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Health News

UNSW

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NOTICE OF MEMBERS EXTRAORINDARY LAND DEALING MEETING

UNSW

If you’ve been to any supermarket recently, you would’ve noticed the shelf space dedicated to milk alternatives such as oat, soy, almond and rice is expanding. Though they’re not strictly speaking ‘milk’, these plant-based beverages are gaining favour among consumers looking for a dairy-free option in their coffee mugs and cereal bowls.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, we’re now drinking about half a metric cup of milk alternatives per person every week. In the milk marketplace, consumption of the likes of soy and almond milk is increasing at the same rate dairy milk is falling.

Experts from UNSW Sydney say there are many reasons we’re leaving cow’s milk behind in favour of the plant-based kind, including health reasons, ethical choices and personal preferences.

LACTOSE INTOLERANCE AND MORE PRODUCTS AVAILABLE

Professor Johannes le CoutreSchool of Chemical EngineeringUNSW Engineering, says he’s not surprised by the expansion of the plant-based milk aisle. The food and health expert says in the first place, human bodies are not physiologically optimised to digest dairy milk.

“Food history is full of examples where we try to mimic animal products, so having plant-based milk is not an entirely new idea,” Prof. le Coutre says.

“Human adults are not necessarily the target consumers for cow’s milk in nature. It’s a product meant for babies, specifically for cow babies,” he says.

Many adults have an intolerance to lactose – the sugar in dairy – to some degree. If they drink cow’s milk or eat other dairy by-products, they can experience bloating, pain and diarrhoea. For those people, plant-based milk offers a lactose-free alternative.

“If someone has an intolerance to dairy, it is easier for their body to digest plant-based milk,” says nutritionist Dr Rebecca Reynolds, adjunct lecturer, School of Population HealthUNSW Medicine & Health. “While some regular milk has the lactose removed, many prefer the taste of plant-based milk.”

Researcher in consumer behaviour, Associate Professor Nitika GargSchool of MarketingUNSW Business School, says the quality and variety of plant-based milk available has improved in recent times.

“The taste is undoubtedly a key factor because consumers don’t want to feel they need to compromise on flavour,” A/Prof. Garg says. “Today, if you feel uncomfortable consuming dairy milk, there are a lot more alternatives in the market you can try that weren’t available 20 years ago.”

AN ETHICAL CHOICE FOR ANIMALS AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Many people are also switching up their milk of choice for ethical reasons. One concern is the treatment of livestock in the dairy milk production process.

“There is a movement of consumers who resent animal products – such as milk – because they are not necessarily associated with good animal welfare,” Prof. le Coutre says.

To produce milk, cows must give birth. If the calves are not needed as replacements for the milking herd, they are killed, often not humanely. More cows die per calorie of milk production than cattle for meat production.

A/Prof. Garg says some of the growth in plant-based milks can also be attributed to changing consumer perceptions about the sustainability of the dairy industry. There is growing awareness about the impact it is having on the climate and the environment.

Research suggests a dairy-free diet could be a more environmentally friendly option, and people can make significant moves for the environment by just reducing their dairy intake, Dr Reynolds says.

Some plant milks might be more planet friendly than others though. For example, it’s estimated that growing a single almond requires 12 litres of water. Still, almond milk uses less land and water than dairy milk and has lower greenhouse gas emissions.

“[But] there are challenges when it comes to plant-based products in that they usually destroy a lot of nutritional goodness and require a lot of resources just to mimic a product [milk] that isn’t intended for human consumption in the first place,” Prof. le Coutre says.

HEALTH BENEFITS AND CALORIC CONCERNS

Milk alternatives are also becoming an increasingly popular choice among health-conscious consumers. But what some consider to be a ‘healthier’ option is not always the case, Prof. le Coutre says.

So how does dairy milk stack up nutritionally against plant-based milk? While there is scepticism about the health impacts of dairy products, evidence suggests dairy benefits health.

“Overall, cow’s milk has a better nutritional profile than plant milks, with more protein and micronutrients like calcium,” Dr Reynolds says. “However, plant-based milks often have micronutrients added to them, can have less overall fat and saturated fat than dairy milk and more healthy plant phenol antioxidants.”

There’s a wide variety of plant-based milks in the market, like oat, almond and rice, with varying nutritional quality. Soy might be the strongest dairy-free plant alternative in terms of nutritional profile.

“Some have added refined sugar, which includes ingredients like ‘organic brown rice syrup’, which is less healthy than the natural sugar lactose that’s found in cow’s milk,” Dr Reynolds says. “This means that they can also be higher in high glycaemic index carbohydrates, which can increase blood glucose levels more than lactose. They also have added oils, which are not as healthy as say olive oil, and they’re not suitable as stand-alone milks for children.”

Dr Reynolds says if plant milk and other dairy substitutes are fortified – that is, have micronutrients like calcium added – there might not be a need to supplement in a diet. However, it’s estimated over 50 per cent of Australians aged 2 years and above don’t consume enough calcium and other micronutrients.

“Overall, plant-based diets are still strongly linked to good health,” Dr Reynolds says.

