CSIRO targets citrus world

Related tags Nutrition

Australian scientists this week confirm past and current evidence
that a diet high in citrus fruits could help to prevent certain
cancers and reduce risk of stroke.

Scientists at the health and nutrition division at CSIRO, led by Dr Katrine Baghurst on the Consumer Science programme, undertook an extensive review of international research on the health benefits of citrus fruits. Their report, published today, details studies showing reduction of risks of some cancers by up to 40-50 per cent and a 19 per cent decrease in risk of stroke.

"The health benefits of citrus consumption are clear,"​ write the authors of the report​. They are nutrient-dense foods with abundant vitamins and minerals, fibre and phytochemicals, without fat or salt, and they are not energy-dense. This latter consideration is of great importance in countries like Australia where obesity (and as a result, type 2 diabetes) is reaching epidemic proportions, added the authors.

The report highlights the fact that major causes of death in Australia are cardiovascular diseases (40 per cent) and cancer (27 per cent), making up 67 per cent, or two thirds, of all deaths. Government and industry strategies to reduce these numbers through dietary regimes are gaining in importance across the western world. The Australian report stresses that many of the major diseases of concern in Australia have a dietary component. These include cardiovascular conditions such as coronary heart disease and stroke (caused, in part by hypertension); cancers of various types, obesity, dental caries, asthma, periodontaldisease, iron-deficiency anaemias, type 2 diabetes, cataracts (and macular degeneration),diverticulitis, osteoporosis, gall bladder disease and depression.

So how can industry play a role in bringing the benefits of citrus fruits to the consumer? The authors of the report, funded by Horticulture Australia, suggest that key promotional messages could centre around citrus being a 'weight control package' - energy dilute but nutrient dense, not fattening and low in fat.

The fruits are a good source of folate for mums-to-be but also for the rest of thefamily . A blood pressure control package (high potassium, low salt plus indirect through body weight control), a cancer protective package (folate, fibre, phytochemicals, antioxidants, vitamins C and A) and a heart disease protective package (folate, fibre, phytochemicals, antioxidants).

"It is likely that a broad approach to the issue will be required to get meaningful increasesin citrus consumption,"​ conclude the authors.

In the last two to three decades there has been a growing awareness of the role of diet in theetiology of the chronic diseases that are major contributors to morbidity and mortality inindustrialised countries such as Australia, the United States and Europe. A great deal ofthis work has been summarised in a major World Health Organisation study of "Diet,Nutrition and the Prevention of Chronic Disease"​, (WHO, 2003).

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