1 November 2014

GI News—November 2014


  • What you need to know about stevia; 
  • Dr Alan Barclay on the fibre paradox; 
  • Prof Jennie Brand-Miller: why we don't talk about simple and complex carbs any more; 
  • Fat cats, hungry birds and jet-lagged mice; 
  • Put fun into fitness with walking says Emma Sandall; 
  • Nicole Senior checks out sweet strawberries and Anneka Manning and Johanna Burani show us how to make the most of them.
GI News 
Editor: Philippa Sandall
Management and design: Alan Barclay, PhD
Contact: info@gisymbol.com
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GI testing: sugirs.manager@sydney.edu.au

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Food for Thought

When it comes to paradoxes, nutrition science produces its fair share. The French paradox has been followed by the Spanish paradox, the Australian paradox, the alpine paradox and more.

The French paradox was based on observational studies that found that despite enjoying their cheese, butter, cream, foie gras and confit de canard, French people had low rates of coronary heart disease (CHD), in seeming contradiction to epidemiological research from the 1950s that had shown that that eating lots of saturated fat increases your risk of CHD. What were the French doing the rest of us weren’t?

Red wine and cheese

Writing in The Lancet in 1992, Professor Serge Rénaud (“father of the catchphrase”) suggested that a glass of red wine might be the mitigating factor. “In most countries, high intake of saturated fat is positively related to high mortality from coronary heart disease (CHD). However, the situation in France is paradoxical in that there is high intake of saturated fat but low mortality from CHD. This paradox may be attributable in part to high wine consumption. Epidemiological studies indicate that consumption of alcohol at the level of intake in France (20–30 g per day) can reduce risk of CHD by at least 40%.” One has to say “the rest is history”. The outcome was an increase in red wine sales and numerous best-sellers sharing the secrets behind the French paradox with us.

What a success story, but sadly, too good to be true. It’s just a story. We now know it is wrong to assume that saturated fat is all that matters to predict CHD risk, it is just one of many dietary, lifestyle and genetic factors involved. And it is wrong to suggest drinking a few glasses of red wine will make it better. If anything, the whole story proves once more the concept that the balance of diet in general is more important than any single component in preventing disease and ensuring good health and it’s not a good idea to take the findings from observational studies of one group of people and willy-nilly apply them to another. So let’s not go there again, which brings us to some current single-nutrient solutions.

Based on the best available evidence, certain factors in carb-containing foods have been identified as “good” (e.g., fibre) and “bad” (e.g., added sugar). Much of the evidence for fibre and bowel cancer and added sugar and type 2 diabetes, however, is only observational: data analysis has come up with associations. Such findings don’t prove cause and effect, for that you need well designed clinical trials which take time, money and ethics approval, which tends to put them in the “too-hard-not-feasible” basket. So, back to observational and animal studies.

In our own backyard here in Australia, our health authorities adopted the international advice to increase fibre to protect us from bowel cancer and to decrease added sugars so we don’t get fat or get type 2 diabetes. Obedient as ever in public health matters, Australians have taken this advice on board: our consumption of added sugars is down and our consumption of fibre is up. But we haven’t been rewarded with the expected health outcomes: we have some of the highest colorectal cancer rates in the world and our rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes continue to rise. Now that’s a paradox, isn’t it?

Not really. The focus on the magic bullet, simple “single nutrient” message is the wrong message; as Dr David Katz says it is repeating the “dietary follies of history”. “We can never get to good diets (or good health) one nutrient (or food) at a time.”

In his review, The French Paradox: Lessons for Other Countries,  Jean Ferrières writes: “The French paradox does not teach other countries any lessons since each country has probably its own appropriate preventive solutions. In primary prevention, adherence to lifestyle guidelines is associated with a very low risk of CHD. The French paradox concept should foster research on protective CHD risk factors while conveying, in primary prevention, messages promoting healthy behaviour such as regular physical exercise, optimal diet, and life without smoking.”

