Each week we analyse some of the hot headlines in health and nutrition news. This week cheese; obesity & diabetes/cancer risk; and sugar reduction in Kellogg’s cereals.

 

HEADLINE 1: A piece of cheese a day keeps the doctor away

Picked up in the news this week by the Daily Mail, The Express, The Sun, The Independent and The Guardian is the suggestion that eating cheese could reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

This is based on a meta-analysis of studies which concluded that consuming 40g of cheese per day reduced the risk of heart attack by 14% and stroke by 10%.

Behind the headlines: the Nutrilicious dietetic view

While cheese lovers are likely to have rejoiced, there are limitations to the research on which the headlines were based. The lack of randomised controlled trials included within the meta-analysis means that no causal relationship can be assumed between eating cheese and risk of heart disease. There are far too many factors which could interfere with the results.

Interestingly, there are previous large studies that have found no association between heart disease and eating cheese. Again, it can be hard to prove that it is the cheese eating that is causing the effects.  

The harm that eating too much cheese can cause to health is well documented. Although it is a good source of protein, calcium, phosphorous and vitamin B12, it can also be high in saturated fats. Having too much saturated fat in the diet can increase levels of LDL cholesterol in the blood, which is an established risk factor for heart disease. A 30g portion of cheddar cheese (a matchbox size) contains 6.5g saturated fat (over a quarter of the reference intake for saturated fat – 20g). It can also be quite easy to go above this recommended portion size. 

Some cheeses can be high in salt and there is a lot of evidence to show that too much salt can increase the risk of high blood pressure, another risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

Cheese can be enjoyed as part of a healthy diet if eaten in moderation and can provide a valuable source of various nutrients. Sticking to the recommended 30g portion size and opting for lower fat varieties such as lighter/reduced fat cheddars, cottage cheese and ricotta, can help ensure we don’t exceed our recommended maximum amount of saturated fat.

Moreover, foods such as low-fat yogurts and lower fat milks can also provide us with calcium and protein (two of the key nutrients found in cheese) but provide less saturated fats (as well as fewer calories, which would be helpful for those trying to lose weight).

For more information, go to British Heart Foundation and the NHS

 

HEADLINE 2: Diabetes is a key factor in WORLDWIDE cancer surge

The Express, The Sun and The Daily Mail reported on a finding that diabetes and obesity have been linked to causing cancer.

Researchers found that people with a high BMI (defined as above 25kg/m) who also had diabetes were behind 5.6% of new cancer cases globally, affecting 792,600 people in 2012. The method used was through assessing the increase in new cases of 18 cancers based on the prevalence of diabetes and high BMI in 175 countries (using data about BMI and diabetes in 2002 and cancers recorded in 2012).

Behind the headlines: the Nutrilicious dietetic view

This is an interesting study as it is the first study to have looked at the combined effect of having diabetes and obesity on cancer risk. Whilst the headlines alert us to the finding that over 5% of cancers were attributable to diabetes and cancer, there were significant differences between various groups of people, regions and types of cancer which should be noted. These are discussed in the original study. For example, cancers attributable to diabetes and being overweight were nearly twice as common in women (496,700 cases) as they were in men (295,900 cases).

It should be noted that there were limitations of the study. It is questionable whether the 10-year gap used between recording diabetes and high BMI to cancer incidence is entirely appropriate to enable conclusions to be drawn, as recognised by the researchers.

What we understand already is that obesity is certainly a risk factor for cancer. Analysis conducted by the World Cancer Research Fund has found that being overweight (BMI 25kg- 29.9/m) or obese (BMI 30kg/m and above) increases the risk of 11 types of cancer.

The Diabetes UK website outlines the link between diabetes and cancer. Some of the complications associated with diabetes can increase the risk of cancer. However, well-managed diabetes can help reduce the risk of any complications. Diabetes UK have given their thoughts on this study and stated that, “Diabetes doesn’t directly cause cancer, but this study adds to the evidence that having diabetes can increase the risk of certain types of cancer.”

The main message to take home from these headlines is that the increasing prevalence of obesity and diabetes may lead to an increase in risk of certain cancers. Maintaining a healthy weight, eating well, keeping physically active, not smoking, and not exceeding the government guidelines for alcohol consumption can all help lower the risk of diabetes and cancer.

For more information, go to Diabetes UK and WCRF

 

HEADLINE 3: Kellogg’s to cut sugar in kids’ cereals by up to 40%

Also in the news this week is the announcement that Kellogg’s will cut the sugar levels in children’s cereals by up to 40%. This was reported by the BBC, the Daily Mail, the Evening Standard, The Times and The Sun.

Kellogg’s have said they will reduce sugar levels by 20-40% by the middle of 2018 for Coco Pops, Rice Krispies and Rice Krispies Multi-Grain Shapes. They are also going to stop making Ricicles from January 2018, due to the amount of sugar in the cereal, and are putting a stop to on-pack promotions aimed at children on Frosties.

Behind the headlines: the Nutrilicious dietetic view

This is a very positive and encouraging move from Kellogg’s as the battle to reduce sugar consumption in the UK continues.

In March this year, officials at Public Health England called on food firms to cut sugar by 5% by the end of this year and by 20% by 2020. The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition currently advise that free sugar intake in the UK should account for no more than 5% of our daily energy intake. Advice for the different age groups is as follows:

  • Children 4-6 years – no more than 19g free sugars per day (5 teaspoons)
  • Children 7-10 years – no more than 24g free sugars per day (6 teaspoons)
  • Children 11 years + and adults – no more than 30g free sugars per day (7 teaspoons)  

Although not the highest source of sugar in our diets, cereals do contribute to daily intake, with the most recent National Diet and Nutrition Survey highlighting that cereals are responsible for 5% of the added sugar intakes of adults and 6-8% of that of 4-10-year olds and teens. In our blog post last year A Health Check on New Breakfast Opportunities we discussed the need for more breakfast options to offer lower sugar choices and so this certainly is a positive step forward. With gradually a lesser number of options available that are high in sugar, it may be less overwhelming for consumers to make healthier choices.

Here is how much sugar is currently in the Kellogg’s products and how much they are to be reduced by:

  • Coco Pops – 9g sugar per 30g serving. To be reduced to 5.1g per 30g serving (40% reduction, changing from about 2 teaspoons of sugar to just over 1 teaspoon).
  • Rice Krispies – 3g sugar per 30g serving. To be reduced to 2.4g per 30g serving (20% reduction, changing from ¾ teaspoon of sugar to a little under 2/3 teaspoon of sugar).
  • Rice Krispies Multi-Grain Shapes – 6.3g sugar per 30g serving. To be reduced to 4.5g per 30g serving (30% reduction, changing from about 1.5 teaspoons of sugar to just over 1 teaspoon)

A step forward to reduce the sugar content of any foods available on the market can only surely be a positive one.

For more information, go to Kellogg’s – Sugar and Breakfast Cereal and SACN 2015 – Carbohydrates and Health Report 

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