By: The fishmonger *
At the time of authoring this article The Fishmonger has been reminded (thanks Facebook!) of being in London in 2013 at the Human Evolution Conference where Sir David Attenborough and Professor Michael Crawford and many other notables spoke about the past and future as it relates to human evolution.
So much has happened since 2013 but you still get the vibe that the seafood industry has not moved forward too far, if at all. The industry is still struggling with a global message that can be easily promoted and locked into every association, company, and individual working in every sector of the industry.
“Something that would cost extraordinarily little and yet could assist increased awareness and increased seafood consumption.”
Sir David, of course, spoke in depth about the lack of care of our oceans and waterways and that crucial policies from every government were essential on ensuring the future of them protecting them from all pollution and the consequential acidity of the ocean well into the future.
He has spread his ‘word’ everywhere and yet little seems to have occurred. Oh yes, there is a lot of talk but not a lot of action.
Michael Crawford is one of those few experts with a multidisciplinary intellect, able to apply an integrative perspective in prenatal and perinatal care. His studies on the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids and breastfeeding as supreme sources of the child’s healthy development have brought enormous benefits to the field of nutrition and health.
“He discovered how the brain has specific nutritional needs and how the brain works and the essential need of fish and seafood in our daily diets to maximise our potential.”
His work goes back to the 1970s having reported evidence that the brain required arachidonic and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) specifically, for its growth, structure, and function in 1972. His work with many teams has focused first on evaluating the evidence, the specificity, and the requirement.
Attention is now directed on establishing the biological reason for the uniqueness of DHA in neural signalling systems which stretched unchanged over the 500-600 million years of evolution and the application of this knowledge to the prevention and treatment of neurodevelopmental disorders.
“In the 1970s we recognized that link between dietary fats, atherosclerosis and cardio-vascular disease meant that the brain which is better protected but is dependent on specialized, essential fats would eventually be affected by the changing nutritional conditions which especially effected the dietary fats.”
The prediction that “the brain would be next” was published but met with scepticism. However, it has now been vindicated as brain disorders have overtaken all other burdens of ill health. The health cost proven through audits in EU show brain disorders are greater than heart disease and cancer combined.
Professor Crawford highlighted that the change in disease profile cannot be due to a change in the genome in such a brief time. Moreover, the nutritional conditions are unlikely to neither change the DNA nor change the proteins.
However, the cell membrane lipids house at least one third of known cellular proteins. These are the receptors, transporters, anti-oxidant systems and signallers and hence a change in the physical chemistry of their domains will influence protein function.
“In addition, specific essential fatty acids function as ligands for nuclear receptors and manipulate gene expression.”
Thus, altering the membrane lipids and the dolmans around the membrane proteins alters cell function. There is good evidence that the rise in brain disorders is linked to the changing dietary conditions, which is clearly a matter of critical concern.
This, according to the Global Forum for Health, who is predicting that the rise in mental ill-health will also affect developing countries.
“The pandemic has raised mental health to a higher level but clearly it’s been coming for a long time.”
This brings The Fishmonger to current events with the recently published paper by World Health Organisation (WHO) on ‘Food marketing exposure and power and their associations with food-related attitudes, beliefs, and behaviours.’
This report presents the outcomes of a narrative review conducted to update an earlier descriptive review on the extent, nature, and effects of food marketing.
The current review was requested by the WHO Nutrition Guidance Expert Advisory Group (NUGAG) Subgroup on Policy Actions as part of the evidence reviews to inform its formulation of an updated WHO guideline on policies to protect children from the harmful impact of food marketing.
“Based on the content analysis studies, food marketing remains prevalent, including in settings where children gather and during children’s television programming and viewing times.”
Food marketing promotes foods that contribute to unhealthy diets (such as “fast food,” sugar-sweetened beverages, and chocolate and confectionery) and uses a wide range of creative strategies likely to appeal to young audiences (such as celebrity/sports endorsements, promotional characters, and games).
The findings of the consumer research studies included positive associations between the frequency of, and level of exposure to, food marketing and habitual consumption of marketed foods or less healthy foods.
This review extends the findings of the 2009 WHO review by adding evidence and perspectives on more contemporary types of marketing, reflecting the growth in internet use and food marketing via digital and social media over the last decade.
It confirms that marketing of foods that contribute to unhealthy diets remains pervasive and persuasive and provides evidence that strengthens the rationale for action to restrict food marketing to which children are exposed.
“Recognizing the potential harms of the current elevated levels of exposure to food marketing across multiple platforms, both young people and their parents support greater regulation of this activity. “
This narrative review provides further evidence that strengthens the rationale for action to restrict food marketing to which children are exposed. Governments must do more in this space as unhealthy food marketing takes advantage of the developmental vulnerabilities of children and adolescents.
Research and data have shown the effect of several types of unhealthy food marketing on children including advertising on television, digital media content, sports sponsorship, product packaging and collectible toys.
Here are some of the Australian findings:
• Children aged 10 to 14 years think food and drink sponsors of their local sports clubs are ‘cool’ and like to return the favour by buying their products.
• The average Australian 5 to 8 year old is exposed to at least 827 unhealthy food advertisements on
television each year, let alone other forms of advertising.
• Children aged 4 to 6 years believe a product tastes better if it has a cartoon character on the pack.
The internet is becoming an increasingly important channel for marketing unhealthy food to children and teenagers. On a typical weekday, Australian 15-year-olds spend about two hours online when they are not at school, and a quarter of them are online for more than four hours.
“Research by the Australian Communications and Media Authority involving children aged 8 to 17 found children spend longer periods of time online as they grow older. The internet becomes central to their lives, particularly through social networking sites such as Facebook.”
An analysis of online activities among Australian 14 to 17-year-olds found a growing trend towards streaming of video and audio content.
Other popular activities included social networking, uploading content such as photos and videos, and playing games online.
Unhealthy food marketers can take advantage of these trends to target children and teenagers using digital media in many ways, including through advertisements, product placement and ‘advergames’ created or sponsored by companies to embed products into a game.
“Marketing on social media encourages teenagers to like and share brand posts with their friends, thereby harnessing the influence of peer networks.”
A recent study of Australian children aged 10 to 16 years found that watching food-branded video content on YouTube and seeing favourite food brands advertised online were significantly associated with higher consumption of unhealthy food and drinks.
A UK study found an increased intake of unhealthy snacks among children who viewed images of social media ‘influencers’ with unhealthy snacks on Instagram, compared to children who had viewed images of influencers with healthy snacks or non-food products.
“When will the seafood industry get together globally and start becoming pro-active in these areas – the one health concept of how we treat the environment (oceans and waterways) and how we treat our product (fish/seafood) is how we maximise our own human health – it is not a complicated issue to grasp?”
Unfortunately, the industry and governments have allowed outsiders to engage and obstruct the seafood industry and they have cast a fog over the fundamental issues:
• Fish/seafood is healthy – everyone should eat more
• We need to maximise our harvests avoiding waste
• Aquaculture and commercial fishing are essential industries in nutrition and well-being to every country and should receive priority
Having set that tone we need to collaborate on getting responsible advertising encouraging the women and young children to understand the health benefits of seafood consumption. That is the future we need to build!
“The Fishmonger reflects fondly on the event in London and hopes we do not waste the magnificent work and effort of such talented people.”
References and sources consulted by the author on the elaboration of this article are available under previous request to our editorial staff.