40 per cent of elderly Australians at risk of malnourishment

 

More than 40 per cent of older Australians living in community housing are “malnourished or at risk of malnourishment,” according to a new study.

The Melbourne-based report, published in the Dietitions Association of Australia’s journal, Nutrition and Dietetics, was the result of a three month study.

Community nurses in Victoria assessed the malnutrition of 235 clients aged 65 and older and found one in three were identified as being at risk of malnutrition, while eight per cent were classified malnourished.

Only 41 per cent were in a healthy weight range, with 40 per cent overweight or obese and nineteen per cent underweight.

The average age of the participant was 82, with a range from 65 to 100.

Most of them were living on a pension and had an annual income of less that $30 000.

They lived at home, either alone or with a spouse, or with other family.

While the federal government recently released a 10-year plan to improve aged care throughout the country, Dietitians Association of Australia chief executive Claire Hewat said more attention needs to be paid to older people living within the community.

There have long been calls for the aged pension to be increased, with both qualitative and quantitative data showing that it is almost impossible for an older person to cover expenses and properly feed and clothe themselves on the current amount.

Previous Australian research has also found one in three hospital patients and almost 70 per cent of residents in aged care facilities are malnourished, Hewat pointed out.

Accredited Practising Dietition and leader of the study, Georgie Rist, said malnourishment is particularly problematic for the elderly, and those with regular contact with older people need to be aware of the signs and impacts.

 “Malnutrition is linked with poorer health, meaning increased GP visits, more admissions to hospital and longer hospital stays, and early admission to nursing homes,” she said.

“Community nurses are ideally placed to pick-up nutrition issues in older people as they are at the forefront of client care in the home.”

Image: Getty Images

Soaring raw coffee prices predicted to drop in 2012

Raw coffee prices reached record highs in 2011, but increased production in Brazil will hopefully alleviate some of the pressure for buyers.

In coffee supplier Gilkatho’s annual survey, it found that last year had the most costly raw coffee prices, which then flows onto suppliers and retailers.

The Gilkatho Cappuccino Price Index (CPI), which has been conducted for the past decade by Gilkatho, which surveys over 900 cafes in Australian capital cities to understand the change in coffee prices over time.

Australian consumer coffee prices have risen over the past six months, the research found.

In Sydney the average price of a takeaway coffee has risen from $3.11 to $3.19 while Melbourne coffee drinkers have seen a similar change, with prices increasing 14 cents to $3.35 in the period.

However, there could be some evidence that the coffee beans themselves are not causing the price increase, but rather the cost of the takeaway cups they’re sold in.

The price of dine-in coffees has not changed in Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane.

Gilkatho’s Managing Director, Wayne Fowler, said retailers are increasing the costs of items such as coffee to meet other rising costs in running the business.

 “The March CPI portrays a continuing trend of steady price increase reflecting the healthiness of the Australian coffee market as consumers appear willing to pay the increased costs.”

Following the record prices of raw coffee last year, Fowler is predicting a drop in prices in 2012 due to record production in Brazil.

He pointed towards countries including Kenya, which is producing high quality beans that it sells for lower prices into the international market.

Beef: It’s What’s for Dinner. And Detergent. And Explosives. And Floor Wax.

When a cow tested positive for mad cow disease in America for the first time since 2006, the USDA announced Tuesday.

Officials were quick to assure the public that the slaughtered former dairy cow was located at a rendering plant, and that its flesh was never going to enter the human food supply.

If you’re not going to eat a dead cow’s meat, what are you supposed to do with it?

Make pet food, floor wax, and explosives, among many other things. Rendering plants take animals or animal parts that are unsuitable for human consumption and separate them into two streams: fat and protein.

There are innumerable uses for those basic building blocks.

Most of the dry, proteinaceous matter is sprinkled onto livestock feed as a nutritional supplement.

(Cattle protein cannot be fed to other cattle due to concerns over mad cow disease, but farmers do feed it to other animals.)

As for the liquid fat and oil, some enters the livestock food chain along with the protein—it increases caloric content and reduces the dustiness of plain corn or soy feed.

A large portion of the liquids, however, are sold on to refineries that reduce them into chemicals to make crayons, shaving cream, detergent, and a long list of other products.

Glycerin, one of the many chemicals that can be derived from cow fat, is an ingredient in dynamite.*

In recent years, rendered cow fat has been increasingly used to make biofuels, and researchers are experimenting with adding animal byproducts to concrete and plastics.

Americans produce an astonishing quantity of cow leftovers. U.S. slaughterhouses kill more than 34 million cattle annually, with each individual weighing approximately 1,250 pounds.

Humans are only willing to eat 51 percent of a cow or bull’s body, leaving behind 10.5 million tons of hide, hair, hoofs, horns, bones, blood, and glands to deal with.

That back-of-the-envelope calculation is likely an underestimate of the total cattle rendering stream, though, because many diseased cattle are discarded and rendered in their entirety.

