Queensland scientists develop sweetener with “almost no calories”

DO YOU like the idea of a natural product that will satisfy your sweet tooth, without the weight gain?

The call has gone out to food and beverage companies keen to develop a new sugarcane-based product, that has almost no calories.

The product, known as PlantZap, is a sugarcane extract developed locally by scientists at the Queensland Government’s Health and Food Sciences Precinct.

The Government is promoting PlantZap as a product that could significantly reduce the calorie content of soft drinks, energy drinks, juice, dairy foods and other food products, while increasing sugar mill output.

“With the focus on health and nutrition, adding PlantZap to foods and beverages provides sweetness without the extra calories, making it an ideal additive for a huge range of foods,”Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Mark Furner said.

“Imagine how appealing that would be for food manufacturers and consumers.”

Mr Furner said the next step is finding a commercial developer to take the product forward.

“We’ve released an EOI to identify companies with the ability to commercialise the technology, either within Australia or globally,” Mr Furner explained.

“This could be of interest to sugar mills, food and beverage companies, or food additive suppliers.

“We are looking for a company that would initially invest in a pilot plant co-located with a sugar mill to produce small commercial quantities of PlantZap for consumer trials.

“The market for such a product is enormous. However, as always, the challenge is to find the right commercial partner.”

Interested? Click here for PlantZap EOI information. The closing date to respond to the EOI is 31 May 2019.

Facebook breast cancer ad ban ‘insulting’

Breast cancer survivors have hit out at Facebook after the social media giant banned images of their scars and mastectomies featured in a new campaign.

The photos of topless women and a man holding buns and rolls over their breasts are at the centre of this year’s Pink Bun campaign, run by Bakers Delight to raise money for Breast Cancer Network Australia.

BCNA said Facebook had previously approved the pictures for advertisements on the platform but has now ruled them in violation of its partial nudity policy.

“BCNA believes it is impossible to show the full reality of breast cancer’s impact if a survivor is forced to cover up,” it said in a statement on Friday.

“This nonsensical decision threatens to significantly reduce the campaign’s effectiveness to raise awareness and much-needed funds for BCNA.”

Survivor Kate Murray, who features in the campaign, was left dumbfounded by the ban, believing the images were tasteful.

“It’s insulting that they’d ban them when they live stream mass murder and anti-Muslim rhetoric and homophobic diatribes,” she told Seven’s Sunrise.

“It’s insane that they’d ban something so beautiful and thoughtful and supportive as this campaign.”

BCNA is urging Facebook to reconsider its decision.

© AAP 2019

Supermarket Cold Meat

Bacon, ham, red meat link to bowel cancer

Even moderate amounts of ham, bacon and and red meat are linked to bowel cancer, experts have warned.

People who stick to guidelines from Britain’s National Health Service on red and processed meat consumption still increase their risk of bowel cancer by a fifth compared with those who eat very small amounts, a study part-funded by Cancer Research UK found.

The Department of Health said that while meat is a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals, people should cut their intake of red and processed meat to about 70g per day, which is the average daily consumption in the UK.

The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) said there is strong evidence that eating processed meat (such as salami, bacon and ham) is a cause of bowel cancer, while eating a lot of red meat (such as beef, lamb or pork) also increases the risk.

For the new study, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, experts examined data from 475,581 people aged 40 to 69 at the start of the study and followed them for an average of 5.7 years.

During this time, 2609 people developed bowel cancer.

The study found that people consuming an average of 76g per day of red and processed meat had a 20 per cent higher risk of bowel cancer compared with those who ate 21g per day.

For red meat only, the risk was 15 per cent higher for people who ate 54g per day (about one thick slice of roast beef or one lamb chop) on average compared with those who had 8g per day.

For processed meat only, the risk was 19 per cent higher for those who had an average of 29g per day (about one rasher of bacon or a slice of ham) compared with those who had an average of 5g per day.

There was some good news however, with those people having a high intake of fibre from bread and breakfast cereals lowering their risk of bowel cancer by 14 per cent.

Around one in every 15 men and one in every 18 women will develop bowel cancer during their lifetime.

Cancer Research UK’s expert in diet and cancer, Professor Tim Key, who co-authored the study and is deputy director at the University of Oxford’s cancer epidemiology unit, said: “Our results strongly suggest that people who eat red and processed meat four or more times a week have a higher risk of developing bowel cancer than those who eat red and processed meat less than twice a week.

Existing evidence points to an increased bowel cancer risk for every 50g of processed meat a person eats per day, but the new study found that risk increases at just 25g per day.

Dr Julie Sharp, Cancer Research UK’s head of health information, said to lower the chances of developing bowel cancer people could try doing meat-free Mondays, looking for recipes using fresh chicken and fish, or swapping meat for pulses like beans and lentils in meals.

© AAP 2019

Easter Egg Chocolate

Guilt-free chocolate… does it exist?

It’s Easter this weekend… which tends to mean CHOCOLATE, and lots of it!

While takes just three seconds to consume a 200g Easter egg, it can take up to a three-hour run to counteract the sugar ingested.

But Josh Gaudry, food scientist at Flannerys Organic and Wholefood Market, reveals there are ways to enjoy guilt-free chocolate this weekend.

