Guest: Dr. Gina Levy
Presenter: Tabetha Moreto
Guest Bio: Dr. Gina Levy is the Senior Nutrition Manager ANZ at Kellogg. Gina has nearly 20 years’ experience as a dietitian in the food industry, and has also consulted for some of the largest food companies in Australia, as well as many non-government organisations. Gina has a Bachelor of Science, a Bachelor in Nutrition and Dietetics with Honours, and a PhD in Biomedical Science. Gina integrates her breadth of knowledge and experience into helping Kellogg integrate nutrition into the business to drive results. She is a member of the Australian Institute of Food Science and Technology, the Dietitians Association of Australia and the Nutrition Society of Australia.
Segment Overview: In today’s interview, Dr. Gina Levy joins the program once again to discuss the recently commissioned research into grain fibre inadequacy and the costs to both health and economy, as well as Kellogg’s Nutrition’s new focus on gut microbiome and healthy happy guts. She also highlights how Australians are not consuming enough fibre in their diet and how awareness needs to be raised in order to fix this issue.
Tabetha Moreto: Hello everyone, welcome to Health Professional Radio. I’m your host for today, Tabetha Moreto. Our guest today is Dr. Gina Levy, Senior Nutrition Manager of Kellogg’s. Today, we’re going to talk about recently commissioned research into grain fiber inadequacies and the cost to both health and economy as well as Kellogg’s nutritions new focus on gut microbiome and healthy happy guts. This is her second appearance on the show. Without further ado, welcome back to the show Gina. It’s very nice to have you again.
Dr. Gina Levy: Thank you very much for having me. I’m so happy to be here.
T: Yes, my pleasure. So Gina, please tell the audience more about yourself and the nature of your work.
L: Thank you. Well as you already mentioned, I’m the Senior Nutrition Manager at Kellogg’s for Australia and New Zealand. I’m also a qualified dietician and I have a Bachelor of Science, a Bachelor of Nutrition and Dietetics and a PhD in Biomedical Science. But I’ve always had an interest in nutrition and food manufacturing especially in a way that health professionals can make a difference when it comes to influencing the food supply. So I guess that’s a bit about me. I work in Kellogg’s helping to drive the business forward when it comes to product development, looking at nutrition trends, we stay in touch with changes in policy that will affect our business and we also examine the science in order to see how our products can benefit the population.
T: That’s good to hear. I know that Kellogg’s, you are big believers when it comes to grain fiber. So tell us why is there this new obsession regarding fiber especially in Australia?
L: Well for us, it’s never been new. We’ve always been obsessed with fiber. But fiber, it’s one of those essential nutrients that often gets forgotten because it’s not a very sexy one. You know everyone likes to always keep arguing about how much sugar, how much fat, how much protein we should have but nobody really talks about fiber and the fact that it’s so highly protective in disease risk is something we need to focus on much more than we already have and we’re always talking about “I quit this and I quit that” but I think we should focus on “I eat fiber.” Recent research that we did because we actually found that the fiber intake of Australians actually hadn’t been examined in depth as part of the Australian Health Survey. So what we did was we commissioned some research to have a look at what’s going on with fiber intake in Australians and we found some terrible statistics. We found that 2 out of 3 Australian adults are not meeting the adequate intake of fiber and what’s even worse is 1 in 2 children. The group with the lowest fiber intake was adolescents, 14 to 18 years. And you think about all the growing that they’re doing as well as all the benefits that they’re missing out on when it comes to fiber especially from what we’re learning at the moment about the role of fiber in feeding a healthy gut microbiome which could possibly have impact on mood, immunity. You think about what our adolescent population are actually missing out on as well as our kids. The other group that we actually found that were a little bit worse were males compared to females. And then of course, there was the real disparity between rich and poor. We found that higher socioeconomic groups were eating significantly more fiber than those in the lower socioeconomic groups. And for my team and myself, this was a specific interest to us because as dieticians, we want everyone to have the access to equally good quality of life and so with higher rates of chronic disease in the poor, there’s definitely an opportunity for us to help with our foods which are pretty cost effective value adding foods that people can eat at breakfast. And then we also went and had a look at all the epidemiological studies and we know that the reduction in disease risk from fiber is significant. And one of the things that stood out to us was that is actually “grain fiber,” that’s one of the most effective fibers for reducing the combined risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. But what we also found was that 4 out of 5 Australian adults are not eating enough fiber to reduce their risk of chronic disease. And this was just staggering to us especially those diseases like cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. And when we look at the entire environment of what’s happening, we know that at the moment, carbohydrate isn’t the most favourite nutrient and some recent research by the Grains and Legumes Nutrition Council also showed that almost 1 in 2 Australians are deliberately limiting grains in their diet. And so with grains being the number one source of fiber, it’s only just imaginable what’s happening to our fiber intake so we need to get on top of it. And from our perspective, we wanted to talk to you guys because as health professionals when we’re talking to patients about increasing fiber intake, we need to talk about the balance of fibers because there’s so many different types of fibers and they all have different functions and so, we need to talk about a balance of fibers. So fiber doesn’t only come from increasing your fruits and vegetable, but the other things we need to suggest are healthy grain, or high-fiber grain foods, nuts, and seeds and legumes. And we would love it to become an almost natural recommendation for our GP or doctor colleagues, practice nurses and our dietician friends to make in consultation.