(The animal identified this week seems to have fallen into this category, although there is no indication that it was showing any particular signs of mad cow disease prior to slaughter.)
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Leftover cow parts like hooves and hair aren’t worth very much in their whole form, so renderers grind them into a paste or powder and load that into a cooking vessel at a steady rate while 300-degree heat, pressure, and steam break it down.

The renderer might add other, non-animal waste products into the cauldron, such as used vegetable oil. Around one-half of the paste is water, which cooks off during this process.

The lumpy soup that emerges from the other end of the cooker is then separated into liquid fats and solid proteins, using either a centrifuge or a press.

A small amount of rendered beef ends up in human food.

The now notorious “pink slime” that many food chains had been putting into their products is made of fat that has been trimmed from beef and put through the rendering process.

The USDA monitors rendered-cow byproducts intended for human consumption more closely than floor-wax-to-be.

While many Americans find the process foul, and some worry about the industry’s safety, renderers argue that their work provides a use for a potentially enormous waste stream.

It also lends a small economic boost to ranchers. Cattle byproducts sell for 37 cents per pound (about 13 percent as much as a farmer gets for beef).

This article originally appeared on Slate. View the full article here.

US mad cow disease discovery shows good systems in place: animal groups

The discovery of mad cow disease in the US is a positive occurrence, according to some animal groups.

The United Nations’ Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) believe that the find shows the country’s health monitoring system is working.

“This detection demonstrates that the national surveillance system is efficient,” the OIE said.

“This case should not have implications for the current U.S. risk categorization.”

This is the first detected case of mad cow disease in the US since a mass outbreak in 2006.

The first case was discovered in 2003, on an animal that came from Canada, and since then three other herds were found to be affected.
FAO Chief Veterinary Officer Juan Lubroth said importers of US beef should be encouraged by the discovery of the disease before it entered the food chain.
“The fact that the U.S. picked it up before it entered the food chain and the fact that they were transparent should give more confidence to the trading partners, not less,” Lubroth said.
“However, I do see that sometimes countries take measures that are not based on science and that we do not support.”

Local authorities say the infected cow, from California, will not pose a threat to the nation’s food supply.

The tested positive during a routine check for the illness, or atypical bovine spongiform encephalopathy, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported.

The USDA’s chief veterinarian John Clifford said the disease didn’t enter the human food chain and has not been detected in any other animals.

USDA statements say steps taken by U.S. authorities in the case are in line with OIE standards.

“The fact that it was picked up before anything entered the food chain is significant,” Lubroth said. “It shows that the surveillance systems in place have done their job.”

About 40,000 cows are randomly tested each year in the US, which represents less than 0.1 percent of the entire number, and these regimes are not rigid enough to ensure diseased cows don’t get into the food supply, according to Michael Hansen, a staff scientist at Yonkers, New York-based advocacy group Consumers Union.

Airplane food tastes strange … and here’s why

Many people find being high up an unpleasant experience. This is not just mountain sickness or acrophobia – it turns out our taste buds too have no head for heights.

Taste is not just determined by the gustatory qualities of the food. It is also substantially influenced by the state of your mouth. Transient changes in our sense of taste are quite common.

This can occur with gum and dental disease and mouth problems such as thrush and mucositis associated with a cold/flu or chemotherapy. Some medications can also alter taste sensation including some anti-hypertensive drugs, antibiotics and antihistamines.

Contaminated pine nuts may also trigger a persistent unpleasant taste, known as pine mouth.

Low zinc levels can also alter our sense of taste. Most Australians don’t receive their recommended daily intake (RDI) of zinc. This can be a particular problem as, unlike iron and other trace metals we need for health, we don’t store zinc in our bodies, so we need a daily fix to maintain healthy levels.

The best dietary sources of zinc are crustaceans, meat and poultry. Many cereals and other products are now fortified with zinc. Zinc is also present in many nutritional supplements and multivitamins.

Strict vegetarians are at increased risk of low zinc levels, partly as they avoid zinc-rich meat and partly as fibre in plants reduces zinc absorption. Alcoholics and those with digestive diseases are also more likely to become zinc-deficient.

Changing tastes

So what about the food served on a plane? Actually, there may really be a reason why meals doesn’t taste any good at altitude (beyond the fact you are flying cattle class).

As most commercial flights go up, the atmospheric pressure is slowly reduced, on average, to the equivalent of standing on the summit of Mount Kosciuszko (2,228 metres or 7,310 feet above sea level).

That’s why ear-popping occurs on take-off, as air within the middle ear expands, builds up pressure and eventually pops out through the Eustachian tubes into the nose.

Newer aircraft, such as the Airbus A380, keep a lower cabin pressure (1,500 metres), equivalent to standing at Falls Creek, Victoria, at about 1,780 metres.

It is well known that reduced atmospheric pressure and lower oxygen levels dull the appetite. But even the modest changes in altitude associated with plane travel may be sufficient to change sensitivity for some tastes.