What's new?

Sweet as! Four stories on sugars and sweetness feature in this issue of GI News. 
Run Rodent, Run! 
In September 2014, a study linking artificial sweeteners (aspartame, sucralose and saccharin) to the risk of diabetes hit the headlines. If you saw the headlines, you may have been tempted to bin your favourite alternative sweetener. What got lost in reporting was the fact that most of this research was in mice. They were overfed pure saccharin – the sweetener identified by the researchers as the most potent, and the focus of the majority of the research in the rodents. The result: it altered their glucose tolerance and gut bacteria (microbiome). The small observational study in humans tacked on the end of the report looked at all sweeteners, but it was in a very small number of people for this kind of research, and it only proves associations – not causality. Dr Alan Barclay has put some context around this.

  • Saccharin has been around for over 100 years and the diabesity epidemic has only developed over the last few decades. 
  • The use of saccharin is decreasing. It is no longer a particularly popular alternative sweetener—aspartame (which was included in the study), stevia and cyclamate are much more widely used in Australia. 
  • The rats were fed around 17 times more saccharin than a typical (Australian) adult consumes according to the results of Australia’s most recent sweetener survey. 
“Perhaps the simple conclusion” says Alan “should have been that it’s not a great idea to feed your pet mouse vast quantities of pure saccharin. The take-home? Ultimately, the dose makes the poison. Even too much water can kill you.”
Mouse running
Next time you see sensationalist headlines proclaiming “X” sweetener causes obesity / diabetes / heart disease, etc... ask: Was the research conducted in people; and would you consume the amount of sweetener the participants were fed on a regular basis over a long period of time? If you answer no, chances are the research finding does not mean much to you. If you choose to use an alternative sweetener to help cut calories or manage your blood glucose levels, do so in moderation (as in all things), and opt for using a variety of nonnutritive sweeteners to reduce the likelihood of excessive consumption of any single one.

Fat cats. 
We have a soft spot for things that taste sweet. Cats don’t. The mammalian sweet receptor is composed of two protein subunits, known as T1R2 and T1R3. Each is coded for by a separate gene. In place of a functional sweet taste receptor gene, researchers from the Monell Chemical Senses Center discovered that domestic cats (Felis silvestris catus) have a defect in the gene encoding the T1R2 protein that makes them unable to detect sweet tastes. They also detected the same gene defect in tiger and cheetah, suggesting that it is common to species throughout the cat family.

“This type of gene is known as a pseudogene and is somewhat like a molecular fossil,” comments Xia Li, PhD, a molecular geneticist at Monell. “It presumably once coded a functional protein, but no longer does so.” Li explains, “Genes contain signals that indicate the start and stop points for information about the amino acid sequence of a given protein. We found a deletion of 247 base pairs in the gene that codes for T1R2 in the cat. As a consequence of this deletion, the stop point is shifted. The T1R2 protein is not made and thus is unavailable to join with T1R3 to form a working sweet taste receptor.” This molecular change was very likely an important event in the evolution of the cat’s carnivorous behaviour according to the researchers.

Kitri the cat

But around 57.6 percent of the domestic cat population in the US is overweight or obese according to research carried out by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP). Since it can’t be an excess of added sugars they are consuming, perhaps it’s a case of way too many calories and a super-sedentary lifestyle?

Hungry Birds. 
Our sweet tooth has a long history we reported in GI News in January 2013.The earliest visual evidence is in rock art dating back thousands of years that depicts honeycombs, swarms of bees, and honey collecting. But there is also much older evidence in the evolution of the mutually beneficial relationship between the honeyguide bird and the hunter-gatherer in Africa. Yale anthropologist Brian Wood and his co-researchers describe this in Evolution and Human Behaviour.

Brian Wood
Photo courtesy Brian Wood

“When searching their woodlands for nests of honey bees, Hadza hunter-gatherers (an ethnic group that has traditionally subsisted from hunting and gathering who live in northern Tanzania near Lake Eyasi) are often helped by the Greater Honeyguide (Indicator indicator), a bird that flies ahead of them, leading them to nests of the honey bee, Apis mellifera .... During a typical guiding sequence, a honey-hunter follows the bird as it swoops, widely fanning its feathers, from one perch to another, and the two engage in an ongoing exchange of whistles and chatter. The honeyguide eventually perches near the nest of an A. mellifera colony, which is usually inside a tree. The honey-hunter then conducts a final search for the exact tree and nest location. After finding the nest, the honey-hunter lights a torch, climbs up to the nest entrance, blows in smoke to subdue the bees, chops open the tree with an axe, and reaches in for the honeycomb. While this happens, the honeyguide usually perches quietly nearby. The special nature of the Hadza-honeyguide relationship is attested to by the fact that honeyguides often perch comfortably within arrow-shot distance of Hadza, even though men hunt other bird species of similar size.”

What is the origin of this behaviour? ... We propose that in a first, commensal phase, honeyguides preyed upon the bee nests and discarded honeycomb that hominins made available through their honey hunting. In a second, mutualistic phase, honeyguides evolved the habit of actively leading hominins to bee nests. Finally, in a third phase of manipulative mutualism, hominins began to actively change the payoffs received by honeyguides – either by actively “rewarding” them or by reducing their immediate payoff. The Hadza we observed did not actively reward honeyguides, but such may occur in other contexts ... Based on within-species mtDNA variation scientists conservatively estimate that I. indicator is at least 3 million years old. We think it is reasonable to assume that an initial commensal association between hominins (Ardipithecus ramidus or an Australopithicine) and honeyguides arose in the Pliocene.”

Jet-Lagged Mice?
Who can resist a story about jet-lagged mice?  We can't, and neither could Ted Kyle of ConscienHealth. Those headlines about jet-lagged mice and jet-lag causing obesity all come from a new publication in Cell that's really about the effect of a disrupted sleep cycle on gut microbes. You can read all about it HERE

Understanding stevia.
Coca-Cola is about to launch the lower-kilojoule Coca-Cola Life in Australia. Like Pepsi Next, it’s a blend of stevia and sugar that provides the sweetness. So what is stevia? This edited extract from The Ultimate Guide to Sugars and Sweeteners  reproduced courtesy The Experiment Publishing (New York) explains. 

The Ultimate Guide to Sugars and Sweeteners

Stevia’s leaves contain steviol glycosides – some of the sweetest plant compounds that have been successfully commercialized as high-intensity sweeteners. Stevioside and rebaudioside A are the two you will find in foods and beverages and in tabletop and pourable products. They have zero calories and no impact on blood glucose levels, because the body does not metabolize them and they are excreted.

The favorite marketing word to describe steviol glycosides is “natural” because they come from a plant and are not entirely created in a laboratory beaker. Manufacturers tend to describe the extraction process as similar to making tea: steeping the leaves in water, then purifying the sweet extract. In fact, the journey through the laboratory to get to the sweetener in the packet or box is a little more complicated. Here’s how it was described in the JEFCA Compendium of Food Additive Specifications: 'The leaves are extracted with hot water and the aqueous extract is passed through an adsorption resin to trap and concentrate the component steviol glycosides. The resin is washed with a solvent alcohol to release the glycosides and the product is recrystallized from methanol or aqueous ethanol. Ion exchange resins may be used in the purification process. The final product may be spray-dried.'

Stevia consumer products come in sachets, tablets, liquids, and spoon-for-spoon granules. As with other high-intensity sweeteners, the ingredients list for stevia will include bulking and anticaking agents so you can pour it into a cup of coffee or measure it into your cooking and baking. In fact, when you buy stevia, you are often buying a lot of erythritol; in some brands over 99 percent of the product is erythritol. For this reason, some products are low calorie, not zero calorie, so it is important to check the ingredients list.

