The National Sugar Debate – building a consensus amongst nutritionists

Published on the 3rd Apr, 2014 by Azmina

From the start of 2014, the media frenzy over sugar has heightened… January started off with British Dietetic Association spokespeople contributing to major newspapers, and it’s still a hot topic with no sign of cooling down. Since the start of the year, I’ve been leading twitter chats, giving a presentation to media medics and providing quotes to newspapers and magazines to see if I can get some sort of expert consensus. Here’s a summary of my three months debating whether sugar really is the new tobacco.

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12 January 2014 – you may remember the headline in The Sunday Times: “Obesity tsar calls for tax on juice”. Soon after that, I was asked for my opinion in The Guardian’s equally sensational headline How fruit juice went from health food to junk food”. My opinion then (and now) is that fruit juice is perfectly acceptable in the appropriate portion size of 150ml a day and that ideally you should drink it with a meal to reduce the impact on teeth. (more…)

Is 7-a-day the new way?

Published on the 1st Apr, 2014 by Azmina

The hot story today is about research published in The Journal of Epidemiology & Community Heath suggesting that we should be eating seven or more portions of fresh fruit and veg a day. The British Dietetic Association phone lines have been jammed and as a BDA spokesperson, my day so far has been spent on the frozen and canned fruit story.

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The study asked more than 65,000 middle-aged people in England about how much fruit and vegetables they ate over the last 24 hours and evaluated their risk of death from diseases like heart disease and cancer. There is enough scientific evidence to persuade me that eating more fruit and veg is protective against these non-communicable diseases, period. But I do have issues with lumping frozen fruit with tinned fruit,whether it’s in natural juice or syrup. 

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Social Media How-to

Published on the 29th Oct, 2013 by Azmina

I’ll be speaking at this year’s Nutrition & Health Live conference on 2 November and am busy planning the content so we ensure the session is engaging and informative. Well, of course it will be engaging when it’s about my pet subject, Social Media! The workshop is aimed at nutritionists and dietitians, especially those who haven’t yet caught the social bug, and I’ll also be chairing the Expert Panel. I’m partial to this conference as it’s a great networking opportunity and the lectures are usually very insightful (and I was lucky enough to be short-listed for Nutritionist of the Year Award 2012).N&H12_Award-Shortlisted_logo-RGB-web

Here’s what me and my colleagues have in store for delegates this year:

I’ll kick off to spread some Twitter basics, get the group to create a tweet or two, and I’ll introduce the successful RDUK Twitter chats, which are supported by the British Dietetic Association. Then Emma Carder takes it up a notch as she discusses multiple social media interaction using Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Nichola Whitehead later shares her journey on how she works and how to increase your number of followers.

The Expert Panel Discussion points will include: (more…)

Protein drinks – is it all hype?

Published on the 6th Jun, 2013 by Azmina

I’ve been helping Duncan Walker at BBC online with his article on the rise of protein drinks for ordinary people, published today.

If you look at dietary surveys we are actually doing okay for protein and there’s no reason for dietary supplements unless you are in a vulnerable category. But who is vulnerable? milk n fruit

Nutrition and Diet surveys are based on people recording what they eat – if you’ve ever tried to do that, you’ll know how difficult it is to remember every mouthful. And food eaten outside the home, including sandwiches and takeaways, are estimates of portion size rather than accurate weighed measurements. So it’s not a complete picture of what we’re eating.

Protein as we get older…

Protein shakes could be important, or popular, with middle aged people. On average, between the age of 50 and 70, you will lose about 30% of your muscle strength. That’s why we look flabby as we get older! Protein is the nutrient that helps to re-build your muscles. And I think that’s probably one of the reasons why there’s this growing attention – we’re an ageing population and 50 is the new 30. We all want to be as active as we once were. (more…)

Would you eat your own placenta?

Published on the 5th Jun, 2013 by Azmina

Yesterday I was interviewed by a researcher from ITV This Morning in preparation for their debate on new mums eating their own placenta. It follows news that Kim Kardashian plans to do this once she delivers her baby. Gosh, being a media nutritionist is full of surprises! I set to work on finding out what this could mean for you nutritionally…

This practice seems to be common in some cultures. In my search for credible evidence, I found none. There was nothing in the research that pointed to this being good for you – but there was none that confirmed it was harmful either.

My views

  1. Placenta is indeed a nutritious organ.  It’s rich in protein, vitamin B12 and iron. These are important nutrients, especially for women or if you are vegetarian (though I wonder what vegetarian women would think about eating placenta?). We don’t know the nutritional value of cooked placenta. You can get these nutrients from red meat and liver.
  2. This is a matter of personal choice. You need to eat a varied diet, regular meals, and protein and iron-containing foods after pregnancy. If you’re breast-feeding, you must take a 10mcg supplement of vitamin D and 500 extra kcals.
  3. There have been reports that the hormones help to combat post-natal depression. I wonder how much of this is a placebo effect.

Anyone for liver? 

 

 

 

Takeaways face ban during school hours

Published on the 30th May, 2013 by Azmina

I was asked for my views on this proposed ban today by ITV Daybreak. Salford City Council is proposing that fast food outlets (like MacDonald’s and local fish and chip shops) near schools should be banned from serving hot food before 5pm, in an aim to reduce the obesity crisis. The ban would only prevent new outlets that apply for a licence and the public is being asked for their views before the ban is implemented. chips

My thoughts

If unhealthy food is within easy reach, you’re more tempted to go for it. And when you’re hungry, the smell of hot food can be even more alluring. I advise people wanting to lose weight to remove the temptation by not keeping unhealthy snacks accessible– out of sight is out of mind.