One small study showed that the threshold for tasting sweet or salty tasting substances increased when you go from sea level to 3,500 metres, while thresholds for sour and bitter went down. In other words, really sweet things didn’t taste so bad, but slightly acidic or bitter things, such as a sauvignon blanc or coffee, tasted a whole lot worse.

High and dry

The dry atmosphere inside a plane’s cabin also dries out the mouth. Typically relative humidity is very low at less than 10%. The only place on the ground that gets this low is in Death Valley, California. By comparison, average humidity in the Sahara Desert is about 25%.

Although most people notice dry, sore eyes and dry, itchy skin after long flights, progressive drying of the nose and mouth also occurs, producing an unpleasant “pastie” sensation (much like cotton in the mouth).

In particular, saliva reduces its water content to become more concentrated and more viscous. This can leave a salty taste in the mouth and affect the level at which salt can be tasted in food. An increased concentration of glutamate (which naturally occurs in saliva) can also produce an unpleasant taste.

More importantly, taste in food is a function of its solubility in saliva. Taste molecules must dissolve in the salivary fluid layer to reach and stimulate taste receptors.

Again, a dry mouth makes this more difficult for some tastes, especially sweet and salty. At the same time the buffering capacity of saliva falls, increasing the intensity of sour tastes in food and drink.

When you are dry, almost any cold drink tastes good, even those that would be distasteful when you are well hydrated. This fact, in combination with aforementioned changes in taste sensitivity, may partly explain recently publicised reports by Lufthansa scientists that tomato juice is more popular on flights, while few people touch the stuff on the ground.

A rational response would be to serve more sweet and spicy food on planes and less astringent wine, to be as appetising as food tastes on the ground.

But because of the noise, the vibration, the cramped conditions, and re-heated mass-produced food, eating on planes won’t ever make for a pleasurable dining experience – so just keep coming round with the cold water, thanks!

This article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.

Merlin Thomas is a Professor of Preventative Medicine at Baker IDI Heart & Diabetes Institute.

Children’s neighbourhoods making them obese

A US study has found conclusive evidence that where a child lives has a significant impact on their chances of being obese.

A neighbourhood’s good walkability, proximity to high quality parks, and access to healthy food can lower the chances of being obese by almost 60 per cent, the study found.

The report, published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, Obesogenic Neighborhood Environments, Child and Parent Obesity: The Neighborhood Impact on Kids, was one of the first to look at how location impacts children’s nutrition and physical activity.

Researchers assessed Seattle and San Diego area neighborhoods’ nutrition and physical activity environments, which were defined based on supermarket availability and concentration of fast food restaurants.

The physical activity environments were defined by environmental factors including a neighbourhood’s walkability, and needed at least one park with more or better amenities for children.

Children living in neighbourhoods with low physical activity and nutrition environments had the highest rates of obesity at almost 16 per cent.

That figure is akin to the national average for obesity rates in the US, those high physical activity and nutrition neighbourhoods had half that obesity rate.

"People think of childhood obesity and immediately think about an individual’s physical activity and nutrition behaviors, but they do not necessarily equate obesity with where people live," Dr. Saelens, professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington and one of the leaders of the study, said.

"Everyone from parents to policymakers should pay more attention to zip codes because they could have a big impact on weight."

“Reduced salt” label reduced taste perception: study

A “reduced salt” label on a food product will make a consumer experience a reduced level of taste, even if it is not in fact lower in salt.

A Deakin University study, which recruited 50 participants to taste soups with the same salt content, but it labelled some as “reduced salt.”

Those labelled as low sodium actually had the same salt content as the other soups, but participants reported that they found them less tasty.

After the initial tasting of each soup, participants were could add salt to all the soups they thought needed it.

“We found that when a product was labeled as ‘reduced salt’, people believed the food was not as tasty as the unlabeled version, despite it having the same salt content,” Deakin health expert Dr Gie Liem.

“This negative taste experience resulted in more people adding more salt to the soup, than when such a label was not present.

“Interestingly, the Heart Foundation tick did not influence taste perception.”

As cardiologists and nutritionalists keep advising low-salt diets as the ideal way to curb the ever-increasing rates of high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes, the findings from this study could impact the way salt reduced products are marketed, according to Liem.

“The reduction of salt in processed foods is needed and highly encouraged.,” he said.

“Often consumers can hardly taste the difference between salt reduced and non-salt reduced products.

“However, the results of our study indicate we need to be careful about how salt reduced products are marketed, so that consumers will not be turned off these products from a taste perspective.”

Most people today consume eight to nine grams of salt each day, while the recommended dose is no more than four grams daily.

“This study highlights that promoting salt reduction as part of front-of-pack labeling can have a negative effect on how consumers perceive the taste of the product and on salt use.

“Therefore it’s important for researchers, public health professionals, industry and governments to work together to carefully consider how best to communicate this message to consumers.”

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