Saturday, 19 December 2015

The bones of the matter - Blog 5

We have all heard of the French Paradox – How do french women stay so impossibly slim on a diet based on wine, cheese and butter? Have you heard about the Asian paradox?  Given the connection between dairy products,  calcium intake, bone density and hip fractures, how is it that Asians,  who have low dairy and low calcium diets,  have such a low risk of hip fracture (Anderson & Sjöberg, 2001).

In a population, hip fractures are easier to measure than bone density consequently there is more data on it. You need to fall (or have impact) and have low bone density to fracture your hip. Factors like exercise (and presumably alcohol consumption) affect how much falling goes on. The serious news: Hip fractures are to be avoided if you are over 65 as it significantly increases your chance of dying  in the following year (Walsh, 2011).

Bones do need calcium, along with phosphorus (eggs are a good source) and Vitamin D (Oily fish)(Harvard Medical School, 20013). Dairy products supply up to ¾ of our dietary calcium. For women in my age group it is virtually impossible to get the recommended daily  allowance  (now known as the DRI) of 1000 - 1300 mg (depends on who you ask) without dairy -  1 cup milk has 400mg, of yoghurt 300mg while 1 cup of broccoli  has 60mg,  10 almonds, 30mg (NZ Nutrition Foundation, 2014). Could Asians be getting away with a calcium intake way below the DRI because it’s not the only thing going on (Harvard Medical School, 20013).

There is definitely something questionable about the recommendations which soar for older women  (NZ Nutrition Foundation, 2014). Bone density does decrease with age and there is a link between intakes <400mg per day and fractures (Warensjö et al., 2011). However it looks doubtful that higher (1000- 1300mg) calcium intake is the right approach. In fact exercise seems to be the strongest influence on reducing hip fracture (Kannus, 1999).

While it is indisputable that  the Kneebone’s connected to the thigh bone and the thigh bone’s connected to the hip bone, the hip bone’s connection to our leading national industry does cry out (like a bobby calf, separated from its mother) for more research.

In my next blog: How, according to Fonterra, milk can make you more muscular and attractive to the opposite sex (when taken in conjunction with an active lifestyle).

Anderson, J. J. B., & Sjöberg, H. E. (2001). Dietary calcium and bone health in the elderly: uncertainties about recommendations. Nutritional Research, 21(1-2), 263-268.
Harvard Medical School. (20013). What you need to know about Calcium. Retrieved from
Kannus, P. (1999). Preventing osteoporosis, falls, and fractures among elderly people. The British Medical Journal, 318(7178), 205-2016.
NZ Nutrition Foundation. (2014). Calcium. Retrieved from
Walsh, N. (2011). Mortality High in Year After Hip Fracture. Retrieved from
Warensjö, E., Byberg, L., Melhus, H., Gedeborg, R., Mallmin, H., Wolk, A., & Michaëlsson, K. (2011). Dietary calcium intake and risk of fracture and osteoporosis: prospective longitudinal cohort study. Retrieved from

Saturday, 12 December 2015

The place of Christmas in an Obesogenic environment

Like most people I’m thinking about Christmas and food.  That’s either because

a) Like my family, Christmas involves getting together to share a lot of yummy food or
b) in this part of the world it signals the beginning of the holidays and getting into the swimsuit. It is a time of regretting all the food we have been eating through the year or
c) we have a love/hate relationship with food based on a) and b) above

Ah yes ….. our relationship with food. We know that losing weight is an energy in/energy out equation and that what it boils down to is how much we eat and how much we move. An article by Mathew Haines (2015) in the Herald grabbed my attention. Not because it was rocket science but because what it said very succinctly is just so obvious:  We’ve evolved with a metabolism that makes us store fat. The problem is that there aren’t enough controls stopping us from overeating. If we live in an obesogenic environment we cannot use our instincts to tell us how much to eat. We must use our intellect. This, I thought, has got to be a key concept to anyone who wants to control their weight.

If David visits Houston (Sallis, 2009).

