Meat, dairy and eggs: What diet advice should you take to heart?

Meat, dairy and eggs: What diet advice should you take to heart?

ADF News
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Heart Foundations' new recommendations raise questions about mixed messages.

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FULL fat dairy is back in the shopping trolley but perhaps you'd better rethink your lamb chops and sirloin. Meanwhile, eggs - which were in, then out - are in again.

That's the wrap on the new updated guidelines from the Heart Foundation. While they come with the clear understanding they are designed for cardiovascular health, this latest installment in dietary recommendations seems to really highlight the issue of mixed messages.

The Heart Foundation, the Australian Dietary Guidelines, Eat-Lancet - all high profile and credible - sing from different hymn sheets in more than one instance.

For example, the ADG recommend 455 grams of unprocessed red meat a week, compared to 350g from The Heart Foundation and Eat-Lancet's 98g (which also includes pork).

Milk producers have something to celebrate in The Heart Foundation's latest message, albeit well overdue, according to many dietitians who point out the science saying fresh cow's milk does not contribute to higher human cholesterol has been around since 2013.

On the other hand, beef and lamb producers might well be concerned. It is the first time the health body has put a specific limit on the amount of red meat it recommends Australians consume.

But just how much effect does this type of dietary advice actually have at the till?

Varied, it seems.

Dairy Australia dietitian Glenys Zucco said health and taste were the two main purchase drivers for dairy, so recommendations from credible health organisations were very important to the industry.

However, the updated Heart Foundation advice would play an even larger role where people visit health professionals with concerns around heart disease or weight, she said.

"In the past, their advice might have been to go low fat. For many people, that meant no dairy at all because low-fat doesn't suit their tastes," Ms Zucco said.

The latest data from Dairy Australia shows that in 2018-19, more than two thirds of consumers purchased full cream milk over skim and non-fat varieties from supermarkets - a 12 per cent increase from just 56 per cent of consumers a decade earlier.

The updated advice means the Heart Foundation has removed its previous restriction on regular fat milk, cheese and yoghurt. The organisation has confirmed that these products do not increase or decrease the risk of heart disease or stroke, and are a source of healthy nutrients like calcium.

Advocacy group Dairy Connect said the health benefits delivered by fresh dairy were on the public record.

Chief executive officer Shaughn Morgan said a 237ml glass of dairy milk provided eight times more naturally-occurring protein than the same size service of almond drink.

Variety, balance and the full meal

Meat & Livestock Australia chief marketing and communications officer Lisa Sharp pointed out there was plenty of alignment between the Heart Foundation message and that of the red meat industry in that variety, balance and focus on the full meal were the overarching principles.

However, in developing its programs, MLA looks to the ADG and advocates 130g every second day.

"The Heart Foundation report has a focus on heart disease and through that lens revisited its red meat consumption recommendations but we look to the ADG because they consider a range of factors relevant to all Australians including the amounts of food needed to meet desired nutrient intake," Ms Sharp said.

MLA data shows most Australian men are eating red meat in line with, or in some cases slightly above, the dietary guidelines but women and children are consuming less than recommended amounts.

Ms Sharp said MLA's consumer insight work shows while most Australians understand and value the nutritional benefits of red meat, some are confused about what level of consumption is good for their health.

"There is also confusion about many other foods because there is simply a lot of conflicting dietary information available," she said.

MLA research also shows the number one driver for meat purchase is still price.

Population focus

The new recommendations from the Heart Foundation highlight the need for the Australian Government to take a population-focused approach to food and nutrition, according to the Dietitians Association of Australia.

The DAA wants a review of the ADG as part of a new national nutrition policy.

President Phil Juffs told Farmonline there were many players in the nutrition space, from health care to agriculture to education and aged care, and so much happened in silos.

That's why a more co-ordinated approach was required and the review would ensure nutrition guidelines provided Australians with the most up-to-date, population-based dietary advice, he said.

While the DAA supported the Heart Foundation's updates as focusing on the role a healthy diet plays in reducing cardiovascular disease, ADGs were dietitians' premier source of framework, Mr Juffs said.

"If you take a step back from the revised position statements about meat, eggs and dairy, the big picture hasn't really changed - it's about variety, unprocessed food, lots of fruit and veg, legumes, nuts and seeds," he said.

"Credible organisations will still release their position statements and so they should.

"But the key is tailored information, what's important to the individual. Members of the public need to be able to tie it all together in a way that works for them."

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