Dietitians urge South Africans to ‘Eat Fact Not Fiction’

Nutrition advice promising all sorts, from weight loss to healthier living and even cures for diseases, spread like wildfire across social media. In the era of ‘alternative facts’ and post-truth, ‘the latest, greatest nutrition advice’ from dubious sources can unfortunately tempt many away from accepted dietary guidelines and recommendations based on years of evidence.

‘Evidence and Expertise’ is the theme of Dietitian’s Week 2017, highlighting the important role of dietitians who are able to interpret nutrition science and dietary guidelines in order to customise nutrition advice for each individual. This is vital because from weight loss to a disease like diabetes, there is no ‘one size fits all’ best eating plan. Dietitians happen to be health professionals trained and qualified to do this.

Dietitians and Evidence

In the course of earning their degrees in the science of dietetics, dietitians are specifically taught the skills required to interpret scientific evidence. In order to maintain their professional registration with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA), all practising SA dietitians also have to undertake ongoing studies that ensure they keep up with the latest knowledge provided by new and emerging evidence, in accordance with the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) programme. This means they have the latest evidence-based food, health and disease expertise at their fingertips – and you won’t find a registered dietitian in the country basing any recommendations on the long outdated food pyramid.

Dietitians and the Food-Based Dietary Guidelines

The country’s broad strokes dietary guidelines, on which public health messages are based, and which were developed according to the process recommended by the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), have also evolved over the years, featuring a notable shift from the emphasis on nutrients to the focus on actual foods, which by nature contain a variety of nutrients. ADSA, the Association for Dietetics in South Africa, provides further clarity on the guidelines with its statement on the Optimal Nutrition for South Africans. The latest visual Food Guide from the Department of Health provides a very different picture from older models such as the Food Pyramid and represents the latest FAO recommendations.

Dietitians and Patients

But the reality remains that diet is highly personal. What we eat is rooted in our culture and tradition, shaped by affordability and accessibility, and inextricably intertwined with highly variable lifestyle factors such as weight, physical activity, emotional connection to food and our consumption of non-food substances, as well as various physiological differences and genetics.

“This is where the dietitian comes to the fore,” says ADSA President and Registered Dietitian, Maryke Gallagher. “If you take a disease such as diabetes, which is a prevalent lifestyle disease in the country, and is a condition that can be managed through diet, each patient needs a tailor-made plan and focused support to make their individualised diet work towards their well-being and health. When the situation demands change around something as fundamental to life as food, then broad strokes are not necessarily sustainable solutions.”

Dietitians and Sustainability

The role that the dietitian can play in helping the communities in which they work to secure healthy food systems that are good for both people and the planet is an emerging responsibility in the profession. Dietitans are increasingly involved in facets of our modern food systems including agriculture and alternative food production methods, natural resources and ecosystems, social justice and community health issues, as well as developing food policy and food systems research that takes sustainability into account.

Dietitians and Diseases

Some may associate dietitians with merely giving advice and support to someone who wants to lose weight, but dietitians work across a range of industries. They are also experts in providing nutritional advice with regard to serious diseases and conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, liver disease, kidney disease, cancers, HIV/AIDS, TB, throat, stomach and intestinal disorders, as well as food allergies and intolerances, eating disorders, sports nutrition and life-stage nutrition (including the protection, promotion and support of breastfeeding as the best start in life). Apart from dietitians in private practice, they work in hospitals and communities, academia and industries. In addition to consulting with patients, dietitians are also involved in research, nutrition training and development of provincial and national policies.

Dietitians and Malnutrition

In South Africa, where the health issues that arise from the obesity epidemic stand side by side with those resulting from undernutrition, our dietitians’ work literally spans from one extreme to another. The South African Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (SASPEN), a supporter of Dietitian’s Week, highlights the essential role the dietitian plays in providing nutritional support to promote optimal nutrition to people in hospitals, where malnutrition is a common cause of the exacerbation of disease, delayed healing and prolonged hospital stays.

The Dietitian and You

It’s clear, that as a country, our need for dietitians is multi-fold, which explains why there’s a lot more than just dietary guidelines on the mind of a registered dietitian. In consultation, your dietitian is going to be taking in many factors unique to you to work towards helping you make optimal food choices. This includes your age and gender; your genetics, body size and body image; your environment, culture, spiritual beliefs and family life; physical activity level, mental well-being and general abilities; your work life and patterns; your budget; food preferences, eating tastes and cooking skills; as well as your existing health conditions and prescribed meds.

In the hopes of steering us clear of the latest trumped up ‘diets’ and promoting a return to genuine expertise and evidence, dietitians countrywide are suggesting that we ‘Eat Facts Not Fiction’.

In collaboration with the British Dietetics Association, Dietitian’s Week is held in SA from 12th to 16th June, with the 2017 theme ‘Evidence and Expertise’.

To find a dietitian in your area, please visit the ADSA website.

 


CHICKEN SKEWERS, DIPS & SEED FLATBREAD

We love this recipe – it makes a delicious starter for summer entertaining. Making your own dips and marinade rather than using store-bought varieties gives you more control and means you know exactly which ingredients have gone into those dishes.

Not only are the chickpeas in the hummus rich in slowly-digested starch and fibre, helping to control blood sugar levels, but they are also a great source of plant-based protein, vitamins and minerals.