So, is it better for you? “It does have benefits over sugars,” says dietitian Dr Alan Barclay. “It is a good option for people who want to cut back on calories (kilojoules) and for those who need to avoid blood glucose spikes. But adding stevia to soft drinks to replace all or some of the sugars does not provide a licence to anyone to drink large quantities of these beverages. It’s no panacea. It is a better option, but water is the best choice if you want a cool drink. And claims that stevia is a key ingredient in the fight against obesity are overblown.”

Nicole's Taste of Health

Berry, berry good. 
I’ve got strawberries growing in pots and they’re coming on beautifully, however I did lose a few to Mr Two who took a while to understand you have to wait until they’re red to pick them; he didn’t seem to mind eating them green but they don’t ripen after picking.


He loves strawberries, and most kids do. They’re beautiful to look at too. They are the only fruit with the seeds on the outside, with each fruit carrying an average of two hundred. Visiting a berry farm to pick your own is a great family outing. Eating a fresh strawberry at its best is a delight. Go in the morning while the fruit is still cool. I’m growing them with black plastic over the top of the soil – I just opened up old plastic shopping bag – to keep the fruit clean and the soil moist, like they do on commercial strawberry farms.

Strawberry ‘runners’ are planted by hand in winter and produce fruit in spring, although greenhouse strawberries are available all year round. Strawberries are fragile and picked and packed by hand making them a fairly labour-intensive commercial crop.

Choose plump, red, shiny berries without white bits to ensure maximum freshness, sweetness and flavour. Avoid packs with squashed berries and juice in the bottom that indicates old or overripe fruit. Strawberries are best stored in the fridge, spread out in a single layer to avoid damage, but taste their best at room temperature so take them out for a while before eating. Wash gently in cool water (do not soak) before hulling and eating and allow to air-dry or pat gently with paper towel.

Strawberries are fabulous eaten as a snack but they also lend themselves to different serving ideas: strawberries and ice cream or cream is a classic simple dessert, and the antipodean specialty pavlova begs for strawberries on top.

  • Strawberry shortcake is the stuff of fairy tales, and strawberries add beautiful colour to a fruit salad. 
  • A strawberry smoothie just screams “healthy”, as a chocolate coated strawberry says “a treat with benefits”. 
  • For something different, marinate halved strawberries in balsamic vinegar and a little icing sugar and serve with finely shredded fresh basil. It sounds odd but do try it on toast with a dollop of ricotta, as a filling for crepes or jaffles, in a parfait, or in an ice cream sundae. 
They are best eaten on the day you buy them but if your strawberries last long enough to go mushy, cook them up with a sprinkle of sugar to make your own sauce (when pureed and strained this is called a coulis) you can then chill and serve over natural yoghurt, ice cream, wholegrain breakfast cereal or wholegrain English muffins with ricotta. Strawberries can also be frozen for up to a year (and commercially frozen berries are good value for enjoying them out of season). They can be frozen whole in a single layer with stem to preserve their shape, or after cooking.

Strawberries are rich in vitamin C, with one cup providing 180% of the recommended daily intake. They are also high in the B-vitamin folate needed for a healthy heart and healthy pregnancy. Like other berries, strawberries are low natural sugars, low in kilojoules, low GI and packed with beneficial flavonoid antioxidants. They are also a source of fibre for digestive health and potassium for better blood pressure.

Just the other day Mr Two mistook a red heart shape in a book for a strawberry, which I thought was very appropriate considering how much we both love strawberries. The only down side is waiting for them to ripen on the vine, but all good things come to those who wait.

Buon appetito!

