a healthy 4.5 star health rating?
Next, until very recently, Milo received a healthy 4.5 star health rating when it is made up of nearly half sugar:
And here’s a sugary processed “Roll-up”, which contains 26.7% sugar, but somehow still managed to receive a 3-star rating:
On the flipside, where is the logic or evidence to support giving natural virgin coconut oil – chock full of beneficial medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) – a half star rating because it is 90% saturated fat:
Or giving natural full fat Greek yogurt only 1.5 stars, because it contains ‘high’ saturated fat (but zero added sugar):
Back in October, it was revealed that that the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) has largely reversed its position:
…these carbohydrate-rich foods cause major fluctuations in blood glucose levels for people with diabetes. Patients are told to manage the flux of glucose in the blood by using medications like insulin, which come with significant side effects.
A more practical approach is to limit the amount of carbs consumed in the diet and therefore reduce the dependence on high-dose medications. Unfortunately, this commonsense approach runs counter to the advice from many “dietary experts” who claim low-carb diets are a “fad”.
The reasons for maintaining this unscientific view have much to do with protecting financial relationships…
In a surprising move, however, the DAA has just announced that it will be ceasing its corporate relationships with food manufacturing and food industry associations by December 31, 2018…
After what seemed to be uncompromising resistance to the latest scientific evidence, Diabetes Australia has issued a new position statement about ‘Low Carb Diets’ for people with diabetes:
“There is reliable evidence that lower carb eating can be safe and useful in lowering average blood glucose levels in the short term (up to 6 months). It can also help reduce body weight and help manage heart disease risk factors such as raised cholesterol and raised blood pressure,” wrote Diabetes Australia.
The statement from Diabetes Australia even suggests that low carb diets may assist people with managing Type-1 diabetes.
As noted in the article, the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) has also dropped its vexatious sanctioning of orthopaedic surgeon and low cab advocate, Dr Gary Fetke, as well as issued him an apology.
Now, Australia’s farcical Health Star Rating System is also getting an overhaul, demoting sugar-laden foods and promoting those high in natural saturated fats:
A government advisory committee has released a revamped Health Star Rating calculator that attempts to address various problems with the original, from the over-emphasis on protein to the lack of focus on sugar, as part of a five-year review.
The upgraded calculator, if adopted, would slash Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain’s four-star rating to 2.5, Uncle Toby’s Chewy Choc Chip Muesli Bar’s four stars to 3.5, and Zooper Dooper Ice Blocks’ three stars to the lowest possible score of 0.5.
Products that have been unfairly disadvantaged would get some reprieve, especially nutritious plain yoghurts, with Coles’ Greek Style Natural Yoghurt’s 1.5 star rating getting boosted to three.
Looks promising, but doesn’t go nearly far enough. There’s now way that sugary Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain should receive a 2.5 star rating. Nor should Uncle Toby’s Chewy Choc Chip Muesli Bars receive 3.5 stars.
Nevertheless, these changes do represent an important shift away from Big Food and Sugar and should be commended.
As an aside, if you want a clear explanation of the genesis of Australia’s questionable dietary guidelines (which were passed down from the US), make sure that you watch the below presentation by Dr Zoe Harcombe, who wrote her entire Cambridge PhD thesis on the topic: