Red meat and cheese part of a healthy diet, but consumers do not understand food labels, according to new research

Red meat and cheese part of a healthy diet, but consumers do not understand food labels, according to new research
30/08/2018 - 22:00
Red meat and cheese are now part of a healthy diet, but consumers do not understand food labels, according to two new separate pieces of research that were presented at the recent European Society of Cardiology’s (ESC) congress in Munich.

The healthiest diet includes three servings of dairy products and one and a half of meat, according to the findings from the observational Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiological (PURE) study.

“Our findings on full-fat dairy and unprocessed red meat do challenge conventional thinking,” said Andrew Mente of McMaster University, Ontario in Canada.

“The current recommendations are based mainly on work that was done two or three decades ago,” he added.

After studying data on more than 218,000 people in 50 countries, the Canadian researchers have added to other recent evidence that refined carbohydrates are a bigger health worry.

The fifth of people with the healthiest diet were 25% less likely to die during eight years of follow-up and 22% less likely to have a heart attack than those with the least healthy diet. The results were adjusted to account for factors such as wealth, education and other health habits.

On average, a healthy diet included more than eight portions of fruit and vegetables a day, two and a half portions of nuts and beans, a serving and a half of meat and three portions of dairy, equivalent to a glass of milk, 60g of cheese and a small pot of yoghurt.

Another piece of research presented at the ESC’s congress revealed that many consumers had difficulty understanding food labels, particularly those at risk of heart disease.

The study involved 200 men and women aged 18 to 85 who answered a brief questionnaire administered during a one-month period in 2017. Participants supplied demographic data and answered questions about risk factors for cardiovascular disease as well as use and understanding of food labels.

Significantly more women than men (65% versus 37%) said that they always or often read food labels. Just 5% of females said they never look at food labels, compared with more than a third (35%) of males.

Claire Duffy, a clinical nurse specialist in general practice in Ireland and the study’s lead author, said that the findings highlighted the need for enhanced public education which should begin with efforts across all educational settings to teach children and their parents about food labels, healthy eating, and nutrition.

“People find food labels confusing and don’t know what to look for,” she said. “They still have difficulty understanding and interpreting food labels.”

Having a risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD) did not necessarily translate into greater use of food labels and 40% of participants with CVD said they do not read food labels.

Among CVD patients that do read labels, the research found that two-thirds (67%) read about fats, but only a third (33%) read about saturated fats, fibre, and salt.

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