He said sticking to chocolate made from unroasted cacao beans that have been cold pressed is best.

“By using this process of extraction, the cacao powder is produced in its ‘raw’ state, meaning the complete nutrients, minerals and health benefits remain intact and un-altered by heat cooking methods,” he said.

“Cacao is the purest form of chocolate you can consume and it’s is high in antioxidants, which can protect us from aging and disease.

“It’s rich in magnesium, which is an energy mineral/electrolyte, and sulphur, which is associated with healthy hair, nails, pancreas and liver.”

Chocolate can also be anti-inflammatory, thin the blood, lower blood pressure, can help stop a cough, reduce stroke risk and improve your mood.

Mr Gaudry said another delicious chocolate substitute is carob, which is caffeine-free, contains less calories and is packed with vitamins and minerals.

“It’s also free of theobromine found in chocolate, which is toxic to dogs, so is commonly used to make chocolate tasting treats for our paw pals,” he said.

For more information on raw cacao and carob, and easy to follow recipes, visit:

Sick woman at work computer

When’s the best time to have the flu shot?

Ian Barr, WHO Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza

When most of us get the flu, we spend three or four days on the couch feeling miserable, then we bounce back pretty quickly. But others have more severe symptoms and need to be hospitalised because they’re at risk of life-threatening complications. Some people even die from the flu.

The size and impact of influenza seasons varies from year to year. In 2017, Australia had its worst flu season for 20 years, with at least 1,255 lives lost. The 2018 season was relatively mild, but it doesn’t seem to have ever ended – cases have been reported throughout summer and into autumn 2019.

The best way to protect against influenza is to get a flu vaccine each year. It’s not as effective as some other vaccines, but it reduces your risk of getting the flu by around 60%.

Protection often will have begun to wane four or five months later, so getting vaccinated in mid to late May, or even early June, will give you better protection at the height of the flu season. But there is a number of factors to consider before deciding when to get your flu shot.

Remind me, why get a flu shot each year?
Influenza viruses change each year and the vaccine is updated to keep up with these changes. This year, for example, the vaccine protects against two different strains than the 2018 vaccine.

Our body’s immune response to the vaccine also wanes over time. So even if you were vaccinated last winter, you may no longer be fully protected 18 months later, depending on your age and your response to the last vaccination.

When does the flu vax become available?
Influenza vaccines are usually available in early April, or even in March; though you’ll generally have to pay full price for early access, even if you’re eligible for a free flu vaccine later.

In mid-April, stock starts arriving at GP clinics and pharmacies for the government’s immunisation program, which offers free flu vaccines for those most at risk of complications from influenza. This includes:

  • all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged six months and over
  • pregnant women (during any stage of pregnancy)
  • all people aged 65 years and over
  • people aged six months and over with medical conditions which increase the risk of complications following influenza infections.

In addition, most states in Australia offer free vaccination to all other children from six months of age to five years of age.

For those not eligible for the free vaccine, influenza vaccines are available through pharmacies and GPs for between A$10 and A$25 (plus the cost of a consultation if your GP doesn’t bulk bill), or via workplace programs.

The 2018 flu season was mild but there have been more cases of influenza over summer than usual.

Is it good to get in early?
Getting a vaccine immediately after it becomes available will ensure you don’t miss out if there’s a vaccine shortage. And it will protect against the “summer flus” we’ve been seeing over the last few months, which are circulating earlier than normal.

But there is a potential downside. Protection against influenza peaks one to two months after you have your vaccine, and then declines. This rate of decline varies from person to person, by age, and by influenza strain.

The flu season usually reaches its peak in August or sometimes even September. So if you’re vaccinated in early April, four to five months will have passed by the time you reach the peak virus months, and you will have lower levels of protection.

There are few good quality studies across all ages to measure this rate of decline accurately, although a study from 2015 showed that the measurable antibody responses to the influenza vaccine components reduced slowly.

Another study from 2014 showed the vaccine was less effective in people vaccinated three or more months earlier, adding to the evidence that protection wanes over time.

When is too late for the flu shot?
If you delay your decision to be vaccinated until July or August, when the flu season is well underway, your chance of becoming infected will significantly increase.

Mid to late May or early in June is the sweet spot between trying to maximise your protective levels of antibodies generated by vaccination and getting vaccinated before there are significant levels of influenza virus circulating.

It’s better to be vaccinated early than not at all.

Remember, it takes seven to ten days from the time of your flu shot for the vaccine to begin to be fully effective.

Getting vaccinated in late May or early June should provide good levels of protection during the peak of the influenza season and may even last through to November, by which time the influenza season has usually finished.

Vaccinate kids a month earlier
Vaccination timing is a little different for children. Those aged six months to nine years who haven’t been vaccinated against influenza before need two doses of vaccine, four weeks apart. So they will need to start their vaccination program a month earlier than adults and the elderly.

So if you want to get vaccinated in 2019, there’s no need to rush, and in fact May or even early June might be a better time to be vaccinated. But it’s better to be vaccinated early than not at all.

Your GP or pharmacist will advise you on the most appropriate vaccine and the best timing for you.The Conversation

Ian Barr, Deputy Director, WHO Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza

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