Using whole-wheat flour and oat flour in the flatbread adds healthy fibre, lowering the glycaemic index and aiding in blood sugar control. Because this is still a carbohydrate-containing food, people with diabetes should enjoy the flatbread in appropriate portions.

Homemade chicken skewers are a great lean protein option, and this protein further lowers the glycaemic index of the meal.

RECIPE (Serves 4 as a main or 8 as a starter/snacks)

Chicken skewers

600 g free-range chicken breast

2 lemons

1 Tbsp wholegrain mustard

salt & black pepper

30 g chopped oregano

8 sosatie sticks (you can cut them in half if you want smaller ones for snacks)

 TO MAKE IT

  • Cut the chicken breasts into cubes, about the size of an ice cube
  • Put the chicken in a mixing bowl, and add the zest and juice of the lemons, mustard, and chopped oregano, then season with salt and pepper.
  • Leave the chicken to marinade in the juices for an hour or so
  • Skewer the cubes of chicken onto the sticks
  • Put a pan onto a medium/high heat and add some canola oil
  • When the pan is hot, add your chicken skewers, and allow them to cook on the first side for about 2 or 3 minutes before turning them. Cook the other side for another 2 or 3 minutes and then check between the pieces of chicken to see that the flesh is white, and no longer translucent. You want the chicken to be cooked all the way through, but not dry. Remove from the pan and set aside until you are ready to serve.

Hummus

1 can chickpeas, drained

125 ml Extra virgin olive oil

Juice of 1 fresh lemon

salt & pepper

5 ml tahini

1 garlic clove, peeled

1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds

 TO MAKE IT

  • Put the chickpeas, oil, lemon juice, garlic, tahini into a blender or food processor, and season with salt & pepper.
  • Blend together until smooth
  • Scrape the hummus from the jug with a spatula into a serving bowl
  • Top the hummus with toasted sesame seeds and drizzle with olive oil

Tzatziki

1 cup plain yoghurt

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

15 g fresh mint

salt & pepper

1/2 a cucumber

TO MAKE IT

  • Grate the cucumber into a bowl, and squeeze off the excess water
  • Add the yoghurt, lemon juice, mint, and season with salt & pepper and put into a serving bowl

 Tomato Pesto

100 g sun-dried tomatoes in oil

30 g roasted plain almonds

10 g fresh parsley, chopped

TO MAKE IT

  • Roughly chop the tomatoes
  • Put the sundried tomatoes with the oil into a blender
  • Add the roasted almonds & chopped parsley
  • Pulse the blender to combine the ingredients into a chunky pesto
  • Scrape from the blender into a serving bowl

Seed flatbread

100 g whole-wheat flour

100 g oat flour

150 g cake flour

100 g plain yoghurt

250 g water (lukewarm)

1 sachet yeast

2 tsp salt

50 g mixed seeds: sesame, flax, sunflower, poppy, pumpkin

TO MAKE IT

  • In a large mixing bowl, add the flours, yeast, salt and seeds and mix together
  • Mix together the water and yoghurt
  • Make a well in the middle of the dry mixture and gradually add the yoghurt/water mixture little by little and mix together to form a dough.
  • Stop adding liquid once the dough comes together, or add extra if you find the dough to be too sticky.
  • Knead the dough together to form an elastic ball of dough.
  • Separate the dough into golf ball sized balls
  • Put a griddle pan onto a medium high heat
  • Dust a clean working surface with a little flour, and roll each dough ball into a flat bread (about 3mm thick).
  • Place the flatbreads onto the hot griddle and allow to cook until a little golden and firm on the first side, and then repeat on the other side.

TO SERVE

On a large board or platter, place the flatbreads and drizzle with a little olive oil. Place your bowls of dips and you chicken skewers onto the platter and sprinkle with fresh herbs

 

 


What your dietitian wants you to know about diabetes

There were 2.28 million cases of diabetes in South Africa in 2015 according to the International Diabetes Foundation and around 1.21 million people with undiagnosed diabetes. Considering these numbers it remains vitally important to continue educating South Africans about diabetes and to address the myths that are often associated with this lifestyle disease.

Nasreen Jaffer, Registered Dietitian and ADSA (Association for Dietetics in South Africa) spokesperson has a special interest in diabetes. She debunks some of the myths surrounding diabetes and nutrition:

People with diabetes have to follow a special diet or have to eat special diabetic foods.

People with diabetes do not have to follow a ‘special’ diet. People with diabetes need to make the same healthy eating choices as everyone else. Healthy eating choices include vegetables and fruit; whole grains; fish, lean meats and poultry; dairy products; seeds, nuts, legumes and plant oils. Everyone needs to limit fatty red meats, processed meats, salt and foods high in salt, and foods and beverages with added sugar.

There are foods that should be avoided completely.

The answer, is ‘no’. Moderation is key, the minute you’ve banned a certain food entirely, you’re likely to start craving it intensely. Your health and weight are more affected by what you do daily than what you eat once or twice a week, so if you’re in the mood for a piece of cake once in a while, buy a small one and share. If you deprive yourself of something you’re craving, it’s just a matter of time until your binge on it and sabotage your motivation. However, crisps, chocolates, and sweets are high in saturated and trans fat, while sugar-sweetened beverages like soft drinks, iced tea and energy drinks contain a large amount of sugar, so these have to be limited.

