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