News Briefs

GI Labs Service Mark

GI Labs Service Mark

GI Labs in Toronto has introduced the ‘GI Labs Service Mark’ for use by GI Labs clients. The mark identifies products that have been in clinical nutrition trials at GI Labs, clearly demonstrating that such products have been independently tested. To find out more about the service mark and its applications contact:
Atarah Grysman
Manager, Sales and Marketing

Nutrition Keys – US front-of-pack labelling

US food and beverage manufacturers and retailers at the urging of First Lady Michelle Obama have joined forces to develop and implement a voluntary ‘Nutrition Keys’ front-of-pack labelling system. The four basic icons were chosen as they represent key nutrients most of us need to limit in our diets –calories, saturated fat, sodium and sugars (but they haven’t separated added sugars from natural ones). The saturated fat and sodium icons include %DV.

Four Nutrition Keys

It’s a step in a helpful direction. What’s a bit mystifying to us here at GI News is that with the very real concern about diabetes numbers in the US, the key numbers missing on this front-of-pack system are the key numbers people with diabetes actually need to know if they are going to make healthy food choices to manage their BGLs and reduce the risk of complications – total available carbohydrate (sugars and starch) plus the GI value for carb-rich foods like breads and breakfast cereals.

A new study published in Nutrition Reviews concludes that ‘The combined collective data from long-term epidemiologic studies and randomized trials using metabolic indicators of glucose metabolism as endpoints provide strong evidence that optimizing dietary carbohydrates (i.e. choosing the low GI ones) will reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, age-related macular degeneration, and, probably, cataract.’

So if anyone knows Michelle Obama, can you ask her to do a bit more urging …

Traffic light labelling
The panel conducting an independent review of food labelling has presented its Labelling Logic report to the Australian parliament. It has come up with 61 recommendations, four (numbers 51–54) relate to traffic light labels for food packaging and menus in chain food service outlets.

Traffic lights for foods

Here at GI News we understand why many consumers find the idea of ‘traffic lights’ on the front of packaged food so appealing. They stand out. They are easy to read. A real no-brainer. Buy Green not Red. Or be an Amber gambler …

However, there’s a very big question on whether they actually work better than the current %DI front-of-pack labelling scheme (already on some 2000 foods), which is essentially the same as the new US 'Nutrition Keys'. The first Australian study published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health to measure how consumers respond to the traffic light labels found traffic lights make no difference to decisions on purchasing food. Research from the UK has also shown that they are no better understood than GDAs (like Australia’s %DI or the US %DV).

There’s no labelling silver bullet that’s going to solve obesity and other related health problems and save governments billions in health care costs. And it certainly is unlikely to be traffic light labelling because although it gives us some important information about fat, sugar and salt, it doesn’t give us some key stuff (that’s already on %DI labels) that can make a real difference.
We all want life and the daily choices we make in the supermarket to be simple. But, that’s not going to happen – certainly not in the supermarket. Life isn’t simple, nor is the best nutrition science. Things change. New discoveries are made and sometimes they tell us that yesterday’s villain may not be quite such a bad guy after all. The low fat story is a good example of this. We now know it’s not how much fat you eat, it’s the type of fat that counts. ‘It’s fair to say many people are scared of fat these days and try to avoid it,’ says dietitian Nicole Senior.

‘However, failure to eat the right kinds of fat is a primary reason why our national average cholesterol level has not improved in over 25 years. This is due in no small part to well-intentioned but misleading public health education aimed to reduce the risk of heart disease. Health authorities didn’t think regular folks would understand the difference between saturated fat and unsaturated fat, so they went for the simple message to ‘eat less fat’. As a consequence, food industry went into overdrive in the quest to drive down fat levels, and low fat claims became the most sought by shoppers in the supermarket. Rather than being a good thing for our growing waistlines, eating low fat foods didn’t make any difference and we just grew fatter. Some healthy fat is good, but we’ve thrown the baby out with the bath water. While dietary guidelines around the world have now changed their emphasis towards reducing saturated fat and not total fat, the damage has been done.

It should be said there is a place for low fat foods – in the dairy aisle. Because dairy foods are a major source of saturated fat, lower fat versions of these nutrient-rich foods are a change for the better and recommended for everyone, including children from 2 years of age. Lower fat dairy foods such as milk and yoghurt are also satisfying and low GI, making them a heart and waistline friendly food.

The traffic light system aims to make something very complex into something very simple, and we lose a lot in the translation.
Reducing the complexity of food down into three adverse nutrients is missing the wood for the trees, and without solid evidence that it will make any difference to public health or your health.’

Eat to beat constipation with low GI prunes
Grandma was right. A daily dose of prunes (dried plums) will do it. The findings of a randomised, crossover clinical trial published in Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics found prunes more effective than psyllium in 40 volunteers with chronic constipation. Fifty grams of prunes, providing a daily fibre dose of 6g, outperformed an equal fibre dose from psyllium for constipation relief over three weeks according to the study’s findings.

‘The fibre in prunes helps but there’s something else as well,’ says dietitian Catherine Saxelby. ‘Prunes have long had a reputation as a gentle laxative and digestive aid. Nutritionists believe it’s due to a combination of the fibre plus two unusual prune components – high levels of sorbitol (a natural sweetener found also in pears and apples) and polyphenols such as chlorogenic and neochlorogenic acid. All three have an ability to stimulate intestinal movement.

A serve of 5 or 6 unpitted prunes (around 50 g or nearly 2 oz) makes a quick healthy nibble. They have virtually no fat and 22 g carbohydrate and a low GI of 40 so they’ll help you manage your blood glucose levels. You also get a healthy dose of beta-carotene, which is converted to vitamin A in the body, plus a number of minerals notably potassium and boron, plus a little iron. Prunes score high for antioxidants too – at least equal to that of well known antioxidant-rich blueberries.’