Looking at the obesogenic environment looks at the organisational and physical environment and how ethnicity and psychological and social factors affect our food and movement decisions (Sallis, 2009). The trends in the graphs below are alarming. For Pacific people the current obesity rate, according to the Ministry of social Development (2010) is 65% and rising. Aside from the personal cost, the social and financial costs are of great concern. As we struggle to deal with the epidemic we can expect the word “obesogenic” to become part of the vernacular.

Age-standardised prevalence of obesity, total population aged 15 years and over, by sex, 1997, 2002/2003 and 2006/2007

Age-standardised prevalence of obesity, population aged 15 years and over, by ethnic group, 1997, 2002/2003 and 2006/2007
Source: Ministry of Health (Ministry for Social development, 2010)

How does Christmas feature in an obesogenic environment?  Research done in Sweden (I think we can remove the swimsuit factor) indicates that non obese people put on weight over Christmas (Andersson & Rössner, 1992).  The good tidings are if that if you are already obese then Christmas doesn’t make you gain weight. So, you can relax. Enjoy your eating and drinking. There’s always the New Year to think about your place in an obesogenic world.

Andersson, I., & Rössner, S. (1992). The Christmas factor in obesity therapy. Retrieved from
Haines, M. (2015, December 3). Our bodies work against us. The New Zealand Herald, p. 23.
Ministry for Social development. (2010). 2010: The Social Report. Retrieved from

Sallis, J. (2009). Using Research to Create a Less Obesogenic World. Santiago State University. Retrieved from

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Let the battle commence.

In the right corner we have the Environmentalists….. Mike joy, is a senior lecturer at Massey University’s institute of Agriculture and Environment, has been described as the “rock star” of Freshwater Ecology (Heins, 2014). I guess that’s because he charismatic and is able to communicate well with people. Maybe it’s the long hair. He is an ecologist who has waded into the muddy waters of political debate.
Joy’s (2012) says that New Zealand’s fresh water is in a shocking state and deteriorating fast. The main culprits are the farmers. The fertilizers they use are leaching off the soil into the rivers and the animal waste is creating dangerous pathogens. Nitrogen and Phosphate levels are increasing and we are killing off our native species. He is looking at the situation from the point of view that the health of the ecological system is of paramount importance. Given our dairy dependent economy he sees that the problem can only be solved by regulation.  Our Governments, central and local aren’t doing enough.

Everyone: The Environmentalists, the Government, The Farmers and the general public agree that clean water is desirable and something we should be striving for. The disagreement is over what is clean enough and how it should be achieved.

And, in the left corner, the leaders of the farming industry……the Federated Farmers. Their environmental spokesperson, Ian McKenzie (2014) says the Blame should not be put on the farmers but on run off from Urban centres. He asserts that water quality is good enough and that getting it to the standards that would please environmentalists is unworkable because it is too hard.  There are also the costs that include the price of plantings, fencings and waste treatment. 
Mackenzie (2014) claims that the Dairy industry in New Zealand has taken the bull by the horns (sorry, couldn’t resist it) and that the voluntary initiatives will be enough to remedy the situation to a sufficiently good standard. It is clearly a case of he who pays the piper calls the tune. Federated farmers are protecting the short term interests of the group they represent without looking at the long term economic and social implications.

Heins, A. (2014). Dr Mike Joy lecture. Retrieved from
Joy, M. (2012). Mike Joy details the scientific evidence against intensive dairying and how it is affecting our freshwater systems. How do you see it? Rural news. Retrieved from
Mackenzie, I. (2014). Why Green isn't the best colour for water. Retrieved from

Friday, 27 November 2015

The Literature

Well, I’d got as far as choosing my topic: Further regulation of farming and farming waste management is needed to protect our waterways.