 If I am diabetic, my diet is going to be more expensive.

It is not necessary to buy expensive foods marketed to diabetics. Healthy eating can be economical, and is often cheaper than buying unhealthy treats. Buying seasonal fresh fruit and vegetables is cheaper than buying fruit juices and sugar-sweetened beverages. If you replace sweets, chocolates, crisps, puddings and cakes with fruits, yoghurt and salads as your snacks and desserts, you’ll find you will save money. Legumes, such as lentils and beans, are cheaper alternatives to red meat, while providing numerous health benefits.

Eating too much sugar causes diabetes.

Too much sugar does not necessarily cause diabetes, but because foods and drinks with added sugar are often energy-dense (high in kilojoules), consuming too much of these on a regular basis can lead to weight gain. This can put us at risk for type 2 diabetes. Sugar-sweetened beverages seem to have the strongest link to type 2 diabetes. ‘Sugar’ doesn’t only refer to the sugar added to tea and coffee, but also includes sugar and sweetened products added when cooking and at the table. Look out for hidden sugars in pre-prepared and processed foods, like some breakfast cereals, sweetened drinks, dairy products, sauces and sweet treats. People with diabetes should limit or avoid adding sugar as it can have a negative effect on blood sugar levels.

 People with diabetes cannot eat carbohydrates.

No, this is not true. While all foods that contain carbohydrates will affect your blood sugar levels, people with diabetes can still eat carbohydrate foods. There are healthy types of carbohydrates that you do want to include in your eating plan, and the type or quality of carbohydrate foods is important. Therefore, for optimal blood glucose control it is important to control the quantity, and distribute carbohydrate foods equally throughout the day. For example, choose wholegrain or high-fibre carbohydrate foods as they don’t increase blood sugar as quickly as refined grains, and make sure that each meal is balanced, containing not only carbohydrate foods, but also protein or dairy, non-starchy vegetables or healthy fats.

People with diabetes should restrict their fruit intake.

Because fruit contains natural sugars, too much fruit can contribute to an increase in blood glucose levels. However, eating fruit also adds fibre, and essential vitamins and minerals to the diet, so while people with diabetes should not eat excessive amounts of fruit, fruit should not be completely eliminated. Portion control is important, and people with diabetes should choose whole fruit rather than fruit juice. It is recommended that you consult your dietitian to calculate the amount of fruit that you should include in your daily diet.

If one of my parents has diabetes, there is nothing I can do about it – I will develop diabetes eventually.

If you have a genetic predisposition to type 2 diabetes, you have all the reason you need to embrace a healthy lifestyle. While genetics may contribute 30 to 40% to the development of any condition, including diabetes, environmental and lifestyle factors may have a 60 to 70% impact. If you maintain a healthy body weight, stick to a healthy eating plan, avoid tobacco use and keep physically active regularly, you have a very good chance of not developing diabetes.

If I have diabetes, I can’t exercise.

On the contrary, diabetes is a compelling reason to exercise regularly. The reason for this is that physical activity plays a very important role in lowering blood glucose levels. Exercise also predisposes your body cells to being more sensitive to insulin, and of course, it helps to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week, such as brisk walking, while doing some resistance or strength exercises at least twice a week. If you use insulin it is important to check your blood glucose levels before and after physical activity. If you get results below 6 mmol/l it is recommended that you lower your insulin dose or eat a healthy snack to prevent a hypoglycemic attack during or after exercise.

Early diagnosis of diabetes is vitally important. This year the theme of World Diabetes Day is “Eyes on Diabetes”, focusing on the screening for type 2 diabetes to ensure early diagnosis and treatment, which can in turn reduce the risk of serious complications. The sooner that elevated blood glucose levels can be treated and returned to normal, the better. If you are diagnosed with either pre-diabetes or diabetes, you need to start moving towards a healthier lifestyle that focuses on regular physical activity, good nutrition and weight-loss if you are overweight or obese.

Everyone over the age of 45 years should be screened for diabetes every 2 to 3 years, or earlier if you are overweight and have other risk factors for diabetes (such as a family history, high blood pressure or previous diabetes during pregnancy). If you haven’t yet been screened, visit a healthcare professional to find out if you are at risk.

Should you experience any of the following symptoms contact your doctor as soon as possible – sudden weight loss, hunger, blurred vision, tiredness, excessive thirst and frequent urination.

To find a registered dietitian in your area who can assist you with a diabetic-friendly lifestyle plan, visit www.adsa.org.za.

 


GETTING THE FACTS RIGHT ABOUT DIABETES

Diabetes remains a major cause of death in South Africa, and the prevalence of the condition continues to rise. ‘People with diabetes have to follow a special diet or have to eat special diabetic food’ is just one of the common misconceptions surrounding diabetes. In commemoration of World Diabetes Day (14 November) ADSA (Association for Dietetics in South Africa) spokesperson and Registered Dietitian, Ria Catsicas, looks at some of these misconceptions that can result in people avoiding health testing or seeking treatment.

Ria has a special interest in the medical nutrition management of diabetes, metabolic syndrome and obesity and is the author of the book “The Complete Nutritional Solutions to Diabetes”.

