By Dr Kadri Ozen; head, corporate affairs and communications, Europe & Middle East, Upfield
Each week, a new scientific study is announced telling us the next new discovery on which foods will keep us thriving until old age and which foods will put us at risk of developing non-communicable diseases like type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity. The issue is that often, these studies contradict each other. Should I reduce my dairy intake? Is red meat healthy again? Will plant-based foods improve my gum health?
When it comes to nutrition, why are there so many mixed messages? Is the world of nutrition science in a permanent state of turmoil, with no consensus on which foods are good for us? Absolutely not. The unfortunate truth is that nutrition science is often far too complex to be boiled down to a list of foods you can and cannot eat.
Most foods in moderation will not harm us at all, and a particular diet for a month will not likely solve all the health problems one might have, but consumers should still be aware of the nutrient profile of the foods they eat.
For example, look at the “low fat” trend which gained global momentum in the 1970s. Consumers were told that fats would lead to obesity, and a healthy diet should limit the amount of fats consumed to avoid obesity and other diseases.
However, this was a broad-brush approach – the “low fat” wave did not differentiate between saturated fats, poly- and mono-unsaturated fats, and of course, trans fats. Overlooking the nutritional qualities led to an influx of processed foods that were low in fat overall, yet contained a disproportionate amount of trans fat, increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease and raises LDL cholesterol.
With subsequent findings about the health benefits of a Mediterranean diet (high in poly-and mono-unsaturated fats), the industry realised it was time to cut back on trans fats. Upfield, for example, produces plant-based margarines, spreads and butters that are free from trans fats. Several other companies also offer products that are free of trans fats. However, consumers are confused. With a constant barrage of contradictory academic studies, it is difficult to educate consumers on which nutrients are health-promoting and which have negative effects on public health.
So, how can the food industry work to gain trust and share accurate, useful nutritional guidance with consumers?
Here are three tips for food manufacturers and retailers:
If you want to learn more about consumer education, dietary lipids and public health, join Upfield and FoodBev via live webinar link at the Symposium on Dietary Lipids and Public Health, where a panel of expert nutrition scientists will set out the ways in which the industry can help support informed consumer decisions about the fats in their diets – webinar taking place at 17:00-19:00 GMT on 20 November 2019.
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