Nicole and Finn
Nicole Senior is an Accredited Nutritionist, author and consultant who strives to make healthy food taste terrific. You can follow her on Twitter or Facebook or checkout her website

In the GI News Kitchen

Family Baking.
Anneka Manning, founder of Sydney’s BakeClub, shares her delicious ‘better-for-you’ recipes for snacks, desserts and treats the whole family will love. Through both her writing and cooking school, Anneka teaches home cooks to bake in practical and approachable yet inspiring ways that assure success in the kitchen.

 Anneka Manning
Strawberry, maple and pistachio parfait. 
A delicious combination of nuts, seeds and oats layered with sweet fresh strawberries and thick Greek-style yoghurt, it is hard to go past this parfait at breakfast time.

  • Preparation time: 15 minutes 
  • Baking time: 12–15 minutes 
  • Serves: 8 
800g natural Greek-style yoghurt
625g (2½ punnets) ripe strawberries, hulled and quartered

Maple and pistachio granola
½ cup traditional rolled oats (oatmeal)
½ cup unsalted pistachio kernels, coarsely chopped
½ cup shredded coconut
½ cup sunflower seeds
½ cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ cup pure maple syrup or pure floral honey
1 teaspoon natural vanilla essence or extract

Strawberry, maple and pistachio parfait

To make the Maple and pistachio granola, preheat the oven to 170°C/340°F (150°C/300°F fan-forced). Line a large oven tray with non-stick baking paper.
Combine the oats, pistachios, coconut, sunflower seeds, pepitas and cinnamon in a medium bowl and toss to combine. Combine the maple syrup and vanilla, pour over the oat mixture and toss to combine evenly.
Spread on the lined tray and bake in preheated oven for 12–15 minutes, tossing twice during baking, until golden. Set aside to cool to room temperature (see Baker’s Tip).
To assemble the parfait, layer the yoghurt, granola and strawberries in glasses or dishes, finishing with a little sprinkling of granola. Serve immediately.

Baker’s tip 
Keep a jar of this granola in an airtight jar or container in the pantry, so you can whip up the parfait anytime you please. The granola will keep at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.
    Per serve 
    1430 kJ/ 340 calories; 14 g protein; 21 g fat (includes 7 g saturated fat; saturated:unsaturated fat ratio 0.33); 21 g available carbs (includes 14 g sugars and 7 g starch); 6 g fibre; sodium:potassium ratio 0.13

    What’s for dinner? A taste of Diane Temple's Money Saving Meals. 
    Red beef and pumpkin curry. 
    Diane Temple says: “I usually make this with light coconut milk, but by using light and creamy coconut flavoured evaporated milk you boost the protein and cut the saturated fat right back.” Serves 4.

    1 tbsp peanut oil 350g (12oz) rump steak, thinly sliced
    1 onion, halved and thinly sliced
    2 tbsp red curry paste (or to taste)
    2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
    375ml (14oz) can light coconut milk or light and creamy coconut flavoured evaporated milk
    500g (1lb2 oz) pumpkin, peeled and chopped into bite-sized chunks
    120g (4oz) green beans, trimmed, sliced in half
    1 tbsp fish sauce 1 tbsp table sugar
    1½ cups low GI brown rice or brown basmati rice (cooked)
    chopped peanuts or chopped coriander or both (optional)

    Red beef and pumpkin curry

    Heat the wok or large frying pan over high heat, add the oil and when hot (not before), stir-fry the beef in two batches for 1–2 minutes until brown. Set the beef aside in a heatproof bowl.
    Stir-fry the onion for 2 minutes then add the curry paste and garlic and stir to combine. Pour in the coconut milk, stirring until the curry paste has dissolved and bring just to the boil. Add the pumpkin chunks, cover (with a lid or foil), reduce the heat and simmer gently for 10–12 minutes until the pumpkin is just tender (but not mushy) ... Meanwhile, cook the rice following the packet directions.
    Add the green beans and the cooked beef to the wok, and simmer for 2 minutes until everything is piping hot and the beans are tender-crisp. Add the fish sauce and sugar, a teaspoon of each at a time, to achieve a flavour balance you like.
    Spoon the rice onto four serving plates and top with the curried beef and a scattering of chopped peanuts or coriander for extra crunch and colour if you wish.

