Some Books to Keep in Mind


food fight

Like a true dietetics nerd I’ve been reading some of the most influential and popular dieting books including: Michael Pollan’s ‘In Defence of Food’ and Rosemary Stanton’s ‘The Diet Dilemma’. I was happy to find surprisingly little repetition between the two titles. I’ll share my brief thoughts on them…

“In Defence of Food” by Michael Pollen starts with the line‘Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.’

While the words at the start of Pollen’s book may not be 100% accurate, omitting some complexities of the modern healthy diet, they are generally correct. For instance where to healthy fats fit in, such as Fish, Eggs, and dairy?

Other than that, Pollen puts a good case forward. He writes so convincingly, with evidence to back his every word, that it was difficult to approach the book critically. I enjoyed the read, even being an almost-dietitian. I think story-telling is important with any book, and maybe even more so with titles that interact with the reader in this way. Books that ask the reader to do something need to be engaging and this one was.

Rosemary Stanton’s ‘The Diet Dilemma’. 

This book seems to have one purpose; to educate. This is the reason that I didn’t finish the book and was uninterested most of the time. I suspect that I’m clearly not the target audience which is why I’ve had such a strong reaction! I can see someone who is either preparing to attend, or who has just attended a dietitian consultation to be the target. The book serves as a crash-course in dieting and all the problems that dieters face. But it’s presented in a way that would be interesting if you had been living under a rock, or have had no reason to diet ever.

While this book is very good, I dislike the writing style and for me it lacks narrative.

Final Word

One last point. Books such as these can be great tools, but nothing more. They can put your fears at ease before meeting a dietitian or help you stay on track, but ultimately they are flawed. Often intensive one-on-one help is needed to make the enormous life changes described in these books.


Until next time


Please remember that I’m a dietetics STUDENT, so none of my opinions should be trusted! PLEASE consult an Accredited Practicing Dietitian (APD) or your GP before applying anything discussed in this blog to your diet or exercise regime



Mindless Eating


Brian Wansink’s ‘Mindless Eating’


Okay I’m cutting straight to the point, if your interested in food and how it controls us then read this book! 

Suggestions for avoiding mindless eating:

  • Find something else to occupy yourself. Ask yourself “what are my interests?”
  • Plating up 20% less will not leave you hungry, it may not even be missed. Of course this is a bit harder if you’re serving yourself.
  • Speaking of servings, the book suggests taking only preserved plates to the table rather than serving bowls. This way you have to go back for seconds in needed.
  • Keep empty packaging on the table until you’re done eating, this will act as a visual cue to your brain that you have in fact been eating and that you’ll start feeling full soon.
  • drink from tall skinny glasses rather than short fat ones. We perceive vertical objects to hold more volume than horizontal ones. Try drawing two equal lines, one horizontal and anothervertical starting in the middle of the horizontal one. It appears that the vertical is longer, even though it is not.  
  • Try to not use the four unhelpful and unhealthy food tool extremes. Do not use food or eating as a reward or punishment, or as a form of guilt or comfort. Easier said than done I’m afraid!

Wansink doesn’t assume you’re looking for a diet and that you need strict rules to control your eating, he is merely a scientist doing his job; presenting the facts. It’s a great read which takes us behind the scenes of the food industry and the way in which food is marketed. It offers a unique perspective to food and what your eating without using your own intake as a case study, you don’t feel targeted or guilty for eating. 

While the author cannot disclose specific information about his various industry consults, he takes us into his world. Its the world of human eating behaviours, I was captivated and taken off-guard. I had thought I knew lots about the relationship humans have with food, but this book challenged my perceptions and I’m all the better for it. 

For instance imagine an elaborately planned dining room where soup bowls magically refill and eaters just keep on eating without knowing that they have consumed more! I thought for sure most people would notice that one but apparently we have more in common with the white lab rat than we’d like to think!

Anyway onto the crux of this book, there’s lots of value here, the hardest part is actually making steps to apply the ideas to your life. I think once you take the plunge it’ll get easier to take care of yourself and follow the basic principles the book outlines; I could say that about most diet books, only I wouldn’t call this a diet book per se. 

Until next time 


Please remember that I’m a dietetics STUDENT, so none of my opinions should be trusted! PLEASE consult an Accredited Practicing Dietitian (APD) or your GP before applying anything discussed in this blog to your diet or exercise regime

Food in Aged Care


Aged Care Nutrition: Fed Up and Inconveniently Alive

Jack Beattie-Bowers (Dietitian)

Ten dollars a day. That’s the figure discussed by dietitians as the likely amount spent by some aged care homes on each resident’s nutrition.

The basic daily fee paid by all residents living in Australian Government subsidised homes is $47.15 and is meant to cover the costs of meals, cleaning, laundry, heating and cooling. Yet operators are also in the market to make a profit, and the actual proportion of the fee going towards these services is unclear. The basic daily fee is set to rise on 20 March in line with changes to the aged pension.

Unsurprisingly, the figure leaves little room for managers “to inject soul into menu design, to put pleasure back into food service and to give older people joy through their palette”. That’s a quote from 2010 Senior Australian of the year, Maggie Beer who has campaigned for awareness over equal rights for people in residential aged care. Beer goes as far as to say ““I’d rather shoot myself than be in [some facilities] eating the food on offer”, and I’m inclined to agree.

Paradoxically, the most vulnerable people in our population, who would benefit most from an injection of fun onto their plate and into their lives, are being served boring, bland, processed and pre-packaged medically approved foods. What they need is food that is familiar but diverse, fun but nutritious. That is how I like my food anyway, and contrary to what you might think, the eating habits of 80 year olds are not all that different to younger people.

Although some aged care residents need their meals to be texture modified (that is, for their food to be softened or mashed), not all of them do; a variety of textures can and should typically be served.

The reality is far more disappointing.

If you thought hospital food is bad, think again; you’ll be craving it if you end up in an old folks home. Hospitals have tougher and clearer regulations around colour, variety, and enjoyment. Put simply, Australia’s residential aged care regulatory framework is weak and piecemeal when it comes to nutrition.

The current guidelines state expectations broadly and non-specifically, presumably to protect the bottom-line of struggling facilities. They also fail to provide a model on how to achieve their targets. Nutrition is just one of the many concerns for our elderly, and in my opinion, stakeholders would be better served with a national nutrition standard embedded in a greater framework for aged care health.

As the Dietitians’ Association of Australia reminds us, the problem then is how to achieve menus which focus on meeting the nutritional needs of individual in terms of local supply and the financial capacity of the facility.

While the choice appears to be one of morality, duty, and responsibility, without funds an excellent menu can only be implemented with excellent staff willing to work above their requirements. There is evidence that the current approach has been fairly unsuccessful with the prevalence of malnutrition in residential aged care facilities between 32-72%. It is apparent that these businesses would do better with clear succinct guidelines.

Currently, dietitians must create their own regulatory standards, and carry no legal might beyond their station as an Accredited Practicing Dietitian. We must hope that aged care homes see the sense in consulting with dietitians who may suggest a plethora of improvements and menu renovations, beyond the requirements of current regulations. Spending money in this way will have a direct influence on the happiness and end of life care of our elderly.

Two deaths reported in September 2014, one of which involved malnutrition and dehydration, prompted Alzheimer’s Australia and the Combined Pensioners and Superannuants’ Association to propose a royal commission into the accreditation process for residential aged care facilities. Despite these calls the facilities who have allegedly neglected their clients have retained their full accreditation and no action has been taken. Society has to decide what a human life is worth. It is certainly worth more than just being alive.




Fluoride – a saga (part three)




So by this stage I bet you’re wondering what fluoride is! Either that or you’ve just landed here from twitter at exactly the right moment….

Fluoride is actually represented in a collection of simple chemicals (fluorides) naturally occurring in all bodies of water. 

Evidence for fluoridation stems from research by Dean et al (1942) who showed low doses of fluoride protect against tooth decay. The fluoride concentration of samples was no greater than 2 ppm and most fluoridation programs operate to 1 ppm. To put this into perspective two foods naturally concentrated with fluoride, tea (1-2 ppm) and seafood (1-3ppm) can have more fluoride than fluoridated water. Whereas vegetables can also have notable fluoride content, this may not be independent of the area having a fluoridation system in place. 

Fluoride stops tooth decay by strengthening the surface of teeth during childhood when the second set of teeth are still inside the gums and by preventing the bacterial growth inside the mouth, allowing recovery of weak points.

It is true that care should be taken in the first eight years of life to not over-consume fluoride as the Enamel can be damaged causing permanent mottling of teeth. While most toothpastes contain up to 1000ppm, there are newer child-friendly products aimed at children who commonly over-use tooth pastes. These often have a limit of 400ppm fluoride. 