#1: People with diabetes have to follow a special diet or have to eat special diabetic foods
“Actually, people with diabetes do not have to follow a ‘special’ diet. The whole family should eat healthy unprocessed foods such as fresh fruit and vegetables; whole grains; lean meats and poultry; low fat milk and dairy products; seeds, nuts, legumes and plant oils. Everyone should avoid or limit eating processed foods such as fatty red meats, processed meats, all foods made from white flour and foods with a high sugar content. Healthy eating is good for all of us as it is essential for supporting our immune systems and protecting us against disease, as well as to ensure that we have optimal energy levels throughout the day.”

#2: If I am diabetic, my food is going to be more expensive
“It is not necessary to buy expensive foods marketed to diabetics. Healthy eating can be economical, and is often cheaper than buying unhealthy treats. Buying fresh fruit and vegetables that are in season is certainly cheaper than buying processed fruit juices and soft drinks. If you eat fruits and salads as snacks and as dessert, you can save on the money you would have spent on buying biscuits, rusks, cakes, desserts, sweets and potato crisps.   Legumes, such as lentils and beans, are cheaper than red meat and high fat hard cheeses. A tasty bean curry is, for instance, a much cheaper meal than a red meat alternative.”

#3: Eating too much sugar causes diabetes
“There is truth in this statement, but it is too simplistic. Research shows that there is a correlation between the high intake of sugar-based soft drinks, energy drinks and fruit juices and the development of obesity. And, obesity, in turn, can be a significant contributing factor in the development of T 2 diabetes. However, a person’s complete diet must be taken into account. A diet that is characterized by the high intake of sugar, such as soft drinks, chocolates and sweets; as well as a high intake of refined starches, such as white or brown bread, pap, fast foods, biscuits, rusks and potato fries; while also poor in healthy foods such as fresh fruit, vegetables and whole grains, can contribute to the development of diabetes.”

#4: People with diabetes cannot eat carbohydrates
“Not all carbohydrates are unhealthy. Both the type and the amount of carbohydrate foods you eat at a meal will affect your blood glucose levels afterwards. Therefore, for optimal blood glucose control it is important to control the quantity, and be aware of the type of carbohydrates you are going to eat. Small portions of whole grains, fruit and vegetables that are evenly distributed throughout the day can contribute to optimal blood glucose control. Research has also shown that the consistency of your carbohydrate intake from day-to-day can help to optimize blood glucose control.”

#5: People with diabetes should restrict their fruit intake
“Yes, too much fruit can contribute to an increase in blood glucose levels. However, portion size is important. It is recommended that you consult your dietitian to calculate the amount of fruit that you should include in your daily diet.”

#6: People with diabetes should be on a high-fat diet
“There is no research to date which has proved that a high fat diet can contribute to either weight loss or improved blood glucose control. To lose weight, your calorie intake from both foods and drinks must be less than your energy expenditure on both voluntary and involuntary activity. The restriction of any food group, whether it is carbohydrates or fats or proteins can contribute to weight loss. To achieve successful weight loss, people with diabetes need to adhere to an eating plan that restricts their usual calorie intake. Research has shown that diets promoting extreme macronutrient manipulation, whether it is carbohydrates or fats or proteins actually lessen people’s adherence to the eating plan. It is much wiser for people with diabetes to develop sustainable healthy eating habits that can easily be incorporated into lifestyle for the long term. The best diet for a person with diabetes is a healthy eating plan that the person can adhere to. To facilitate adherence, a dietitian would take into consideration the individual’s cultural preferences; their budget constraints; their age and gender; the logistics of their daily life, such as their work circumstances or travel requirements; as well as their weight status, the medications they use and their activity levels.”

#7: There are no proven health dangers of consuming too much saturated fat
“It is well-established that a high intake of saturated fats can contribute to increased LDL cholesterol levels in some individuals. While it has not been proven is that increased LDL cholesterol levels contribute directly to cardiac events, this is because there are NUMEROUS compounding factors that would cause a heart attack. Atherosclerosis is an inflammatory condition and a high intake of saturated fats in a nutrient poor diet can aggravate inflammation. It has been proven that a high saturated fat intake in a nutrient poor diet can also contribute to decreased sensitivity of the body cells to the action of insulin.”

 #8: If I am diabetic, I should stop my medication and go onto a low-carb high-fat diet
“As a person with diabetes you should never stop your medication without your doctor’s recommendation and agreement that this is the best medical course for you. It has been established that when diabetes is diagnosed most individuals would have already lost 50% of the insulin-producing capacity of the Beta cells in the pancreas. Therefore, the optimal way to manage diabetes is to follow a healthy diet; to lose weight if overweight; to engage in physical activity, such as walking three to five times a week for 40 to 60 minutes at a time; and, to take appropriate medication on your doctor’s advice.”

#9: If one of my parents has diabetes, there is nothing I can do about it – I will develop diabetes eventually
“If you have a genetic predisposition to diabetes, you have all the reason you need to embrace a healthy lifestyle. While genetics may only contribute 30 to 40% to the development of any condition, including diabetes, environmental and lifestyle factors may have a 60 to 70% impact. If you maintain a healthy body weight, stick to a healthy eating plan, manage your stress and get regular physical exercises, you have a very good chance of not developing diabetes.”