    Per serving (with rice and made with light and creamy evaporated coconut milk)
    Energy: 1826 kJ/ 436 cals; Protein 33 g; Fat 12 g (includes 4 g saturated fat; saturated:unsaturated fat ratio 0.33); Carbs 46 g; Fibre 4

    Recipe courtesy Money Saving Meals published by Hachette Australia. Available from bookshops and online. Print and eBook editions now available.

    Johanna's Italian Kitchen
    American dietitian and author of Good Carbs, Bad Carbs, Johanna Burani, shares her favourite recipes with a low or moderate GI. For more information, check out Johanna's website. The photographs are by Sergio Burani. His food, travel and wine photography website is photosbysergio.com.


    Strawberries amandine.
    Simply slice and chop and it is ready to serve. As with all fruit, serve these strawberries only in the peak of their growing season. Note this recipe uses a 15ml tablespoon.) Servings: 4 (1 cup each)

    450g/1lb medium-sized fresh strawberries (about 24)
    2 tbsp (30ml) Amaretto di Saronno liqueur
    30g/1oz almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped (about 24)

    Strawberries amandine

    Place the whole strawberries in a bowl with cold water and swish them around to remove surface dirt. Drain, run under faucet water, drain again and pat dry with paper towels.
    Remove stems and leaves and create a small wedge at the top of each strawberry using a knife or small melon baller. (I use a demitasse spoon.)
    Quarter the strawberries horizontally and place them in a mixing bowl. Add the amaretto, mix well.
    Spoon an equal amount of the strawberries into 4 individual dessert cups, top with the toasted almonds and serve immediately. Per serving

    Per serve
    Energy 490kJ/117cals; Protein 2g; Fat 4g (includes 0g saturated fat); Available carbohydrate 10g (includes sugars 6g; starch 7g); Fibre 3g; sodium:potassium ratio 0.003

    Putting the Fun Back into Fitness with Emma Sandall

    Spring is here in Sydney. It seems to bestow on us all a bright energy, just like the flowers coming into bloom. My friends and I decided that this is the year of exploring more of the city we live in: getting to know all its nooks and crannies; its beautiful coastlines and public spaces. And we’re doing this by organising regular Sunday morning walks together.

    Walking in Sydney
    The Bondi to Bronte walk and the delights of Sculpture by the Sea

    Walking – at a moderate-to-fast pace – is a type of Long Slow Distance training, that is great for your heart health. Simply put, it elevates your heart rate and keeps it there for a sustained period of time. This “time under exertion” gradually builds strength in the muscle itself, and in so doing improves your cardiovascular fitness.

    Running and jogging can get the heart rate up quicker and make your body work harder, but you can do a lot of good just by going for a nice long walk (try an hour or two). You are less likely to injure yourself, or exacerbate any existing niggles. And you will have more time and focus to absorb beautiful and interesting sights as you go.

    This is a great activity to enjoy with friends and family. Rather than sitting down face to face and revisiting the same conversations, or repeating patterns of behaviour – some of which are not so positive in nature – walking breaks it up by getting you out and about. I find it inspires new ideas and topics and brings greater awareness of the shared experience. And because being active naturally releases good exercise endorphins, you’ll most likely find your conversations brighter, and more “light-hearted” as well.

    When you are out and about, you will cross paths with fellow walkers, a friendly community of folk by and large. Most like to exchange a word or two about the track, what they have seen, where they have been, what’s in flower, or a vista that’s just around the bend. In Sydney we are tremendously lucky with the variety of walks we have available for all seasons. City and suburban walks: parks, beaches, coastlines, bush and mountains a hop, skip and a jump from your front door. There are now terrific apps and publications to tell you about all the different walks in your area, providing information about their length, difficulty, and how to get there.

