NHMRC’s new draft dietary guidelines lauded by health academics

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 13th December 2011

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)’s new draft dietary guidelines, published today, have been welcomed by leading Australian scientists and nutrition experts.

Emphasis on whole foods rather than nutrients

Associate Professor Catherine Itsiopoulos, Head of Department of Dietetics at La Trobe University, in Victoria, said the revised dietary guidelines are “critically important” for healthy eating in Australia.

Professor Itsiopoulos said that healthy eating and physical activity should form the basis of tackling health issues. “However, the public are often confused by misinformation and the lack of practical advice on how to follow a healthy diet. The availability of up-to-date guidelines based on accurate information is critical to enable effective health services for the Australian public.

“The focus on foods rather than nutrients is a strength of the revised guidelines, and ensures they are likely to be more effectively used by health professionals and better understood by the general public,” she said.

Consistency between the age groups

Prof Colin Binns is the John Curtin Distinguished Professor of Public Health at the Curtin University, in Perth. He said, “While understanding of nutrition science has advanced, the recommendations made by the committee are remarkably consistent with previous Australian dietary guidelines.

“For this draft edition of the Dietary Guidelines, different age groups have been combined as many of the general nutrition principles apply to one or more age groups. This makes for a concise document where it is easier to find information. The disadvantage is that there is less information available about specific age groups and in particular the rapidly expanding older population.”

A researcher on carbohydrates and the glycaemic index of foods at the Boden Institute, University of Sydney, Professor Jennie Brand-Miller said that the NHMRC has done a “good job in a difficult area”.

Starch and sugars

However, she did say, “If I had to split hairs, I would say that there is not enough scientific evidence to say that solid foods that contain added sugars are any more harmful than foods that contain refined starch. The guidelines assume that starch, in all forms, does no harm. However, my area of research is in the glycaemic index (GI) and I think that high-GI starch is worse than added sugars.”