#10: If I have diabetes, I can’t exercise
“This is not true at all. Diabetes is a compelling reason to exercise regularly as physical activity plays a very important role in lowering blood glucose levels. Exercise also predisposes your body cells to being more sensitive to insulin, and of course, it helps to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight. If you use insulin it is important to check your blood glucose levels before and after physical activity. If you get results below 6 m mol/l it is recommended that you lower your insulin dose or eat a healthy snack to prevent a hypoglycemic attack during or after exercise.”
To find a dietitian in your area who can assist you with personalised nutrition advice, visit www.adsa.org.za


Raising Superheroes – Book Review*

In the newly released book, “Raising Superheroes”, Prof Tim Noakes, Jonno Proudfoot and Bridget Surtees advocate for what could be considered broadly as a healthy, balanced diet for infants and children. Fresh and real foods are promoted, which include red meat, chicken, fish, eggs; full cream dairy; vegetables and fruit; and grains such as quinoa, oats and millet. The ‘golden rules’ of “Raising Superheroes” echo principles stated in dietary guidelines generally advocated, such as “steering clear from added sugar and highly processed starchy foods”. The book showcases recipes that include fresh ingredients and the healthier version to some old time classics. It is not a “Banting” for children book, as what might have been expected, although the book has similar branding to the “Real Meal Revolution” and uses many of the same arguments.

The revised South African (SA) paediatric food-based dietary guidelines (SA-PFBDGs) are cited (Reference 36) in the book, however, reference is also made to “national guidelines” which include other country’s guidelines (e.g. UK, USA, Canada). It is therefore not always clear which guidelines are referred to, causing confusion about statements made in the book concerning dietary guidelines in general. In reference to the SA-PFBDGs specifically, it is stated that the guidelines are “still to be tested”. It should be noted that the proposed SA-PFBDGs will be field-tested for understanding and feasibility before they can be accepted as the official infant and young child feeding (IYCF) guidelines for the country. This process is currently underway with studies being conducted by Stellenbosch University researchers in collaboration with other academics. The statement that the promotion of these guidelines has not reversed the epidemic of obesity and diabetes (p318) is therefore unsubstantiated. It is important to note that the “Raising Superheroes dietary guidelines” proposed from page 319 has not been tested in rigorous research for understanding and feasibility in the SA context and population, which is considered a major shortfall of these proposed guidelines.

Some information and advice provided in the introduction to the different chapters are based on current best practice and international guidelines; while some information and advice is considered lacking a solid evidence base and posing potential harm. In the chapter covering pregnancy to 6 months period, it is stated on page 34 that “we don’t necessarily advise that pregnant or breastfeeding women should be following a fully ketogenic Banting diet. In other words, we’re not recommending that you exclude carbohydrates from your daily intake to such a degree that your body’s energy source switches completely from glucose to ketone bodies. (The scientific evidence on a fully ketogenic diet during pregnancy is insufficient to make definitive calls, though we suspect it would be perfectly fine.)”. It is not responsible to state “we suspect it would be perfectly fine” when providing advice, especially during vulnerable periods, such as during pregnancy. In fact, ketogenic diets during pregnancy have been linked to amniotic fluid insufficiency, bone mineral loss and calcium excretion, putting both mother and baby at risk of complications and/or deficiencies. The arguments of a ketogenic diet during pregnancy and the benefits of ketones for infant brain growth are taken further in the last chapter. A statement is made that “A key benefit of breastfeeding is that it maintains a state of ketosis in the newborn baby for as longs as it continues”. This blanket statement is not evidence-based and is made out of context when considered against the reference cited.

Furthermore, the advice provided in the section on foods to avoid during pregnancy, states that mothers should “Watch out for – Alcohol.” Furthermore, “the safest option is to abstain from drinking, though recent research appears to show that a very limited intake is fine.” No guide is provided to indicate what is meant with a “very limited intake” of alcohol. The one reference cited was written in the context specific to the United Kingdom and can therefore not be extrapolated to SA. Moreover, this advice is contradictory to what is advocated in SA by various authorities, including Department of Health. To refer very casually and jokingly to drinking during pregnancy as “not getting drunk” (page 39) is an irresponsible and insensitive statement in a country such as SA with the highest prevalence of Foetal Alcohol Spectrum (FAS) disorder in the world.

The guideline on breastfeeding rightly states that “breastfeeding is the gold standard of nutrition for your child, and it comes with a range of health benefits, as we cover elsewhere”. The benefits of exclusive and continued breastfeeding are reiterated, in summary, in the book. However, the actual detail provided on breastfeeding in the mentioned chapter, states that “From a purely nutritional point of view, you should be aiming to exclusively breastfeed until 4-6 months, and continue breastfeeding in combination with solid foods for longer – until two years, at least.” The guideline advocated by the World Health Organisation and which has been adopted by the SA Department of Health (DOH) states very clearly: “As a global public health recommendation, infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life to achieve optimal growth, development and health. Thereafter, to meet their evolving nutritional requirements, infants should receive nutritionally adequate and safe complementary foods while breastfeeding continues for up to two years of age or beyond.” The guideline on 4-6 months of exclusive breastfeeding is outdated and confusing in the SA context where the 6-month message is being strongly promoted. In a country where very poor breastfeeding practices are evident, especially in as far as the exclusivity is concerned, it is unacceptable and irresponsible to state this outdated recommendation. There is good evidence as to why exclusive breastfeeding for 0-6 months should be promoted, protected and supported and why the 4-6 month guideline should not be advocated as a broad public health message.