Floundering around for somewhere to start I took the advice any teenager would give: Google it. Soon I was entrenched in the public stoush in 2012 between a Massey Lecturer - Mike Joy - and Federated farmers who were playing down the impact of farming on the environment. Mike Joy defended his position with a host of peer reviewed and scholarly resources. GOLD! Save to favourites 

It looks like a no brainer at this stage – Position that is reached through scholarly research vs Defencive and emotive arguments from self- interested groups. After some meditation (or was that medication) I decided not to make life difficult by taking the contrary view. I was in unfamiliar territory with this environmental stuff.

It was really interesting reading and the hours passed very pleasantly trolling the net. Without realizing it (probably because I hadn’t listened to that part of the lectures) I was doing background reading. Soon I felt I had the bones of the assignment - now for some serious hours in the gym (library) putting some muscle on it and then hours of grooming and reflection before the great reveal on 7th December.
When I started to look for more references I started to feel overwhelmed. So much new information about where and how to search.  Already so many random PDF downloaded and webpages saved to favourites.  I decided a good strategy would be to break it down and make some lists that could be modified if needed:

1. Follow up on Mike Joys references

2. Start searching the Massey library

3. Use Google scholar and Google

I made another list of what I needed to look for:

1. Scholarly articles to support the case for not regulating farming / Information about the contribution of farming to the economy

2. More information about the impact of other types of farming, besides dairy.

3. More up to date information

 UH Oh. Most of the books I found as references were in the Manawatu library. There was so much valid information on the internet so, after getting the OK from Pete, I decided to just use on-line sources.
Saturday team meet up at Ironique: Good coffee. Pretty straight forward, no detectable irony. Perhaps that in itself is ironic. Good to get away from the lists and be with other students facing the same demands of 119.115.

A good reminder of the power of teams: The endorsement of Endnote by Cherie was very timely.
“Download endnote” had been on another to do list. It’s a great tool for keeping it all together and keeping track of the references as they are used. It was almost an AHA moment.
I still had a lot of work to do but I could see the way forward very clearly.


Tuesday, 17 November 2015

My 1st blog ever

Greetings from Auckland. I’m GJ and this is my 1st post

Let’s start with where I was last Thursday....
By good fortune I found myself in need of coffee, between appointments, near PC’s office in Dominion Rd
I needed to talk through issues arising from the “easy” option I’d chosen for Summer school – “Communication in the sciences”.
 It wasn’t going to be easy and I had to write a blog.
I’m a Technical Manager and Mum to an adorable teenager.  I’m as grown up as I’m ever going to be.  Without professional help (not counting baristas  and barmen) I was able to work through, correction,  EMBRACE, the concept of a group project and 20 hours of study a week just to get another paper for my BSc in Nutrition (Thank-you barman)
Seriously, it wasn’t just alcohol fueled bravado. I do like writing and learning. I learnt from the Stanford professors that you can’t have science without communication. As well as being important for lobbying and getting funding they talked about how important writing is in actually clarifying their thoughts. That got my interest.
It was the students on that site who talked about how writing has helped their personal growth and how enjoyable and rewarding they find it.  YES! I want enjoyment, rewards AND Personal growth. Can I pay on-line?
I will spend the summer holidays as usual: eating, drinking and talking. I will either cunningly turn the conversation to talk of water quality and farmers interests or just hang out with those dear friends and family that would talk about that stuff anyway (You think I’m kidding).
I can’t see me abandoning my goal to become a nutritional adviser in order to become a science researcher or writer. My interest in Polynesian dietary needs and food culture probably won’t change. That is where I want to make a contribution in a personal consulting role. In terms of developing skills relevant to my goals, I think the non writing aspects – the team interaction and the seminar – are more relevant. This course will also help me to evaluate the validity of the nutritional information that is available. It’s unbelievable what a lot of nonsense there is out there. Lemons changing blood PH?????
Anyway, back to Vinyl Café. As luck would have it PC is a blogger and I was keen to pick up some tips (put in lots of links – thanks PC, I will). After he repeated “You’re going to write a blog?” a few times (Think of an actor trying different meanings by emphasising different words) I started to realise, in a moment of self-actualization, that, Yes! I AM going to write a blog. I AM.