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In Brief

Study backs low-GI diets
Researchers at Harvard Medical School have found the glycaemic index (GI) is an effective means of controlling obesity, diabetes and heart disease when typical co-factors of a low-GI diet are removed. Rodents showed no gross changes in glucose levels on a standard diet, but developed mild hyperglycaemia when given sucrose solution in place of drinking water. Rats fed a high-GI food diet gained more body fat and had less lean body mass, despite having a similar mean body weight after nine weeks.

Kava ban appeal continues
The UK-based National Associations of Health Stores (NAHS) has been granted leave to appeal against the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency and the Food Standards Agency to overturn the ban on the South Pacific herb kava. Evidence presented by NAHS that illustrated the public risk for kava use is lower than that posed by consumption of alcohol, tobacco and peanuts was deemed of ?sufficient importance to merit the attention of the court.?

SARS boosts China market
Chinese vitamin sales grew 30 per cent to $130 million in 2003 triggered by the severe acute respiratory syndrome epidemic last year, according to Euromonitor. Domestic suppliers were unable to meet soaring demand fueled by claims such as ?the strongest opponent of SARS.? More than 20 brands entered the vitamins sector in four months and a new bracket of supplements converts was created, Euromonitor said. The organisation predicts sales will grow by 14.7 per cent per annum until 2008 — a much higher rate than in Western European markets.

Dutch preparing banned nutrient dossiers
The Natural and Health Products Association of the Netherlands (NPN) is close to delivering three nutrient dossiers for European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) assessment, which, if successful, will be added to the positive list of the Food Supplements Directive. NPN, along with Dutch companies and Swedish and Belgian supplements associations, launched an initiative earlier this year to compile data into the required dossier form before the June 2005 deadline. About 20 dossiers are thought to be in various states of composition in the US and Europe, although none have been submitted to EFSA as yet.

Australia proposes new health claims system
Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) is considering amending its health claims approval procedures to encourage genuine health claims while clamping down on vague and dubious claims. Under the proposal, companies will need to submit scientific data to FSANZ to demonstrate purported health benefits. More general health claims such as ?calcium builds strong bones? will not require the same level of evidence. FSANZ will also scrutinise marketing terms such as ?lite,? ?lactose-free? or ?slimming.?

Disease risk-reduction claims are currently prohibited, apart from a claim stating consumption of folate by pregnant women can reduce the risk of neural tube defects in babies. Despite this, a supermarket survey found more than 30 foods made quasi health claims relating to omega-3s, low GI, heart health, dietary fibre and calcium for strong bones.

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