By, Claire McDonnell Liu, Nutritionist at Leafie.org
With hardly a whisper in the mainstream press, the public is mainly unaware that an extensive four-year long review of the Australian Dietary Guideline is well underway.
Due to be finalised and published in 2024, the updated guidelines will have a significant impact on the nation’s health over many years.
Vitally important, there is an opportunity for the public to be involved in shaping the guidelines. A public call for evidence is due to open shortly, inviting submissions in the last quarter of 2022.
Far-Reaching Health Significance
If you have ever wondered why your local hospital serves sugary cereals and jam, primary schools dish out high-carbohydrate meals and desserts, or why highly processed food products are advised for patients managing weight and maintaining health – the answers lie with the Australian Dietary Guidelines.
The Australian Dietary Guidelines impact our daily lives in numerous ways, informing Australia’s nutrition advice, policy, education, and health star ratings on food packets. As well as guiding the food provided in schools, childcare centres, prisons, age-care facilities, and hospitals throughout the country.
The guidelines are intended for all healthy Australians, not those that are frail or who need special dietary advice for a medical condition. Unfortunately, the majority of Australian adults are no longer healthy.
Since the introduction of the guidelines in 1982, Australia has experienced a catastrophic decline in the nation’s health. Over three-quarters (78.6%) of Australian adults suffer from at least one long-term health condition and almost half have one or more chronic conditions.
Australia has one of the highest rates of obesity in the world, with the majority of adults (67% in 2017/18) and one in four children being overweight or obese. The infographic below highlights just how quickly obesity has increased in Australia.
Being overweight or obese diminishes almost every aspect of health, from reproductive and respiratory function to memory and mood. Obesity increases your risk of many debilitating, deadly diseases, including diabetes type 2, heart disease, and some cancers.
The opportunity to transform Australian’s health with reformed nutrition advice should not be missed, but concerns have been highlighted over lack of action by government and health bodies. and dietary guidelines
Fit for Purpose?
The guidelines have come under criticism in a number of areas, as highlighted in my recent article for Nutrition Coalition USA, Australian Dietary Guidelines Update – Business as Usual?
The article presents potential biases, arising from all but one member of the guidelines committee having extensive ties with the government agency responsible for the guidelines, as noted by Nutrition Researcher and former Nurse, Belinda Fettke.
Belinda previously shared her detailed research into the conflicts of interests and unsavoury origins of nutrition recommendations in her 2019 presentation ‘Nutrition Science: How did we get here?’.
Investigative reporter Dr Demasi questions the impartiality of the Dietitian’s Association of Australia (DAA), now Dietitians Australia. Maryanne explains that the DAA undertook the 2013 guideline evidence review, despite their long-term relationships with food and pharmaceutical companies, including Kelloggs, Nestle, and Unilever.
Dr Peter Brukner, a specialist sports physician, Founder of SugarByHalf and Defeat Diabetes, and author of ‘A Fat Lot of Good’, highlights concerns over the dietary guidelines. . Dr Brukner questions whether the high level of carbohydrates recommended, including cereal, bread, and pasta products, could be contributing to the rapid rise in weight and diabetes-type-2 rates.
Peter will be presenting “Diet and Chronic Disease” at our Low Carb Gold Coast event.
Dr. James Muecke, Ophthalmologist and Australian of the Year 2020, has also been vocal with concerns over the dietary guidelines. He questions recommendations on saturated fats and the evidence that saturated fats from whole foods increase risk of heart disease. Dr Muecke will present “Advocating for Nutritional Change” at Low Carb Gold Coast on 15th October 2022.
The public is invited to submit evidence to be considered in the evidence review, during the last quarter of 2022. Evidence submissions that align with the finalised review scope and topics under review will be considered.
To take an active role in ensuring that the latest science on metabolic health is included in the guidelines process, or for further information on the review, visit the NHMRC website.