Furthermore, poor breastfeeding practices have a knock-on effect which leads to poor complementary feeding practices. The battle is therefore lost if a sound foundation of appropriate breastfeeding practices is not established. This fact is not emphasised sufficiently in the “Raising Superheroes” book. In the detailed section on breastfeeding, breastfeeding is described in negative words and language (including: first biggest challenge; intimidating; many experience a plethora of problems; common problems; for many women breastfeeding is difficult and can be extremely disheartening; hurdles; painful; incorrect; problem; insufficient), and this does not encourage breastfeeding as the most natural and healthful first food for infants and young children.

The paragraph to end the breastfeeding section disappointingly states: “But if you’ve done everything you can to breastfeed and it’s just not working, or if your lifestyle prevents you from breastfeeding for as long as you ideally might, then take heart; there are alternatives.” The need for strengthening the Mother Baby Friendly Initiative; breastfeeding friendly communities; maternity benefits; breastfeeding policies in the workplace which supports mothers to continue breastfeeding and/or express breastmilk; are not mentioned. Instead, what follows is a jump from the most healthful first food (breastmilk and breastfeeding) to an ultra-processed product (UPP) i.e. formula milk which is described as “practical and viable” and suggested as an alternative to breastfeeding. This is in stark contrast to statements elsewhere in the book that warn against “ultra-processed products” and promote real food. Formula milk should not be seen as an alternative to breastfeeding/breastmilk; it can only be considered a substitute if a mother chooses to formula feed.

In the ‘Science’ section at the end of the book, the following remarks are made: “Breastfeeding is nutritionally superior to formula feeding, a point that may not be sufficiently stressed in major feeding guidelines” (pg. 319) and “They [current national feeding guidelines] fail to stress the importance of continuing breastfeeding beyond six months” (Pg 344). These statements are inaccurate within the South African context. The SA paediatric food-based dietary guideline (Reference 36) for complementary feeding contains as its first message: ‘From six months of age, start giving your baby small amounts of complementary foods, while continuing to breastfeed for up to two years and beyond’ as does the first paper in the series. Furthermore, the SA DOH’s Infant and Young Child Feeding Policy (2013) states as a key component ‘continued breastfeeding for two years and beyond’, a recommendation provided in many other national policies.

The ‘Raising Superheroes’ book refers to complementary foods (or the introduction of solids) as “weaning” throughout the book. This is an outdated term, which implies and is interpreted as the cessation of breastfeeding. The term is therefore not used in the literature globally, when optimal infant and young child feeding is discussed. The authors clearly criticise the use of baby cereals or grains for children when complementary foods are introduced. It needs to be acknowledged that South Africa is a country with high levels of household food insecurity. Often, families cannot afford or access animal protein and vegetables or fruit daily. In such situations, grains such as oats and millet, appropriately fortified staples, such as maize and brown bread, and commercially produced enriched complementary foods, such as infant cereals, may provide cost-effective food options.

In the chapter for 1-3 years of age, nothing is mentioned about the continuation of breastfeeding up to two years of age and beyond, although it is mentioned in the last chapter. The importance of continued breastfeeding during the introduction of complementary foods is also omitted. The protective effect of breastfeeding against food allergies, in particular is not mentioned. It is also not explained that food allergies are related to certain proteins in foods (e.g. protein in cow’s milk, fish, peanuts, egg white, soy and gluten) and that elimination diets (including the elimination of carbohydrates) are not routinely recommended for infants and young children, as they can negatively affect a child’s growth.

Furthermore, it is not appropriate to introduce a culture of ‘dieting’ or being placed on a diet in childhood. Fostering a healthy relationship with food during childhood is important, and balance, variety and moderation are important components that contribute to this relationship. In addition, many families in South Africa would struggle to sustain the recommendations made in this book, from a practical and cost point of view.

Several sections of the ‘Science’ chapter of the book are written from the point of view of the authors and, in particular, Prof Tim Noakes’ personal opinion and experience. Expert opinion and personal experience can be valuable when backed up by a solid evidence base and tested in rigorous research. In the case of this book, however, Prof Noakes often expresses his own views and opinions in a colloquial way and makes statements that have not been tested.

To summarize, this book provides many ideas for parents to incorporate fresh ingredients, an array of vegetables and fruit, incorporate various protein rich foods; and to cut down on sugar (with some clever party food ideas). Drawbacks of this book include conflicting messages about the inclusion of certain foods, e.g. whole grains and legumes or ‘unrefined carbohydrates’ are stated as being acceptable, but rarely used in recipes; the use of ‘fresh’ and ‘real’ food are often referred to while numerous recipes include high salt ‘processed’ and ‘cured’ meat such as bacon and ham. Furthermore, even though the evidence-based guidelines refer to grains and legumes as being acceptable, very few recipes include these ingredients. Although vegetables and fruit are recommended, the authors state that “The message of five or more vegetables a day has been overplayed by official guidelines” which is inaccurate. There is substantial evidence to support the recommendation of five-a-day and recent research suggests that it may not be enough.