Keep in mind that non-fluoridated bottled water is responsible for 50% of tooth decay in 6yos; there is a place for less fluoridated products and potential users may want to seek advice from a dentist. (For more information regarding fluoride and dental hygiene see the Australian Dental Association Inc. and the British Fluoridation Society including expert opinion on fluoride use.) 



Political Action

In the NSW parliament the opposition introduced a Bill (last year) which would have given control of water fluoridation to the Government. It was hoped this would quash debates in the municipal council chambers of Lismore and Byron Bay Shire, yet the Bill was rejected and the decision to fluoridate still rests with local councils. The QLD parliament seems to have gotten to the same point but from the opposite direction. The previous Labor government under Anna Bligh brought all fluoridation matters under state-control, only to have the incoming Liberal government reverse the decision back to the local level. QLD has had historically low levels of fluoridation but is now on par with other states.

It is interesting that nutritional guidelines be delayed for 40-some years after fluoridation of drinking water commenced in 1945 (US, Michigan), 1954 (NZ, Hastings), and 1953 (AU, Beaconsfield HOBART). US/Canada were first to adopt recommended daily intake guidelines for fluoride in 1997, followed by Europe (2001/2002) then  Australia/New Zealand (2005). Despite its benefit authorities have been slow to classify fluoride as an essential nutrient owing to the fact that it isn’t necessary for life. Fluoride does save lives, although indirectly as it prevents tooth decay which can lead to septicaemia / septic shock causing multi-organ failure and death! A less dramatic reason for its acceptance as an essential nutrient could be the great improvement to quality of life when taken as a preventative agent (as is the case when drinking water is treated).




Maybe supporters of water fluoridation need not be so fearful of a dramatic increase in dental caries. This is certainly the picture painted by the UK which has 10% fluoridation and has dental caries rates much lower than previous generations thanks to fluoridated toothpastes and topical treatments offered by dentists. This would require conscious and responsible action by the public to purchase fluoridated tooth pastes and visit their dentist regularly. Oh and people who cannot afford the dentist will be left without the public health  safety net that cheap water fluoridation currently provides.

If lobbyists want public justice on issues important to them they need to highlight were the lack of evidence lies and fight for a mandate for scientific clarification. This is a long road and seems beyond the capacity of many entrants to the anti-fluoride camp.




Please remember that I’m a dietetics STUDENT, so none of my opinions should be trusted! PLEASE consult an Accredited Practicing Dietitian (APD) or your GP before applying anything discussed in this blog to your diet or exercise regime

Fluoride – a saga (part two)




Its unfortunate that simple fluoride has become controversial. Its a mute topic, never has any confirmed-evidence of fluoridated water causing harm emerged. In fact all the ‘evidence’ has in been in the form of internet memes. Meme: a pairing of pictures and words in which one party must humorously or shockingly complement the other. But I’m sure these are not that sort, these would be highly respectable works of scientific rigour which have stood the tests of time and countless challenges, no? Ah they must have just run out of time for all that, maybe they’re just desperate.

A good example of this is the commonly circulated meme of the ‘toxic if ingested’ label of a highly concentrated bottle of fluoride solution, the caption tries to recruit readers to campaign against their local fluoridation authority. The problem here is that too much of any nutrient will kill us, and that the bottle has many times over the limit for fluoride intake compared with our water supplies. Another silly piece of pseudo-evidence is a ‘land-mark’ Harvard meta-analysis article , often cited as proof that fluoridation affects the brain and lowers the IQ of children. I feel sorry for these authors whose hard work has been taken completely out of context.

The blatant disregard for science by lobbyists is unsurprising when the groups have shown how low they are willing to go, making death threats to the NSW health minister and the NSW chief medical officer while heckling them as they arrived to give evidence at a local council enquiry. These acts and the materials produced show a true ignorance of scientific rigour and a lack of respect for the transparency of the scientific and medical communities. The main anti-fluoride theories are listed below, along with the reasons for their inaccuracies.

The Free Will Arguement

Theorists blame parents uneducated or uncaring of their child’s dental hygiene for ‘mass medication’ of ‘toxic’ fluoride. This obviously appeals to a certain type of person who has a particular dislike of a welfare state. This theory has been tested countless times in US courts but never been won.

The Mind Control Arguement

Now comes the most absurd, that our very minds can be altered using fluoride, that water fluoridation is a form of government control with its roots in Nazi Germany. It’s said that IG Farben, producer of dyes and industrial chemicals fundamental to Nazi Germany’s success was also involved in polluting enemy countries water supply with fluoride to cause “slight damage to a specific part of the brain” making drinkers docile. There is of course no evidence for this, in fact history would have shown masses of people in countries surrounding Germany becoming zombified. Looking at other available evidence (science, physiology and anatomy) we see that there is no biological credibility to this theory as the pineal gland has nothing to do with behaviour.

