Middle East Focus: Sugar reduction to fight inflation, undernutrition in Palestine, Smile Organics expansion and more feature in our round-up

By Pearly Neo

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Sugar reduction to fight inflation, undernutrition in Palestine, Smile Organics expansion and more feature in this edition of Middle East Focus. ©Getty Images
Sugar reduction to fight inflation, undernutrition in Palestine, Smile Organics expansion and more feature in this edition of Middle East Focus. ©Getty Images

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Sugar reduction to fight inflation, undernutrition in Palestine, Smile Organics expansion and more feature in this edition of Middle East Focus.

Sweet savings: Sugar reduction an effective cost-cutting solution to overcome Middle East inflation challenges

Sugar reduction strategies can be an effective tool to cut production costs and lower prices whilst also satisfying Middle East consumer and government demand for healthier products, according to Tate & Lyle.

Product pricing and cost-cutting strategies are of particular concern for food and beverage manufacturers in the Middle East, due to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) having projected a continued high level of inflation at 13.9% throughout 2022, triggered primarily by the Russia-Ukraine war as it has traditionally been dependent on these two countries and is generally dependent on foreign food imports which have dropped.

This is in addition to the implementation of sugar taxes in some markets such as the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia, which are significant at a 50% rate for all sugar-sweetened beverages with added sugar or sweeteners and 100% for energy drinks.

Undernutrition, stunting rife: Dire state of diets among Palestinian kids underlined by new study

There is a high prevalence of stunting, wasting and acute undernutrition among children under the age of five in Palestine’s Gaza Strip, a new study has concluded.

The high levels of food insecurity could also be postulated by factors such as low economic status, poor dietary intake and low levels of nutrition-related knowledge, attitudes and practices (KAP), and the lack of dietary diversity, based on a recent cross-sectional study.

The study, titled Households’ Food Insecurity and Their Association With Dietary Intakes, Nutrition-Related Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices Among Under-five Children in Gaza Strip, Palestine​, was published in the journal Frontiers in Public Health.

“In the Gaza Strip, Palestine, over 68% of households (about 1.3 million people) are severely or moderately food-insecure, according to the preliminary findings of the latest Socio-Economic and Food Security Survey carried out in 2018,"​ said the researchers.

Smile for the extra mile: Smile Organics targets global expansion with coconut water sports nutrition gel

Thai-based firm Smile Organics aims to conquer the US and the Middle East markets with its sports nutrition gel POWCO made of Thai-bred young coconut water.

It has already started testing the Middle East market by shipping one cubic tonne, or 500 boxes, to Bahrain. After the US and Middle Eastern markets, CEO Thanada Thomas will be setting her sights on Europe from 2023 onwards. For APAC, Singapore has also received a shipment of 10 boxes. However, she would like first to analyse the Chinese, South Korean and Japanese markets, especially in South Korea, where she hopes to develop something unique for consumers.

“The US is a country that consumes a lot of energy gels. We are trying to export our products there. For the Middle East, I hope there is a growth potential for the company. With these, we hope to enter the Thai stock exchange in four years and generate a USD$3m revenue from the US market by 2025, USD$1m from APAC, and USD$1m from the Middle East,”​ said Thomas.

A promising therapeutic: Turmeric displays potential to help control nonalcoholic fatty liver disease – RCT

Turmeric has been found to improve blood pressure, weight and BMI among nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) patients effectively and improve sirtuin 1 (SIRT1) levels – a key metabolic regulator of glucose and lipid haemostasis.

The paper titled Effect of Turmeric Supplementation on Blood Pressure and Serum Levels of Sirtuin 1 and Adiponectin in Patients with Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial​ was published in the journal Preventive Nutrition and Food Science​.

The team tested turmeric and its impact on SIRT1 and adiponectin. SIRT1 plays a role in glucose and lipid metabolism and, by association, inflicts metabolic disorders like NAFLD, whereas adiponectin affects insulin resistance and liver metabolism. A study showed that adiponectin levels are significantly lower in NAFLD patients compared to the control group.

Phosphorus crisis threatens food and water security, but what’s the solution?

Global mismanagement of phosphorous is threatening both water and food security, scientists warn in a major new report.

Arable crops need an average of 50-100 kg of phosphorus per hectare, according to Fertilizers Europe. This essential nutrient is important for root development. And while it is present in organic fertilizers such as crop residues, animal manure and slurry, global agricultural production is currently dependant on the addition of mineral phosphorus, which is extracted from phosphate rock for use in crop fertilisers, livestock feeds and food additives. 

However, scientists warn in a new report, skyrocketing fertiliser prices in recent months underline that global mismanagement of this finite essential nutrient is ‘causing twin crises’ that are hitting water quality and food security.

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