THE FUTURE OF PLANT-BASED MILK

With their rapid rise, A/Prof. Garg expects plant-based milk to become an even more dominant player in the milk market. Perhaps one day, it might even supplant dairy milk in popularity.

“Much of the growth to date appears to be consumer-driven, so I would expect the trend to continue to grow. As these brands continue to scale up their manufacturing and marketing efforts, there’s a huge opportunity for a true milk substitute to emerge and compete with dairy,” she says.

A/Prof. Garg says governments also have a chance to take advantage of the anticipated global demand in the industry.

“People are choosing plant-based milk more and more, and so it would make sense for governments to take advantage of the opportunity to support the production here in Australia,” she says. “It would also still be supporting the Australian agricultural industry, which is an important consideration for some consumers.”

In the short-term, A/Prof. Garg says switching to plant-based milk might not be realistic for everyone because of its high price point.

“We do have an issue with making products such as plant-based milk accessible for everyone. They are more expensive, and some consumers who might want to switch can’t, especially with the cost of living right now where every dollar counts,” A/Prof. Garg says. “It might be something governments need to explore, to help subsidise in the same way they subsidise the dairy industry.”

Prof. le Coutre says plant-based milk – and plant-based mimetics more generally – will continue to play a significant role in strengthening our global food system.

“Plant-based products, existing animal-based materials and, someday soon, cell-based and blended products improve our food choices,” Prof. le Coutre says. “As we expand our portfolio of products, it enriches the spectrum of offerings in the market to everybody’s benefit.”

“Overall, if you can afford it, buying a plant-based milk fortified with micronutrients like calcium and without added sugar can be a good way to use your consumer power to help the environment and climate change,” Dr Reynolds says.

 

 

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Flu numbers explode, over 65s most at risk

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NOTICE OF MEMBERS EXTRAORINDARY LAND DEALING MEETING

Flu numbers explode, over 65s most at risk

 

By Tim Howard

An explosion in flu cases across the state has prompted North Coast health authorities to urge people over 65 to book in for their free flu jabs as the virus continues to surge across the state.

Director of North Coast Population and Public Health Dr Valerie Delpech said a recent surveillance report revealed there had been a 25% jump in flu diagnoses in a week.

“Flu is rapidly increasing across the state,” Dr Delpech said. “In the past week alone presentations to NSW emergency departments increased by almost 22% for people with influenza-like illness.

“We are expecting the flu season will be around for several weeks to come, so now is the time to book in for your free flu vaccine to get the vital protection you need.”

Dr Delpech said the more elderly, who were in greater need of the protection vaccination offered, were lagging behind in vaccination rates.

“At present, just half of people 65 and over (52.4 per cent) in NSW have received their flu vaccine,” she said.

The doctor said with influenza, COVID-19 and RSV all circulating in the community, health services reminded the community to avoid visiting high-risk settings including hospitals and aged care facilities if they are experiencing symptoms of respiratory illness.

“Vaccination is the best protection against infection and severe disease,” Dr Delpech said. “Everyone, but particularly those at increased risk of severe disease, is urged to get vaccinated now. By getting vaccinated you also help protect those around you.”

She said the influenza vaccine was free and readily available for those at higher risk of severe illness from influenza from GPs for any age group, as well as through pharmacies for everyone aged five years and over.

Flu North Coast

South Grafton pharmacist Michael Troy was part of a successful campaign for a law change to allow pharmacists to vaccinate against the flu. He urges people to get regular flu shots ahead of every flu season.

Those considered to be at higher risk of severe illness from influenza who are eligible for free vaccination include:

  • people aged 65 and over
  • children aged six months to under five years
  • Aboriginal people from six months of age
  • pregnant women
  • those with serious health conditions such as diabetes, cancer, immune disorders, severe asthma, kidney, heart, and lung disease.

Dr Delpech said there were some simple steps people could take to protect themselves and loved ones from respiratory viruses like COVID-19, influenza and RSV, including:

  • Stay up to date with your recommended influenza and COVID-19 vaccinations
  • Stay home if you are sick and wear a mask if you need to leave home
  • Get together outdoors or in large, well-ventilated spaces with open doors and windows
  • Avoid crowded spaces
  • Consider doing a rapid antigen test (RAT) before visiting people at higher risk of severe illness
  • Talk with your doctor now if you are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 or influenza to make a plan about what to do if you get sick, including what test to take, and discussing if you are eligible for antiviral medicines
  • Don’t visit people who are at higher risk of severe illness if you are sick or have tested positive to COVID-19 or influenza
  • Practice good hand hygiene, including hand washing.

 

For more health news, click here.

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Health Insurance Premiums Skyrocket, Some by 15% or More: CHOICE

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NOTICE OF MEMBERS EXTRAORINDARY LAND DEALING MEETING

Health Insurance Premiums Skyrocket, Some by 15% or More: CHOICE

 

Should You Consider Self-Insurance? Plus Other Tips to Save!

Consumer group CHOICE has found that many Australians faced significant increases in their health insurance premiums in April, with some premiums rising as much as 17%—far higher than the annual average industry-wide price increase of 3.03%.