The Invention Arguement.

That water fluoridation was invented by chemical companies to get rid of waste product (fluorides), but also raise money. This theory usually involves the chemical companies concocting fake science to show its effect on tooth decay so that they can flog it off to local governments. Yes, most fluoride comes from industry as it provides a cheap, sustainable and dependable supply, but there is nothing more to this theory.

A popular and persevering theory is that of Christopher Bryson author of “The Fluoride Deception” which is grounded in the above ‘invention’ theory. Bryson also questions the mechanism for action in preventing tooth decay, not directly but deeper within the body where he believes there is damage being done. The book uses logical, intelligent, and convincing arguments. For instance; do you know how much fluoride you’re exposed to, does your dentist? The answer is generally no, but I’ll hazard a guess and say it doesn’t much matter due to the ease fluoride’s removal from the body and its safety. The book draws you in with command of the descriptive language and hyperbole, once captive the arguments presented don’t seem half bad but only until you close the book and leave the author’s world.



Bye for now.


Please remember that I’m a dietetics STUDENT, so none of my opinions should be trusted! PLEASE consult an Accredited Practicing Dietitian (APD) or your GP before applying anything discussed in this blog to your diet or exercise regime

Fluoride – a saga (part one).




Ruin a night of food, wine, and fun with lively discussion about the placement of traffic lights and speeding cameras, about obesity and government responsibility or even about private vs public schooling (my favourite). These topics are offer far more productive discussion, I’m not saying that you’ll be singing kumbayah but at least some of your guests might walk away enlightened to the merits in your view (and you in their’s). The fluoride debate on the other hand will get you nowhere.

Better topics serve in the outcome of their debate and in our enjoyment. Each night we watch politicians stumble over a barrage of questions that they have no hope in answering; and really who wants that fun to stop? Current affair shows such as 7:30 and QandA are great, most of the time its like watching apes learning quantum mechanics through interpretive dance. The polly always tries his or her best to act with grace and poise but they usually slip up and say something idiotic (much to my pleasure). I’m sure there’s a handler of theirs just off-screen with a cracker waving it too and fro and trying to keep them on track.

Put bluntly this nutrient doesn’t do enough (yes it’s a nutrient now) and is easily removed from the body. That’s right, no need to detox* like some conspiracists believe. The mechanisms for its removal are well understood simple concepts for biologists (you may just have to take my word for it). Proving this point, scientists have measured the fluoride our body loses (faeces, urine, and sweat) and accounted for the amount stored in our bones then balanced this with our intake to show that there are no large harmful depositions anywhere in the body. Loss + Stored (bone) = Intake.

*Sidenote: There is never a good time to detox since our bodies are detoxing machines, they’ve got our back’s and don’t like us to help*. Our consciousness is like that skinny lanky kid from your childhood football or netball team, the one who can’t catch but tries really really hard. Better for the body to do its thing, while you do yours (*unless our kidney’s fail).

Anyway digs at politicians aside, people really need to start giving fluoride a break! Or at least the few causing all the fuss and capturing our attention with conspiracy theories with little or no scientific backing. Here’s a list of all the best sources I could find on the topic, notice how none of them say that fluoride can accumulate in our brains causing cancer or mind control.

The real danger really is the momentum that these lobbyists can produce with cheap social media, because not only are they raising awareness for their cause (which I find admirable), but they try to educate at the same time (using wacky pseudoscience). The result is high impact hyperbole describing Fluoride as an invented substance that we must detoxify ourselves of, lest we get brain cancer, kidney damage, damage to our very DNA, gastrointestinal damage, become mind controlled emotionless zombies, or god-forbid have greater protection from tooth decay (yeah its pretty magical).

While people with a basic knowledge of biology probably have a good laugh about how ridiculous the claims are, your average non-science person may be a little unsure, especially their evidence can be convincing at first glance.



Bye for now.


Please remember that I’m a dietetics STUDENT, so none of my opinions should be trusted! PLEASE consult an Accredited Practicing Dietitian (APD) or your GP before applying anything discussed in this blog to your diet or exercise regime



There’s this guy, he decided one day that he never wanted to eat again, so he didn’t. Seven months on and rather than wasting away or dying Rob Rhinehart is set to make a LOT of money. Remember that name!

