Horizons #76: Gut-running: not really, could do better!

08 September, 2022

by Professor Ross Kingwell, AEGIC Chief Economist

We need to start our nutritional training now if we want to have our guts running properly and safely.

The AFL 2022 finals are underway and morning coffees are likely to be full of dissection of the weekend triumphs or woes. Amid the conversations, you may very occasionally hear the word “gut-running”, referring to the players with remarkable athletic endurance.

Like AFL players we each have a gut and some of us may even attempt an occasional run. But how are our guts running?

The nutritional advice is that we need to protect our guts. To keep diabetes, colon cancer and obesity at bay we need to eat less refined foods, more fibre and more whole grain foods. But are we?

The Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council does excellent work promoting the health and nutrition benefits of whole grains in Australia.

Nevertheless, the evidence is that, as a nation, we are more like delisted players than those on the field. We could be better. In fact we could be a lot better.

The latest statistics on fibre and whole grain consumption in Australia (see Figure 1) suggest we are consistently failing to heed the nutritional advice. We need to double the proportion of wholegrain and high fibre foods in our consumption habits.

So, like prospective AFL players we need to start our nutritional training now if we want to have our guts running properly and safely.

Figure 1: Types of grains and cereals consumed by Australians in 2020-21 (%). Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, Apparent Consumption of Selected Foodstuffs, Australia 2020-21 financial year

Unfortunately the dietary failings of Australians are not unique. Globally, the issues of diabetes, obesity and inadequate consumption of whole grains are key causes of death (Figure 2). More deaths are attributable to diets deficient in whole grains than from too much consumption of alcohol.

Figure 2: Percentage of world deaths attributable to dietary causes. Source: Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, University of Washington (2021)

AEGIC is working to support the greater consumption of novel oat-based foods and other whole grains, both domestically and in Australia’s key export markets in South East Asia through regular webinars and information packages (some examples below).

Flour millers and food manufacturers in these markets are gaining a greater understanding of the benefits of whole grains, and the specific advantages of Australian white wheat.

Helping people improve their diets and those of young children in their care is worthwhile research and development. The health imperative to commit to higher intakes of fibre and whole grains is in plain sight.

Globally, we need to help our guts to run long and well.

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Horizons: the AEGIC Economics and Market Insights blog

Expert grains industry analysis and commentary from AEGIC’s Economics and Market Insight Team on a range of big-picture topics that affect Australia’s export grains sector.

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