PHOTO: © Ocskay Mark /

Dementia admissions near 95,000 in 2016/17

The rate of people being admitted to hospital for dementia has dropped by almost a quarter in the past decade.

But dementia remains a major cause of ill health and death in Australia, affecting up to 436,000 people in 2018 and causing more than 13,700 deaths in 2017, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) said releasing two new reports on Thursday.

Its report on hospital care for people with dementia found there were almost 95,000 hospitalisations in 2016/17.

“Nine in 10 hospitalisations involved at least one overnight stay, with an average length of 13 days,” AIHW spokesman Richard Juckes said.

Just under half of hospitalisations ended with the patient going home and about a third with the patient continuing care in hospital.

About one in five ended in a new admission to residential aged care, while six per cent ended with the patient dying in hospital.

Dementia is a term used to describe a group of conditions characterised by the gradual impairment of brain function.

Among the many different forms of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common.

In a separate AIHW report on the dispensing patterns for anti-dementia medications in 2016/17, it focuses on four medications.

“These four prescription medications were dispensed a total of 546,000 times in 2016/17, at a cost of $20 million,” Mr Juckes said.

Donepezil accounted for 65 per cent of all anti-dementia medications dispensed, followed by Galantamine (15 per cent), Rivastigmine (12 per cent) and Memantine (eight).

© AAP 2019

Supermarket Register Checkout

Supermarkets put junk food on special twice as often as healthy food, and that’s a problem

Half-price chips, “two for one” chocolates, “buy one get one free” soft drinks: Australian supermarkets make it very easy for us to fill our trolleys with junk food.

Add in the bonus of an Ooshie or a Little Shop collectable and you’re likely going home with a pile of products that will fill out both your pantry and your waistline.

We looked at supermarket specials over a year to see how healthy they were. The results of our research, published August 16, show junk foods are discounted, on average, twice as often as healthy foods.

Australians buy about two-thirds of their food and drink at the supermarket, and 40% of their foods on special. We know environments dominated by heavily promoted junk foods are a key driver of unhealthy diets.

Where unhealthy diets are one of the leading contributors to poor health in Australia, the way supermarkets apply discounts needs to change. We all love a bargain, but we may be paying the real price with our health.

Junk foods attract more specials, and bigger discounts

In our research, junk foods included chocolate, chips, confectionery, ice cream and high-sugar breakfast cereals. We found these sorts of products were on special twice as often as healthy foods – 29% versus 15% of the time.

We also looked at how discounts varied according to the healthiness of the products. We assessed the “healthiness” of foods using the Health Star Rating system – an Australian government-endorsed scheme that gives each product a score out of five.

We found the more stars a food product had, the less often it was on special, and the smaller the discount when it was. Discounts applied to junk foods were, on average, almost twice as large as discounts on healthier options (26% off versus 15% off).

A similar recent study of drink specials in supermarkets over a year found almost half of all drink specials were for sugar-sweetened beverages (soft drinks, sports and energy drinks, and cordials). Within drink categories, twice as many sugar-sweetened beverages were on special compared to specials for milk and water (34% versus 15% of the time).

How do supermarkets decide what to discount?

The way supermarkets choose what products are on special each week is complex.

Food manufacturers pay large premiums to have their products featured in supermarket catalogues, at end-of-aisle displays or near the checkout. The arrangements between food manufacturers and supermarkets are often governed by contracts that specify the way products are to be promoted.

Consumers will often make purchasing decisions based on what’s on special.

Food manufacturers and supermarkets know unhealthy food is often bought on impulse, making price discounts a great way to entice customers to make those impulse choices.

Despite their claims to be healthy places to shop, supermarkets are major culprits in pushing junk food upon us.

Does it have to be this way?

If Australia is serious about addressing its obesity crisis, the way junk food is promoted in our supermarkets needs serious review. There’s a real opportunity for both supermarkets and food manufacturers to take the lead in helping to encourage healthier eating.

Big supermarket chains stock more than 30,000 products. Most large food manufacturers have a wide variety of products, ranging from more healthy to less healthy. Supermarkets and food manufacturers could work together to put healthier options on special more often.

Government regulation may play a role, too. Governments around the world are starting to recognise the role of price discounts in driving unhealthy diets. There are current proposals in the UK and Scotland to use government regulations to restrict price discounts for unhealthy products.

There are several ways governments in Australia could step in to limit the impact of unhealthy discounting, including:

  • restricting the proportion of unhealthy food allowed to be discounted
  • restricting multi-buy specials (such as “buy one get one free”) on unhealthy products
  • reducing the size of discounts on unhealthy food
  • restricting the advertising of price discounts (for example, through signage).

Supermarkets of the future

Imagine what it would be like to shop at a supermarket where healthier food was on special more often, and with bigger discounts. Where customers were enticed by discounted fruit and vegetables instead of half price chips, chocolate and soft drinks.

Australian supermarkets have already taken some positive steps to make their stores healthier, including an increased focus on fresh food. Extending this to improving the healthiness of their discounts could have a real benefit on the health of generations to come.

Adrian Cameron, Associate professor, and Associate Director of the Global Obesity Centre, Deakin University; Christina Zorbas, PhD Candidate, Deakin University; Devorah Riesenberg, Research fellow, Deakin University; Gary Sacks, Associate Professor, Deakin University, and Kathryn Backholer, Senior research fellow, Deakin University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.
The Conversation


New embryo DNA test speeding up IVF and cutting miscarriage

A world-first DNA screening test for embryos is speeding up IVF, reducing miscarriages and giving fresh hope to would be parents on the Gold Coast.

Monash IVF Specialist Dr Kee Ong and his team are now able to test embryos by taking a sample of DNA fragments in the surrounding fluid, instead of the current and invasive biopsy procedure that can potentially damage or destroy weaker embryos.

Dr Kee Ong said the revolutionary test opens up a world of possibility for patients, in particular older mums and patients who have suffered repeated miscarriage.

“For the first time, we can identify the healthiest embryos with zero risk involved. The existing biopsy technique can not be performed on all embryos so many patients missed out,” Dr Ong said.

“Around 40 percent of patients who want to have genetic testing are unable to because their embryos are not strong enough to survive the procedure or the risk is too high. This new test is suitable for ALL embryos,” he said.

Available exclusively to Monash IVF patients, Dr Ong said the test will also reduce the number of babies born with genetic problems.

“One in six Australian couples struggle with infertility and the risk of chromosomal disorders is higher later in life when many women seek IVF treatment,” Dr Ong said.

“This journey is extremely stressful physically, emotionally and financially. Anything we can do to simplify the process, shorten the time it takes to achieve a healthy pregnancy and give patients peace of mind is an incredible thing.”

The new testing treatment is also a lot cheaper than the traditional method, as the process is quicker and less invasive.

“By making sure patients are having transfers with the healthiest embryos, we are reducing the frustration and we are also reducing the cost of the treatment,” Dr Ong said.

“Chromosomal disorders don’t just lead to babies born with Down Syndrome, a lot of those chromosomally abnormal embryos won’t take to begin with, so it makes it more difficult to fall pregnant or you may fall pregnant and miscarry,” Dr Ong said.

Overall, Dr Ong the test will increase the chance people will fall pregnant when they have an IVF transfer and reduce the chance of miscarriage once they are.

“We’re excited to be the only clinic on the Gold Coast offering this medical breakthrough and excited to already see first-hand the massive impact for our patients.”

For more information and to learn more about the embryo DNA test, visit:

Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate could boost mood: study

Eating dark chocolate could boost mood and relieve symptoms of depression, scientists say.

Adults who tucked into the treat had 70 per cent lower odds of reporting depressive symptoms than those who ate no chocolate at all, the research showed.

The team studied data from 13,626 adults in the US and also found the 25 per cent who ate the most chocolate of any kind were less likely to report depressive symptoms than those who did not eat it.

But the survey was only a “snapshot” and further research is needed to confirm a link, experts have cautioned.

Lead author Dr Sarah Jackson, from University College London’s Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care, said: “This study provides some evidence that consumption of chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, may be associated with reduced odds of clinically relevant depressive symptoms.”

The team, who worked with the University of Calgary and Alberta Health Services Canada, found no significant link between not eating dark chocolate and depressive symptoms.

“Further research is required to clarify the direction of causation,” Dr Jackson said.

“It could be the case that depression causes people to lose their interest in eating chocolate, or there could be other factors that make people both less likely to eat dark chocolate and to be depressed.”

Data was gathered from the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Adults’ chocolate consumption was checked against their scores on the Patient Health Questionnaire, which looked at depressive symptoms.

Other factors including height, weight, marital status, ethnicity, education, household income, physical activity, smoking and chronic health problems were also taken into account to ensure the study only measured chocolate’s effect on depressive symptoms.

The results were noted after the participants said whether they ate any dark chocolate in two 24-hour periods.

Researchers explained chocolate has been widely reported to have mood-boosting effects.

Reasons for the relationship include chocolate’s inclusion of psychoactive ingredients which produce a feeling of euphoria similar to that of cannabinoid, found in cannabis.

It also contains phenylethylamine, a neuromodulator which is believed to be important for regulating mood.

Experimental evidence also suggests that mood improvements only take place if the chocolate is palatable and pleasant to eat, which suggests that the experience of enjoying chocolate is an important factor, not just the ingredients present.

Dr Jackson added if the effect on depression was causal, studying the biological mechanisms could reveal the ideal amount and type of chocolate to prevent the condition.

The team also pointed out dark chocolate has a higher concentration of flavonoids, antioxidant chemicals shown to improve inflammatory profiles which could play a role in the onset of depression.

Caffeine may impair unborn babies’ livers

Drinking more than two cups of coffee a day during pregnancy may impair the development of the baby’s liver, research suggests.

In the study, pregnant rats given caffeine had offspring with lower birth weights, altered growth and stress hormone levels and impaired liver development.

Published in the Journal Of Endocrinology, the findings indicate the equivalent of two to three cups of coffee may alter stress and growth hormone levels.

It suggests this is done in a manner that can impair growth and development and increase the risk of liver disease in adulthood.

The researchers point to previous studies that suggest prenatal caffeine intake of 300mg a day or more in women, about two to three cups of coffee, can result in lower birth weights.

Animal studies have further suggested prenatal caffeine consumption may have long-term effects on liver development with an increased susceptibility to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Researchers say the underlying link between prenatal caffeine exposure and impaired liver development remains poorly understood.

Professor Hui Wang and colleagues at Wuhan University in China, investigated the effects of low doses, the equivalent of two to three cups of coffee, and high doses, the equivalent of six to nine cups of coffee, of caffeine, given to pregnant.

They found the offspring exposed to prenatal caffeine had lower levels of a liver hormone, insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), and higher levels of the stress hormone corticosteroid at birth.

Dr Michelle Bellingham, member of Britain’s Society for Endocrinology, said: “While this is an interesting and extensive study which attempts to increase our understanding of how caffeine can affect foetal development … We must bear in mind that these results are in rats, in which caffeine may not have exactly the same effects as in humans due to inherent species differences.”

© PAA 2019