This week Down Under
Research backs belief that tomatoes can trigger gout
Once a person has gout, eating certain foods can cause their gout to flare up in a painful attack. A group of Otago researchers had noticed that a large number of gout sufferers believe tomatoes to be one of these gout trigger foods.
The researchers surveyed 2,051 New Zealanders with clinically verified gout. Of these, 71% reported having one or more food triggers. Tomatoes were listed as a trigger in 20% of these cases.
The authors then analysed data from 12,720 male and female members of three long-running US health studies. This data showed that tomato consumption was linked to higher levels of uric acid in the blood, which is the major underlying cause of gout.
Though the research has not been geared to prove that tomatoes trigger gout attacks, it does suggest that the fruit can alter uric acid levels to a degree comparable to other commonly accepted gout trigger foods.
“We found that the positive association between eating tomato and uric acid levels was on a par with that of consuming seafood, red meat, alcohol or sugar-sweetened drinks,” Tanya Flynn, one of the researchers, said.
The findings are published in a paper in the international journal BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, though further intervention studies are needed to determine whether tomatoes should be added to the list of traditional dietary triggers of gout flares.
Review finds Kiwi research advocating 20% sugar tax ‘overstated’ benefits
A high-profile paper on sugar tax by public health academics is “riddled with flaws”, an independent review has found.
The review, commissioned by the New Zealand Food and Grocery Council (FGC), found last year’s study by Auckland and Otago academics, published in the New Zealand Journal of Medicine, made no distinction between sugar and non-sugar fizzy drinks.
Economist Brent Wheeler, who performed the review, also judged the academics’ claim that a 20% tax would “avert or postpone 67 deaths from cardiovascular disease, diabetes and diet-related cancers” was a shot in the dark.
In his assessment, Dr Wheeler labelled the study’s title—“Twenty per cent tax on fizzy drinks could save lives and generate millions in revenue for health programmes in New Zealand”—as “unjustifiably melodramatic and misleading”. He also branded the accompanying proposal as “problematic”.
Of the study’s estimation that “a 20% tax on carbonated drinks would reduce daily energy intakes by 0.2%.. and avert or postpone 67… deaths”, Dr Wheeler found this level of certainty was “not justified”.
He also criticised the paper’s reference to the taxation of “carbonated drinks” as defined in the Statistics New Zealand Survey of Household Expenditure data.
“The term thus refers to all carbonated drinks rather than just those having sugar content of a specified level. The effect would thus be either to tax the several non-sugary drinks such as mineral water or alternatively to collect less revenue than is suggested by [the study],” Dr Wheeler said.
He concluded: “The views… oversimplify several issues, disregard a number of influential factors which negate efficacy of their preferred intervention, are selective in respect of their citing from the heavily ambiguous research in this field, have the potential to create other hazards, run the risk of generating a variety of unintended consequences, and overstate the capacity of taxation to improve health and related welfare.”
Rabobank: ’Great things’ expected for Australia’s beef industry
The Australian beef industry is on the cusp of great things, according to specialist agricultural lender, Rabobank.
Key fundamentals for a strong Australian beef sector—consisting of strong international demand, constrained global supply, a depreciating dollar and trade agreements—are falling into place, the bank said in a new report.
It found that an improvement in the weather and drought-breaking rains through many cattle-producing regions would provide necessary relief for many producers and allow the herd rebuilding process to begin.
Rabobank senior animal proteins analyst Angus Gidley-Baird, who authored the report, says the Australian beef industry has long been exposed to the supply and demand fluctuations experienced by global drivers and local seasonal conditions.
“While depressed prices have been driven by short-term high domestic supply, the Australian industry is now in a position to capitalise on strong global demand, providing an opportunity to develop an industry with a premium, value-added product,” he said.
“This would ensure a more stable, long-term environment for the Australian beef industry.”
Record slaughter numbers have enabled the industry to tap into growing and lucrative export markets; however, production at this rate—given the herd size—is not sustainable.
However, Australian slaughter rates above 8m head and live exports over 1m head cannot continue, given estimated herd numbers, Gidley-Baird said.
“The Australian breeding herd is not being replaced, and this will lead to an increasingly rapid reduction in cattle inventory and future production capacity,” Mr Gidley-Baird says.
Australian company sets out to commercialise omega-3 from algae across Apac
Qponics, a Brisbane supplements producer, has joined with Britain’s AlgaeCytes to develop commercial algae for omega-3 extraction.
Graeme Barnett, managing director of Qponics, said the company had been looking for a photobioreactor system in which to grow cost-effective algae for food supplements inside a warehouse.
“AlgaeCytes has a photobioreactor technology matching our specifications and a business model compatible with our world view,” said Dr Barnett.
Over the last year, AlgaeCytes has had a pilot plant producing algae for the extraction of EPA omega-3 oil.
Naz Bashir, the company’s chief executive, said: “Our larger-scale commercial product module, with greater capacity than the pilot module, is presently being engineered. It is expected to be available in 2016 for installation in Britain by AlgaeCytes and in Australia by Qponics.”
The modular system was specifically designed to accept nutrient-rich process water for use by the aquaculture, aquaponics, hydroponics and drinks industries.
EPA and DHA omega-3 oils will be among Qponics’ early products. The algal biomass remaining after oil extraction will be valuable vegetarian high-protein food product.
The company hopes to market these products across the Asia-Pacific, while AlgaeCytes will focus on Europe.
“Qponics is focused on the Asia-Pacific region, which is the world’s largest and fastest- growing market for algae-sourced products,” said Dr Barneet, who will use Nutrition Care Pharmaceuticals as its distributor.
He added that it was a good time for his company to invest in the algae food supplement industry because of recent increases in global omega-3 oil prices due to a decline in oily fish species.
Minister lauds success of NZ government diabetes initiative
New Zealand health minister Jonathan Coleman has said that a growing number of New Zealanders with type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes are receiving support and advice through the Green Prescriptions initiative.
Green Prescriptions is part of the government’s commitment to encourage New Zealanders to live healthier lives away from hospitals.
It provides advice on nutrition and physical activity and support to help patients manage a range of conditions, including weight problems, high blood pressure and diabetes.
The initiative is being supported by the injection of NZ$400m into the health sector from the 2015 Budget.
Coleman said: "Feedback from the latest patient survey is also encouraging, with more than two-thirds saying they have noticed a positive change in their health and 64% are now encouraging others to be more active."