A new research programme has been launched to promote a New Zealand diet for health reasons.
He Rourou Whai Painga looks to combat diabetes, heart disease and other non-communicable conditions by encouraging a healthy diet of locally-grown produce.
Under the programme, 200 people will be provided with 75% of their diet for 12 weeks.
They will be tested later for their response under a health measurement system known as a metabolic index.
This looks at things like waist circumference, blood sugars, cholesterol, blood pressure and triglycerides, or blood fat.
The results will be used to develop further health promotion measures.
“We have a unique opportunity to show (the benefits of) a healthy diet based on predominantly New Zealand-produced foods and beverages,” said one of the organisers, High-Value Nutrition Challenge director Joanne Todd.
“We can improve health, while providing strong scientific evidence that can be used to grow our local economy through growing the domestic and export consumption of our products”
The High-Value Nutrition Challenge is part of the National Science Challenge organisation.
It is getting $4 million from the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) to fund the scheme.
The programme is assisted by scientists from Auckland and Otago Universities, one of whom is the endocrinologist Professor Jeremy Krebs, of the University of Otago in Wellington.
“We know we have great quality produce in New Zealand,” Krebs said.
“This is an exciting opportunity to show that, when combined in a whole diet, with a focus on on plant-based foods such as vegetables, legumes, fruits, whole grains and cereals, nuts and seeds, olive oil and a moderate intake of seafood, our foods improve health and wellbeing of people at risk of diabetes and heart disease.”
Questioned later, Krebs was asked about the absence of meat from this list and he said meat was in fact part of the equation.
“We recognise that meat is an important part of a healthy dietary pattern, but it is making sure that the meat that people are consuming is high quality with as little saturated fat as possible.
“It is also a matter of making sure that meat is not the dominant source of the protein part of the diet.”
Dairy products are not on the list.
This research programme will give people 75% of their diet and Krebs was asked about the chance that the remaining 25% might corrupt the findings if people bought poor quality foods.
“That’s a possibility and a risk, but we will be encouraging people to continue to purchase healthy foods (in that 25%).
“We saw in a pilot study that people who are signing up to take part in this research are doing so because they want to improve their health outcomes.”
Krebs added that the impact of the remaining 25% would be averaged out over 200 people, which would increase the quality of the research findings.
In addition, food purchases would be recorded anyway to help with analysis.