SIRC – Media Watch 30-04-99

Food for Thought

Midnight Feast

In a paper presented at the London International Conference on Eating Disorders, Professor Stunkard from the University of Pennsylvania cited a link between stress and night time snacking. Thus Night Eating Syndrome seems set to be filed under the heading of 'recognised disorders'. Professor Stunkard, who first identified the symptoms back in the mid 'fifties, is expected to publish the definitive description of this new condition in an American scientific journal sometime in the next few months. Meanwhile, with bated breath, we can only ponder the range of conditions that may await future recognition. 'Pathological tea-time' or 'compulsive elevenses' perhaps.

Happy Fat

Dr Malcom Peet, a senior psychiatrist at Sheffield University believes he has identified a positive correlation between low levels of Omega-3 fatty acids and susceptibility to mood swings and depression. Omega-3 is a particular type of polyunsaturated fat most commonly found in fatty fish such as tuna, mackerel, trout and sardines. Dr Andrew Stoll, of Harvard Medical School, although in the early stages of his research, seems inclined to corroborate these findings through a comparison of eastern and western dietary trends. Japan's average annual consumption of fish is 140lb and its population experiences one sixth the depression rates of New Zealand whose consumption averages 30lb. Brain food indeed. Researchers at the State University of New York introduced peanuts, another prevalent source of polyunsaturated fats into the diet of women footballers. While the study surprisingly concluded that those administered this supplement were able to perform for longer and at greater levels of intensity, it did not suggest that an increase in brain food made any significant difference to team spirit!

Curate's Egg

A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that one egg a day did not lead to an increased risk of stroke and heart disease in healthy men and women. Eggs, a frequently targeted food by the health profession represent, according to the study's author Dr Frank B Hu: "a controversial food in the nutrition community. They are high in cholesterol. One egg contains about 210mg of cholesterol. Because of that it was believed that egg consumption caused heart disease, although there are no direct scientific data." Reasons why the results differ from the health profession's 'conventional wisdom' are unclear, but the report suggest that one of the factors may be that the nutritional value of eggs possibly counterbalances the negative consequences of their high cholesterol content. Like most statistics on any food, this study thus reflects both the good and bad points. What is required, like the content of any 'healthy' diet, is an element of balance.

Non-Fat Milk

Researchers at Purdue University in Indiana have discovered that high consumption of calcium in young women, 18-31yrs, actually slowed weight gain. Their study, funded by the US National Dairy Council, appears to re-assert the health benefits of a daily glass of milk. Linda Costain, a spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association, suggested that while the findings were interesting they were inconclusive. That would seem about par for the course!

Like most statistics on any food, this study thus reflects both the good and bad points. What is required, like the content of any 'healthy' diet, is an element of balance.