    It’s a good idea to be a little prepared for walking – although it is really not a paraphernalia-dense activity. Taking along a bottle of water, a hat, sun cream and sunglasses is a good idea. I cannot walk without my camera as every bend seems to frame a new perfect shot! And make sure your shoes are right for the terrain. Blisters are no fun at all.
    Emma Sandall
    Emma Sandall is an ex-ballerina turned fitness and health guru. She teaches and coaches dance, fitness and Pilates and writes and produces video for all things movement related. Emma runs Body Playground, a space to activate and inspire body and soul.

    Perspectives with Dr Alan Barclay

    Alan Barclay

    Australia's Dietary Fibre Paradox. 

    Bowel cancer, or colorectal cancer (CRC) to use its more scientific name, is one of the most common cancers in Australian men and women with 62 out of every 100,000 people diagnosed each year. It is also a leading cause of cancer in the USA (44 diagnosed per 100,000 people) and UK (47 per 100,000 people) and many other countries that enjoy the so-called Western diet.

    Systematic reviews of observational studies around the world tell us that a high intake of dietary fibre, in particular cereal fibre and whole grains, is associated with a reduction in the risk of developing colorectal cancer. Hence the common dietary guideline: enjoy daily “Grain (cereal) foods, mostly wholegrain and/or high cereal fibre varieties”.

    “Australians have taken the advice to eat more fibre very seriously and consume fibre at high levels, largely as cereal fibres. This has not led to the anticipated fall in CRC rates, which remain high” say CSIRO’s Drs David Topping and Michael Conlon in the Medical Journal of Australia. They have coined the phrase the Australian Fibre Paradox to describe this unexpected outcome. Indeed, in 1983, the average Australian adult (25–64 years of age) consumed just under 22 grams of dietary fibre each day and in 2011–12, they consumed just over 23 grams each day – not a huge increase, but an increase nevertheless. And from a Western perspective, Australians are relatively high fibre consumers, with our UK and US cousins consuming on average around 14 grams and 16 grams, respectively. Despite this, Australians have higher rates of bowel cancer than people living in both the UK and US. A fibre paradox indeed.

    Topping and Conlon go on to say: “Emerging evidence now shows that many of the actions of fibre are mediated through short chain fatty acids (SCFAs), principally acetate, propionate and butyrate, produced by the fermentation of its constituents by beneficial large-bowel bacteria ... Resistant starch [a kind of dietary fibre] is fermented extensively in the large bowel, producing SCFAs, which promote a normal colonocyte phenotype – possibly lowering CRC ... Levels of resistant starch in most Australian processed consumer foods are low, suggesting a general deficiency of fermentable substrate – and thus a collectively hungry microbiome. We suggest that filling this gap by increasing the availability of new fermentable fibre-rich foods to feed the colonic microbiota and raise large-bowel SCFA levels has considerable potential to improve the health of the population.”.

    Or in other words decrease the risk of colorectal cancer in Australia.

    Carisma potato salad
    Carisma potato salad with lemon-yogurt dressing

    One way of increasing the resistant starch content of foods is eating foods cold after cooking them – potato, pasta and rice salads are classic examples, but even reheated starchy foods are thought to provide some additional benefits if you don’t like to eat them cold. Other good sources of resistant starches include legumes, rolled oats, barley and bananas (not over ripe). Regular GI News readers will recognise that many of the foods higher in resistant starch have a lower GI and that heating then cooling common starchy foods is one way of lowering the GI (e.g., potatoes).

    What the emerging evidence is suggesting is that all dietary fibres are not the same and that simply eating more fibre in total may not provide all of the expected health benefits.