In general, the target market of the book is vague. It is mentioned that a real meal revolution was started in SA and the intention is to take it to the rest of the world. The last statement in the book reads: “In summary, if the parents of newborn and young South Africans were all to follow the advice in this book we would revolutionise the long-term health of all South Africans. And that continues to be the goal of our eating revolution.” The stated aims of the “Real meal revolution” and “Raising Superheroes” point to a broad public health approach. However, the guidelines and advice, as well as recipes provided do not take into consideration the public health problems and issues of SA, and specifically those related to infant and young child nutrition. Culture, availability of foods and income are factors which should be taken into consideration when formulating broad guidelines intended for a population. Cost of food, in particular is considered a major barrier to following dietary advice. The advice and recipes in the book are clearly not targeted at the average South African, but rather the higher income market, which does not align with a public health approach. There appears to be a constant conflict between these approaches (individual VS population) in the book, which raise many unanswered questions from a public health nutrition perspective.

*This review was compiled by Lisanne du Plessis, with inputs from Catherine Day, Maryke Gallagher, Catherine Pereira, Sasha Watkins and Marlene Ellmer (Registered Dietitians and ADSA spokespeople).

References:

Department of Health. Infant and young child feeding policy. Pretoria: Department of Health; 2013.

Department of Health. Regulation R991: Regulations relating to foodstuffs for infants and young children. Pretoria: Government Gazette (Department of Health); 2012.

Department of Health. Roadmap for nutrition in South Africa for 2012-2016. Pretoria: Department of Health; 2012.

Department of Health. Strategic plan for maternal, newborn, child and women’s health and nutrition in South Africa, 2012-2016. Department of Health [homepage on the Internet]. 2012. Available from: http://www.doh.gov.za/docs/stratdocs/2012/MNCWHstratplan.pdf

Department of Health. Framework for accelerating community-based maternal, neonatal, child and women’s health and nutrition interventions. National Department of Health [homepage on the Internet]. 2012. Available from: http://www.cindi.org.za/files/eNews/enews24/Framework_Final.pdf

Department of Health. The Tshwane declaration of support for breastfeeding in South Africa. S Afr J Clin Nutr. 2011;24(4):214.

Department of Health. Landscape analysis on countries’ readiness to accelerate action to reduce maternal and child undernutrition: nationwide country assessment in South Africa. Pretoria: Department of Health; 2010.

Department of Health. Infant and young child feeding policy. Department of Health [homepage on the Internet]. 2007. c2012. Available from: URL: http://www.doh.gov.za/docs/policy/infantfeed.pdf

Du Plessis LM & Pereira C. Commitment and capacity for the support of breastfeeding in South Africa. S Afr J Clin Nutr 2013:3, S120-S128.

Du Plessis LM, Kruger HS, Sweet L. Complementary feeding: a critical window of opportunity from six months onwards. S Afr J Clin Nutr 2013:3, S129-S140.

Fisher JO & Birth LL. Restricting Access to Foods and Children’s Eating. Appetite 1999: 32: 405-419

Heinig MJ, Dobme K. Weighing the Risks: the Use of Low-Carbohydrate Diets During Lactation. J Hum Lact 2004:20, 283

Jacobs L & Steyn NP. If you drink alcohol, drink sensibly.” Is this guideline still appropriate? S Afr J Clin Nutr 2013:3, S114-S119.

May P, Hamrick KJ, Corbina KD, Haskena JM, Maraisd AS, Brookee LE, Blankenship J, Hoymef HE, Phillip J. Dietary intake, nutrition, and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders in the Western Cape Province of South Africa. Reproductive Toxicology 2014: 46, 31-39

Meyer R, De Koker C, Dziubak R, Venter C, Dominguez-Ortega G, Cutts R, Yerlett N, Skrapak AK, Fox AT, Shah N. Malnutrition in children with food allergies in the UK. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics 2013, 27: 227-235

Onyeije CI, Divon MY. The impact of maternal ketonuria on foetal test results in the setting of post term pregnancy. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2001:184(4):713-8

United Nations. Global strategy for women’s and children’s health. United Nations [homepage on the Internet]. 2010. C2012. Available from: http://www.who.int/pmnch/topics/maternal/201009_globalstrategy_wch/en/index.html

The United Nations Children’s Fund. Programming guide: infant and young child feeding. UNICEF [homepage on the Internet]. 2011. Available from: http://www.unicef.org/nutrition/files/Final_IYCF_programming_guide_2011.pdf

The United Nations Children’s Fund/World Health Organization. Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative, revised, updated and expanded for integrated care. Section 1: Background and implementation. New York: UNICEF; 2009.

World Health Organization. Global strategy for infant and young child feeding. World Health Organization [homepage on the Internet]. 2003. c2013. Available from: http://whqlibdoc.who.int/publications/2003/9241562218.pdf

World Health Organization. Guidelines on HIV and infant feeding: principles and recommendations for infant feeding in the context of HIV and a summary of evidence. WHO [homepage on the Internet]. 2010. c2012. Available from: http://whqlibdoc.who.int/publications/2010/9789241599535_eng.pdf

World Health Organization. International code of marketing of breastmilk substitutes. Frequently asked questions. WHO [homepage on the Internet]. 2006. c2012. Available from: http://whqlibdoc.who.int/publications/2008/9789241594295_eng.pdf

World Health Organization. Infant and young child feeding. Model Chapter for textbooks for medical students and allied health professionals. Geneva: WHO; 2009.

World Health Organization. Baby and young child nutrition. Geneva: WHO; 2009.

World Health Organisation. Guiding principles for complementary feeding of the breastfed child. Geneva: WHO; 2003.