“CHOICE reviewed the prices of over 24,000 policies with hospital cover and found Gold policies had the highest premium increases, with average increases above 10% for HBF, HCF, HIF, and Australian Unity policies. One Gold policy in Western Australia even saw a 17% hike,” said CHOICE health insurance expert Jodi Bird.

“With these sky-high increases, it’s worth taking the time to review your health insurance to ensure you’re only paying for what you need, and that you’re getting it at the best possible price,” Bird added.

CHOICE’s Top Tips for Saving on Your Health Insurance

  1. Drop Gold Hospital Insurance

“Gold hospital cover has become too expensive. If you have a specific condition usually covered by Gold policies and want to use the private hospital system, look for a Silver Plus policy or consider self-insurance.”

Self-insurance is an alternative to private health insurance. Instead of paying an insurer, you save money yourself to cover private health costs as they arise. If you don’t need any health treatment, your savings will grow.

“We have found that in some cases, opting to self-fund your health care can be the better-value option,” Bird explained.

For example, cataract surgery, one of the most common surgical procedures in Australia, is often only covered by the most expensive Gold policies. CHOICE’s analysis showed that the annual cost of top-cover health insurance could exceed the out-of-pocket cost for a private cataract procedure.

“This option may only be suitable for people who have few health issues and do not anticipate any unexpected health events. And of course, you need to ensure you have the money set aside in case you require a surgical procedure or treatment in the private system,” Bird advised.

  1. Compare Policies to Find a Good Deal

“We always recommend comparing policies to find the best value policy to suit your needs. The same cover with a different insurer may save you hundreds of dollars a year. Look beyond the well-known big funds and consider smaller funds; switching to a smaller fund often provides a cheaper deal,” said Bird.

“If you’re unsure where to start, CHOICE has an independent health insurance comparison tool that allows you to compare thousands of policies from over 40 insurers,” Bird suggested.

  1. Do You Need Extras Insurance?

“The value of extras insurance really depends on the individual. It can be worth purchasing, but only if you use it enough that it pays out more than the premiums that are coming out of your pocket,” Bird noted.

“If you need extras insurance, shop around and buy your extras from a different provider than your standard hospital cover if you find a better deal,” Bird recommended.

Compare health insurance policies here: CHOICE Health Insurance Comparison Tool

 

For more health news, click here.

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NSW Seniors Urged to Book Free Flu Vaccine Amid Rising Respiratory Illnesses

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NOTICE OF MEMBERS EXTRAORINDARY LAND DEALING MEETING

NSW Seniors Urged to Book Free Flu Vaccine Amid Rising Respiratory Illnesses

 

People aged 65 and over are being strongly urged to book their free influenza vaccine as respiratory illnesses continue to rise across NSW.

The latest NSW Health Respiratory Surveillance Report, released today, indicates a rapid increase in influenza activity in NSW, with COVID-19 transmission also reaching high levels.

NSW Chief Health Officer Dr. Kerry Chant reported a 27% increase in influenza notifications and a 23% increase in COVID-19 notifications for the week ending 25 May compared to the previous week.

“While everyone aged six months and over is urged to get their influenza vaccine as soon as possible, it is particularly important for those at higher risk of severe illness from the virus,” Dr. Chant said.

“Influenza immunisation rates aren’t where they need to be. Less than half of people aged 65 and over in NSW have received their influenza vaccine this year. We really need to see that number go up, especially as people in this age group are among those most at risk of severe illness.

“We expect the number of influenza cases to quickly increase in the weeks ahead, so now is the time to get vaccinated if you haven’t already done so.”

The influenza vaccine is free and readily available for those at higher risk of severe illness from influenza. It is available through GPs for any age group and through pharmacies for everyone aged five years and over.

Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network (SCHN) Infectious Diseases Paediatrician Dr. Phil Britton noted that influenza notifications are increasing across all age groups, particularly among young children aged three to four years.

“In recent weeks, we have seen influenza cases rising among young children. The best thing parents can do to keep their kids well this winter, and reduce the risk of them being hospitalised due to influenza, is to ensure their children receive a flu vaccine,” Dr. Britton said.

Free Flu Vaccination Eligibility:

  • People aged 65 and over
  • Children aged six months to under five years
  • Aboriginal people from six months of age
  • Pregnant women
  • Those with serious health conditions such as diabetes, cancer, immune disorders, severe asthma, kidney, heart, and lung disease

Steps to Protect Yourself and Others from Respiratory Viruses:

  • Stay up to date with recommended influenza and COVID-19 vaccinations
  • Stay home if you are sick and wear a mask if you need to leave home
  • Gather outdoors or in large, well-ventilated spaces with open doors and windows
  • Avoid crowded spaces
  • Consider doing a rapid antigen test (RAT) before visiting people at higher risk of severe illness
  • Talk with your doctor now if you are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 or influenza to make a plan about what to do if you get sick, including what test to take, and discussing if you are eligible for antiviral medicines
  • Don’t visit people who are at higher risk of severe illness if you are sick or have tested positive for COVID-19 or influenza
  • Practice good hand hygiene, including regular hand washing

For more information and to book your vaccination, visit your local GP or pharmacy.

 

For more seniors news, click here.

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