    Unfortunately, it’s more complicated than that.
    Alan Barclay (BSc; Grad Dip; PhD, APD, AN) is a consultant dietitian and Chief Scientific Officer at the Glycemic Index Foundation. He worked for Diabetes Australia (NSW) from 1998-2014 and is a member of the editorial boards of Diabetes Australia’s consumer magazine, Conquest, and health professional magazine, Diabetes Management Journal. He is coauthor of The Low GI Diet: Diabetes Handbook, The Low GI Diet: Managing Type 2 Diabetes, and The Ultimate Guide to Sugars and Sweeteners. Contact: alan.barclay@gisymbol.com or 0416 111 046

    News from the Glycemic Index Foundation

    New Total Wellbeing Diet plus low GI carbs online program
    The Glycemic Index Foundation has joined forces with CSIRO in an enhanced version of the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet. We are seeking up to 5000 Australians between the ages of 18 and 74 to take part in a three-month trial of the online program, which will enable us to better understand the needs of today's digital dieters. “This new and improved Total Wellbeing Diet takes the glycemic index seriously, building on research undertaken by CSIRO and Glycemic Index Foundation (GIF). It gives you a proven diet for long-term, sustainable weight control and well-being,” says Professor Jennie Brand-Miller.

    Fennel-crusted pork fillet with parsnip and baked apple from The Total Wellbeing Diet (Book 1). Photo courtesy Penguin Books

      • What do you have to do? Participants will be asked to provide information on their diet choices and weight loss via an online program diary. 
      • What do you get when you sign up? Participants can access more than 500 high protein recipes with low GI carbohydrate foods online and customise meals swapping this for that to suit their tastes and dietary preferences. There are also exercise programs to maximise the weight loss and wellness benefits. 
      • What does it cost? This sign-up fee is A$99.00. However, this will be fully refunded to participants who complete the 12-week program and weigh in each week. 
      • Who is behind it? CSIRO has licensed the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet to SP Health in collaboration with the Glycemic Index Foundation. To find out more about the trial or register, visit: www.totalwellbeingdiet.com
      New GI Symbol

    Q&A with Prof. Jennie Brand-Miller

    Prof Jennie Brand-Miller answers your questions. 

    Why don’t you use the terms simple and complex carbohydrates anymore?
    Research on the glycemic index over the past 30+ years has shown us that using terms like “simple” or “complex” tells us nothing about how the carbohydrates in the foods and beverages we consume affect our blood glucose levels. And for people with diabetes who must manage their BGLs, that’s what matters.

    For many years, the nature of carbohydrates was described by their chemical structure. They were either simple or complex and it was all about size. Sugars were simple and starches were complex. Why? Well sugars were small molecules and starches were big ones. From this, it was assumed that big starch carbohydrates would be slowly digested and absorbed and would therefore cause only a small and gradual rise in blood glucose levels. So they were called “complex” and this implied healthy. Smaller sugar carbohydrates were assumed to be digested and absorbed quickly, producing a rapid increase in blood glucose simply because they were small. So we called them “simple” and gave the impression that they were not so good for us.

    GI Graph

    Then along came David Jenkins and Tom Wolever’s ground-breaking research on the glycemic index. It challenged these assumptions with real science. It showed us what actually happens in our bodies with real foods in real people and blood tests (something that had never been done before). It showed us that the rise in blood glucose after meals cannot be predicted on the basis of molecule size or chemical structure. In other words, the old distinctions between starchy foods (complex carbohydrates) and sugary foods (simple carbohydrates) had no useful application when it came to blood glucose levels – and all of the health issues that relate to them. The GI is the only way you can rank the glycemic potency of the carbohydrates in different foods exactly as they are eaten.

    Professor Jennie Brand-Miller (AM, PhD, FAIFST, FNSA, MAICD) is an internationally recognised authority on carbohydrates and the glycemic index with over 250 scientific publications. She holds a Personal Chair in Human Nutrition in the Boden Institute of Obesity, Nutrition, Exercise and Eating Disorders and Charles Perkins Centre at the University of Sydney. She is the coauthor of many books for the consumer on the glycemic index and health.

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