Kidney Health For All

“Kidney Health For All” is the theme of today’s World Kidney Day

Kidney diseases are silent killers, which will largely affect your quality of life. The mission of World Kidney Day is to raise awareness of the importance of our kidneys to our overall health and to reduce the frequency and impact of kidney disease and its associated health problems.

Nutrition plays an important role in keeping kidneys healthy

Registered Dietitian and ADSA spokesperson, Brigitte Leclercq recently visited the Seychelles to provide counselling to dialysis patients at Victoria Hospital. She is graduating with her Masters in Nutrition on kidney disease in June 2015 and will be presenting her research at the World Congress of Nephrology in March 2015.

Brigitte’s visit to Victoria Hospital was to help 100 dialysis patients with their meal plans, giving them guidelines on what they can eat and what they should avoid. During her two weeks in the Seychelles, Brigitte provided individual meal plans to each of the 100 dialysis patients at Victoria Hospital. In the Seychelles the rate of patients with kidney failure is extremely high, considering that over 100 patients are receiving dialysis in a population of 90 000 people. Seychelles is currently one of the most obese nations in sub-Saharan Africa. For optimum health, diets should consist of more healthy food options such as grilled fish and vegetables. Unfortunately there is a prevalence of diets high in fat in the Seychelles as most of the food is fried and too much takeaway food is being consumed.

High blood pressure and diabetes are the two biggest causes of kidney failure. Many people in the Seychelles and in South Africa who are overweight develop high blood pressure and diabetes, and eventually need dialysis unless they drastically change their nutrition and their lifestyle.

What can you do for your kidneys today?

www.worldkidneyday.org has the following 8 tips: to reduce the risk of developing kidney disease:

Keep fit and active

Keeping fit helps to reduce your blood pressure and therefore reduces the risk of Chronic Kidney Disease.

Keep regular control of your blood sugar level

About half of people who have diabetes develop kidney damage, so it is important for people with diabetes to have regular tests to check their kidney function.

Monitor your blood pressure

Although many people may be aware that high blood pressure can lead to a stroke or heart attack, few know that it is also the most common cause of kidney damage.

Eat healthy and keep your weight in check

This can help prevent diabetes, heart disease and other conditions associated with Chronic Kidney Disease.

Reduce your salt intake. The recommended sodium intake is 5-6 grams of salt per day (around a teaspoon). In order to reduce your salt intake, try and limit the amount of processed and restaurant food and do not add salt to food. It will be easier to control your intake if you prepare the food yourself with fresh ingredients. For more information on nutrition and kidney friendly cooking, visit our nutrition page

Maintain a healthy fluid intake

Although clinical studies have not reached an agreement on the ideal quantity of water and other fluids we should consume daily to maintain good health, traditional wisdom has long suggested drinking 1.5 to 2 litres (3 to 4 pints) of water per day.

Do not smoke

Smoking slows the flow of blood to the kidneys. When less blood reaches the kidneys, it impairs their ability to function properly. Smoking also increases the risk of kidney cancer by about 50 percent.

Do not take over-the-counter pills on a regular basis

Common drugs such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen are known to cause kidney damage and disease if taken regularly.

Get your kidney function checked if you have one or more of the ‘high risk’ factors

  • you have diabetes
  • you have hypertension
  • you are obese
  • one of your parents or other family members suffers from kidney disease
  • you are of African, Asian, or Aboriginal origin

*Brigitte Leclercq’s visit to the Seychelles was made possible by The Ministry of Health and the dialysis centre in the Seychelles and a travel sponsorship from Eden Island, who also sponsored posters and dietary notes for all the patients.


Launch of NutritionConfidence Recipes

We have partnered with award-winning chef, Vanessa Marx (from Dear Me), to develop the NutritionConfidence series of recipes.

The series, which launched in November, with three diabetic-friendly recipes, aims to showcase that delicious food can also be healthy, making it easier to eat the right food more often for a healthy body and mind.

“As part of our daily work we spend a lot of time looking at the scientific side of what we eat and how it affects our bodies, sometimes forgetting that eating food for most people is about so much more than just putting fuel in the body”, says Claire Julsing-Strydom, ADSA President. “In celebration of delicious food that inspires us to make our own meals and is also good for us, we created the NutritionConfidence recipes.”

Each recipe encourages local, close-to-home ingredients; offers alternative flavour tips; and highlights the ‘good-for-you’ hero ingredients. The three diabetic-friendly recipes include:

  • Veggie Burgers – made with butternut, sweet potato, lentils and almonds, wrapped in iceberg lettuce and served with guacamole and salsa
  • Rooibos, Pomegranate and Cinnamon Ice Tea – an everyday cold drink solution with all the flavour, but not all the sugar!
  • Orange & Almond Torte – made with eggs, xylitol, ground almonds, baking powder and orange zest this is a great sugar and wheat free torte that will be loved not only by diabetics.

“Being a diabetic and a chef, I’ve always looked at ways to create food that is fresh, innovative, delicious and on trend, but also caters for different lifestyles”, says Vanessa. With a focus on using fresh, local ingredients and working with spices and herbs to create flavours, Vanessa’s style is the perfect combination for the NutritionConfidence recipes.

ADSA will roll out NutritionConfidence recipes every month, so pop onto the website www.adsa.org.za to find recipes to suit every occasion with a focus on light meals in January, Valentine’s Day in February, the outdoors in March and chocolate in April.