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The diet that reduces cardiovascular risk


The 5:2 diet championed by TV journalist Dr Michael Mosley appears to be better at reducing certain cardiovascular risks, compared with a more conventional calorie reduction diet, a new study has found.

The research published in the British Journal of Nutrition randomised 27 obese people, with an average BMI of 30 , to either a fasting diet – in which intake is limited to just 600 calories on two days a week – to a more standard weight-loss diet in which participants were advised to reduce their daily intake by 600 calories.

Previous research has focused on blood risk markers taken during fasting periods, whereas this study, undertaken by researchers from the University of Surrey, looked at lipid and glucose metabolism in the postprandial period.

Participants on the 5:2 diet achieved a 5% weight loss more quickly than those on a conventional diet (59 versus 73 days), and they also cleared triglycerides from their bloodstream more efficiently. Although there appeared to be no difference in the way the two diets handled glucose, there were significant variations between the diets in postprandial c-peptide, which is a marker for insulin secretion. This surprising finding needs further investigation, the researchers said.

The researchers also found a significant reduction in systolic blood pressure in those on the 5:2 diet. It was down by 9% in that cohort, and up by 2% in those on the daily calorie reduction diet.

“These preliminary findings highlight underlying differences between intermittent energy restriction and continuous energy restriction, including a superiority of intermittent energy restriction in reducing postprandial lipaemia,” the authors concluded.

But co-author Dr Rona Antoni of the University of Surrey said that although their research found benefits in the 5:2 diet compared with the more conventional alternative, the problem was compliance.

“Some of our participants struggled to tolerate the 5:2 diet, which suggests this approach is not suited to everybody; ultimately the key to dieting success is finding an approach you can sustain long term. But for those who do well and are able to stick to the 5:2 diet, i could potentially have a beneficial impact on some important risk markers for cardiovascular disease, in some cases more than daily dieting.”

You can access the study here.

The link between nutrition and mental illness



Poor nutrition is contributing to the increasing numbers of people suffering mental illness, a large psychiatry conference has been told.

Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Canterbury Julia Rucklidge says a well-nourished body and brain is better able to withstand ongoing stress and recover from illness.

She says it’s time Australian and New Zealand psychiatrists and psychologists “get serious” about the critical role nutrition plays in mental health.

“Not a single study has shown that a western diet that is heavily processed, high in refined grains, sugary drinks and takeaways and low in in fresh produce is good for us,” Prof Rucklidge said.

“The western diet is associated with poor mental health and eating a diet more akin to the Mediterranean diet improves mental health,” she said.

For more than a decade Professor Rucklidge has been leading research investigating the role of nutrition in mental health.

A previous paper – led by Prof Rucklidge – published in the British Journal of Psychiatry showed taking macronutrients improved ADHD symptoms, including attention, hyperactivity and impulsivity, compared to participants on placebo.

Professor Rucklidge told the the New Zealand Conference of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists in Tauranga on Tuesday that nutrition matters and that optimising nutrition is a safe and viable way to avoid, treat or lessen mental illness.

People are what they eat, Prof Rucklidge says.

“Every time we put something in our mouths we can choose to offer ourselves something nutritionally deprived or something nourishing,” Professor Rucklidge said.

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) agrees psychiatrists need to think about the “whole person” and the relationship between mind and body, in particular nutrition.

Research has shown people with a severe mental illness die up to 25 years earlier than those without a serious mental illness, often due to preventable physical health conditions.

They experience much higher rates of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and respiratory conditions.

“Psychiatrists have a key role to play in ensuring that people with mental illness are not further burdened by avoidable chronic physical health conditions,” said Dr Kym Jenkins, President of the RANZCP.