Friday 5 May 2023 9:50am
EDOR members, and partner organisations Diabetes NZ and the Healthier Lives-He Oranga Hauora National Science Challenge, are calling for a National Food Strategy following a recent article in Nature Medicine outlining the extent of diet-related factors driving the type 2 diabetes pandemic.
Dr Andrew Reynolds and Professor Jim Mann, EDOR and Healthier Lives researchers, were invited to write a commentary on the Nature Medicine article, which included data from 184 countries and showed that around 70% of type 2 diabetes cases were attributable to a small list of dietary factors.
In an interview with Radio NZ, Professor Mann warned that the food environment was the single most important factor that is contributing to the type 2 diabetes pandemic. He further stated that our government and health system can no longer afford to take a back-seat approach to the food environment in Aotearoa New Zealand.
The current food environment promotes diet-related disease
Like many countries around the world, the food system in New Zealand is mainly driven by profit, rather than to produce food to benefit the health and wellbeing of our population.
This has resulted in a food system that continually promotes cheap, processed foods that have excess calories, saturated fat, sugar and or salt. Overconsumption of these foods are causing the alarming rates of people living with type 2 diabetes and obesity in Aotearoa NZ.
Further exacerbating this issue, foods that promote health such as fruits and vegetables and high quality wholegrains have risen in price, and are simply unaffordable for many New Zealanders.
The need for a National Food Strategy
Professor Jim Mann has highlighted that initiatives to improve our food environment, such as banning unhealthy food advertising or removing GST off foods, are desperately needed. But actions such as these are not enough to substantially improve health in Aotearoa New Zealand.
In an interview with Radio NZ, Professor Mann spoke to the extent to which New Zealand relies on food for our health, economy and environment - highlighting that a National Food Strategy is urgently needed.
“It is almost inconceivable that we do not have an overall food strategy in a country where food is so critical to every aspect of our lives”, says Professor Jim Mann.
Professor Mann believes the government also needs to appoint a ministerial taskforce to review of all areas of our food environment, from food production all the way through to the point of sale and consumption.
Dietitians play a vital role in health
For the 250,000 people already diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, and the many more with pre-diabetes, medical nutrition therapy is essential for preventing progression to type 2 diabetes and its complications. Remission of type 2 diabetes is also now possible, with the help of professionals such as dietitians.
Dietitians are trained health professionals that have the skills to implement appropriate diet and lifestyle advice, yet not all people who need to see a dietitian are able to. Alongside a lack of funding for dietitians in the community, the number of dietitians that are being trained has decreased.
As diet-related diseases such as type 2 diabetes affect more and more New Zealanders, we urgently need to increase the number of dietitians, and access to dietitians, to help prevent health complications and to prevent our health system from being overwhelmed.
EDOR in the Media
- Government action needed to prevent type 2 diabetes, EDOR press release, 18 April 2023
- Scientists warn a type two diabetes pandemic is looming, RNZ Morning Report, Tuesday 18 April 2023
- Nutrition expert calls for large-scale Government action after research shows dietary factors most to blame for increase in type 2 diabetes, Newshub, Tuesday 18 April 2023
- Type 2 diabetes: Health researcher calls for ministerial taskforce, Newstalk ZB, Tuesday 18 April 2023
- Most new Type 2 Diabetes cases attributable to diet, Science Media Centre expert reaction, 18 April 2023
Read the journal articles
- Incident type 2 diabetes attributable to suboptimal diet in 184 countries. O'Hearn, M., Lara-Castor, L., Cudhea, F. et al. Nat Med 29, 982–995 (2023)
- Government inaction and the preventable diabetes pandemic. Reynolds, A.N., Mann, J. Nat Med 29, 791–792 (2023)