T: Yes. Those are indeed very shocking statistics that you have, that Australians are not eating enough fiber. So this proves that we have to promote this to the people out there to make sure that they’re getting enough fiber in their diet.
T: Now Gina, let’s talk about misconceptions. What is the biggest misconception your clients, users or the public has about you or about this topic that drive you nuts and it keeps you up at night?
L: Well when we talk about misinformation, I mean the only thing that really keeps me up at night is binging on Netflix. But in all seriousness, there’s a lot of misconceptions out there about what happens with nutrient intakes in our actual population. And so from our perspective, we actually decided that we were going to commission some research through Deloitte Access Economics and Nutrition Research Australia where we investigate what the impact would be, what the fiscal impact would be is if Australians actually got up to their adequate intakes or the intake to reduce chronic disease. So we had a look at if we supplement the gap between what Australians are eating now and Australians are actually eating once they eat a supplement that gap with a bit of grain fiber, we actually found some staggering results. We found that every Australian just adds one single serving of high-fiber grain food every day, we could potentially prevent 64,000 cases of cardiovascular disease and 126,000 cases of type 2 diabetes and it saved the health economy about 1.5 billion dollars in healthcare expenditure and lost productivity and that’s only with one serving of high-fiber grain food. If we actually added two serves, the results actually even double and we could save more than 3.3 billion dollars a year in healthcare costs and lost productivity. And so combined with our work in examining fiber intakes, we really have a good picture of what the current situation is and how people can actually benefit from some small dietary changes. And the Minister of Health, Dr. David Gillespie actually agreed with us and helped us to get this message out there to the media and to consumers because we really do believe that this is a small substitutional dietary change that people can make for great positive effects. And so when we talk about misconception, it’s not about adding more and more carbohydrate to the day, it’s about substituting low-fiber carbohydrate foods for high-fiber or whole grain foods and then we’ll really, really see the difference that will make to our population.
T: Excellent. Thank you for sharing this information with us.
L: Not a problem. And just to let you know that we’ve actually developed a fantastic “Fiber Kit” for GPs, dietitians and practice nurses that they can download from our health professional website. So go on and download or contact us and we’ll send you a free complimentary kit.
T: Yes. Speaking of your website, can you tell the audience how can they get this kit?
L: Alright. On our website, we have specific healthcare professional website, it’s www.kellogghealthprofessional.com.au. On there you’ll see a tab called “Resources,” you can go onto there and download the kit or alternatively, there’s a “Contact Us” button, you can contact us and we will send a kit out immediately with our compliments to your practice.
T: Fantastic. Okay Gina before we go, what is your main takeaway message to all of our listeners out there?
L: So I think as health professionals, our main takeaway message from the work that we’ve done is to focus on the balance of fibers when talking to patients about fiber because fiber comes from so many different sources with so many different functions. And we’re doing research at the moment which is looking at the gut microbiome and this is an exploding and fascinating area and fiber plays a key role because fiber is the prebiotic that actually feeds the good gut bacteria and so the fiber serves so many roles in the human body. So when we actually talk patience about fiber, talk to them about increasing their fruit and vegetable intake but also talk to them about increasing their whole grain and high-fiber cereal intake as well as their nut, seeds and legume intake and then we’ll get an all-around balance of fibers into their diet.
T: That was a wonderful message. Wow, I actually feel hungry now with you mentioning all that food. Thank you so much Gina for coming on the show.
L: Thanks for having me.
T: And that was Dr. Gina Levy, Senior Nutrition Manager of Kellogg’s. We just been talking about the benefits of green fiber, gut microbiome and how to have good gut health. If you liked this interview, transcripts and archives are available at www.hpr.fm. We’re on all social media platforms so don’t forget to follow, like and subscribe. Show us some love by subscribing to our HPR YouTube channel. We’re also available for download on SoundCloud and iTunes. I’m Tabetha Moreto and you’re listening to Health Professional Radio.