Have I got you hooked? Good, he’s an engineer from atlanta which might explain his views on food! He’s very busy and says that he didn’t like food much to start with, explaining that “there’s a difference between eating and dining”. The engineer wanted to find the fastest most efficient method for fueling his body. He did a lot of research before combining a number of powdered nutrients and minerals with water and oil, a concoction that he named “Soylent”.

The product now has over $1 million worth of pre-orders and has far-reaching applications and consequences. This may be the start of a new era in fighting obesity in the developed world and starvation in the developing one. There have been meal-replacements but never a food-replacement on the market. So

While I think this product is a positive development overall, as a dietetics & nutrition student a lot of immediate questions and concerns pop into my head such as:

1. What about chewing? 

Rhinehart glosses over this, seemingly unaware of the physiology involved with satiation. This is despite admitting extensive research was done before picking up the tools as they were, giving it a whirl … then a chug. Chewing can be an important factor in feeling full for some people, which is lost on a liquid diet. Rhinehart offers chewing gum and eating meals occasionally as his best guess in combating this for the moment.

Research into the effect of liquids over solids for satiation are inconclusive but is leaning towards solids (here and here). My thoughts are that there will be a sensitisation effect that is so often seen in all parts of physiology whereby the body will become satiated with the liquid-meals after a period of time. I’m not sure what would happen for those still consuming normal meals as well as Soylent meals. That is, I’m not sure that there would be any sensitisation so the consumer may go on to remain hungry after their Soylent meal.

2. The name

When I first told a friend about the product they laughed, and I don’t blame them. Gen Y and Z are the ironic generations after all right? Where everything has to be done, said, eaten, listened to ironically? Well I say not this (in my best high-and-mighty authoritative voice). My first thought was how degrading it will be when the starving masses get this product. Or when the obese/overweight are prescribed in by their doctor or given it during hospital stays. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that these people should not get the product, rather that our most vulnerable should be treated like human beings and with the same respect as all people deserve. They shouldn’t be the subject of cruel jokes that normalise their treatment as second-class citizens of the world. While Rhinehart reminds us that the 1966 novel ‘Make Room! Make Room!’ on which the 1973 film was based, does not contain human-derived food products. But I ask which version is ingrained in our heads? (The film) I thought so.

3. A turning point

In some ways the production of this product and the billionaire that creates will signal the end of an era; the era of whole foods. While I don’t mean to say we’ll be on Soylent in the next few years, but I believe Soylent will ingrain itself in certain niches of society: prisons, hospitals, school camps, and the defence force. But most of all I think unfortunately, everyday people living on a low income (like the lady at the checkout, the bus driver, and students) could become soylent-dependent. Just think for a moment on the social ramifications of that. It would be a big addition to the class divide which has been building for quite some time; the very rich and everyone else. We might inadvertently find ourselves in a famous 1973 film. If we’re not careful that is.

It feels a bit like this is the start of society giving up on feeding the world. Have we become too desensitized the world’s problems? The starving? The malnourished? Are some problems are just too big and too far removed from economics for market-based societies? For me if Soylent is given to developing countries for their starved then we are doomed anyway, how will we retain knowledge of farming and remain self-sufficient? We’ve stopped aiming for the best-case scenario and started to accept the bare-minimum, and that’s in every aspect of our lives.

With each population boom farming and agriculture has become more innovative, more efficient, and met the challenge. Most recently this has taken the form of GM crops such as golden rice and Monsanto’s round-up ready Canola. These are complex but controversial products in an ever more competitive industry, have we reached our limits in farming innovation and efficiency? Maybe we should start aiming for self-sufficiently, I’ve heard of people being able to live off relatively small plots of land, which might just be the best option!

Until next time!


Please remember that I’m a dietetics STUDENT, so none of my opinions should be trusted! PLEASE consult an Accredited Practising Dietitian or your GP before applying anything discussed in this blog to your diet or exercise regime

VICE article

VICE follow-up

Rob Rhinehart’s blog

Backyard self-sufficiency

Inconclusive evidence for satiation

E. Almiron-Roig, Y. Chen and A. Drewnowski. (2003). Liquid calories and the failure of satiety: how good is the evidence?. Obesity Reviews. 4 (1), p201-212.

Leaning towards solids over liquids

An Pan and Frank B. Hu. (2011). Effects of carbohydrates on satiety: differences between liquid and solid food. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care. 14 (1), 385-390.