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Changing eating patterns versus adding nutrients to processed foods

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Food-based dietary guidelines are necessary but the processed food industry prefers to concentrate on individual nutrients

Excess weight affects 70% of men, 56% of women and 25% of children in Australia,1 increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, some common cancers and musculoskeletal problems.

Genetic factors have an influence in obesity, but sedentary lifestyle and our eating patterns also contribute to the national girth. We move less and eat more, especially discretionary (junk) foods which now constitute 35% of adults’ and over 40% of children’s kilojoule intake.2 Plates, bowls, glasses and cups are bigger and contribute to greater consumption.3,4 Supermarkets and food outlets have extended hours. Eating home-cooked meals at the family table is often replaced with snacks and convenience foods, and children’s lunchboxes usually contain junk food “treats”.

There is no evidence that adding nutrients to poor food choices will fix this situation. In keeping with the World Health Organization recommendations since 1995,5 Australia’s 2013 dietary guidelines were based on evidence about whole foods rather than individual nutrients.2 This…