But this proposed ban only addresses new businesses, so children who frequently visit existing outlets are unlikely to change their habits. Hence, I doubt this ban would have a significant effect.  (more…)

Sunday lunch comes off the menu

Published on the 8th Mar, 2013 by Azmina

I’m working with Change4life to help get us eating better and moving more. Today I was on Sky breakfast news talking about the latest survey of 2000 mums around the challenges of cooking from scratch. The story is also in the Metro, Daily Mail online, Express and more.

Time and confidence are the main barriers that mums report when it comes to preparing meals for their families:

  • Over half (51%) of those surveyed said the reason they don’t cook more often is because it is too time consuming;
  • Almost a quarter of mums (24%) said they don’t cook from scratch more because they don’t know how to; and
  • Almost three quarters (71%) said they eat convenience foods instead of cooking from scratch because they are quicker to prepare. 

The survey was commissioned for Change4Life’s Be Food Smart healthy eating campaign, which aims to lift the lid on the hidden nasties – salt, sugar and saturated fat – found in many popular foods, particularly convenience meals.

It’s understandable that over time eating habits change and that the time-pushed mums of today aren’t necessarily going to approach cooking family dinners in the way their own mothers once did. However, many take-aways and processed foods can contain high levels of salt, sugar and saturated fat, so shoppers needed to be encouraged to buy healthier options whist still taking short-cuts to fit in with demands on their time.  (more…)

England’s low ‘Food IQ’ revealed in new research

Published on the 3rd Jan, 2013 by Azmina

Just returned from a sofa chat on ITV Daybreak studios with John Stapleton and Helen Fospero, and today we were talking about healthy living campaign Change4Life survey results on what consumers know about nutrition. Watch one minute of the interview.

Two thousand adults took the newly launched ‘Food IQ’ quiz, designed to highlight levels of salt, sugar and saturated fat in popular foods. The results show that the majority of people are largely unaware of what is in their food – with over three quarters (77%) of respondents’ Food IQs rating as low (scoring 50% or under).

I’m not surprised that people have low awareness. I wouldn’t expect the average person to know that a cheese and ham sandwich has more salt than a packet of crisps. We’re bombarded with different nutritional messages from websites, magazines, even celebrities; often this can be confusing.

And you need to be really label savvy to make healthier choices. Food labels need to be simpler. We don’t often realize that there’s hidden salt in bread or that a fruity cereal bar could be packed with sugar. Cakes & biscuits have hidden fat and sugar, and cured meats, cheese, & breakfast cereals can be high in salt.

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The Little Black Dress Diet – party tips to keep you slim and trim

Published on the 19th Dec, 2012 by Azmina

As consultant nutritionist to ITV Lorraine show’s Little Black Dress Diet with Dannii Minogue, Lisa Faulkner and Jane Wake, I thought I’d share some tricks on how to stay focussed while you’re out partying the night away.


Fat Tax – what do UK dietitians think?

Published on the 16th May, 2012 by Azmina

We’ve been here before; I remember being interviewed about this by the BBC during last year’s National Obesity Forum conference. This time new research from Oxford has hit the headlines. There have been reports in the press today about how a “fat tax” applied to unhealthy foods could help combat obesity.

Oliver Mytton and colleagues at the University of Oxford examined the evidence on the health effects of food taxes. It’s suggested that a tax on unhealthy food could help improve health, but the tax would need to be fairly heavy to make a difference – up to 20%. Ideally, a move to make fruit and veg cheaper would have to accompany such tax.

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Nutritionists get social – highlights from my talk on social media

Published on the 25th Apr, 2012 by Azmina

Nutrition is taking centre stage; everybody seems to have an opinion on it. I believe that nutritionists and dietitians need to become more visible on social media platforms, so I decided to put my money where my mouth is and present my views to nutritionists and other healthcare professionals at a seminar in London yesterday.

Check out my slides if you’re hungry for more…

Topics I covered were:

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Red meat and risk of death – what’s all the fuss about?

Published on the 13th Mar, 2012 by Azmina

So, there’s been huge media frenzy over a large Harvard study just published in the journal ‘Archives of Internal Medicine’. News reports today talk about how red meat substantially increases the risk of deaths from heart disease and cancer. Let’s look at this in context….

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Can Change4life supermarket vouchers really change lives?

Published on the 3rd Jan, 2012 by Azmina

2012 saw the launch of a nation-wide government campaign to help us buy and cook healthier meals on a budget. Yesterday I was quizzed about my views on this, live on the Vanessa show Radio London, as part of my work with the British Dietetic Association. (more…)

Bikinis & Diets

Published on the 4th Jun, 2011 by Azmina

 

So, I’ve just completed working on the Real Woman’s Bikini Diet for GMTV’s Lorraine show. What fun sampling and analysing Masterchef winner Nadia Sawalha’s yummy recipes. You won’t believe you could lose weight on this mouth-watering array of tasty treats. From exciting breakfasts like No Fry Fry-Up to sumptuous suppers like Creamy Mushroom and Basil Chicken, you can be sure to find a delicious meal that won’t show up on your waistline.

I’ve taken Nadia’s recipes and checked them out for good nutrition so you don’t need to worry about getting the right balance. The diet goes live on the box on Monday 6 June but you can get a sneak preview here.