Monday, 3 April 2017

Final Year "Food Science and Health" Students at UL present their critical appraisal of the new Food Pyramid in Ireland

The Irish Food Pyramid: how many mistakes does it have?

This term, my students at FT4428 "Advanced Food Chemistry" carried out a critical appraisal of the Irish Food Pyramid. Some excellent work has been produced and many congrats to all 65 students! 
It is an immense satisfaction for a teacher to see his students produce scientific work of so high caliber! 

Thank you all!

The changes that the students suggest that they should be made to the Food Pyramid are as follows (group 1 is the bottom one and group 6 is the top shelf).

Group 1

Amy Fahy, Darren Monnelly & Sorcha Mullins
Group 1: Fruits, Salads and Vegetables

    • Separate fruit and vegetable portions- allocate majority of portion proportions to vegetables because of their superior nutritional value
    • Clarify fruit juice intake guidelines
    • Note compositional differences between fruits and vegetables- sugar/ fat contents
    • Clearer indication of portion sizes

Group 2

SO’C, RO’D and SMA.


·         Firstly splitting this shelf in two sections, one being for high glycaemic food and one for low glycaemic food.
·         Giving and explanation on the importance of low GI foods and the negative impact on over consuming high GI foods.
·         Identifying a consumption ratio for high to low glycaemic foods. Our suggestion would be a ratio of 4 low : 1 high, glycaemic load. 

        Seamus Lane, Megan O'Leary and Katie Enright

  •         Add guidelines for inactive children to the daily servings guidelines which compares inactivity vs activity. It currently states instead that "It is essential all children are active" instead of including actual guidelines
  •        More consideration needs to be taken in regards to educating people on processed vs unprocessed carbohydrates. Advocate eating foods naturally high in fibre, not foods labelled high in fibre and select 100% wholewheat and wholegrain products.
  •        Servings have been reduced to 3-5 servings per day but serving size has increased e.g. it is now 2 slices of bread per serving instead of one, which may result in the possible of over consumption of carbs leading to obesity, diabetes etc.
  • Group 2 
  • Sarah Cunningham, Amy Gillooly & Colm Dillon
    • It should be clearly stated that 45 to 60% of the total calories intake for adults should come from both simple and complex carbohydrates. It should be clearly stated that 25 grams of Dietary Fiber must be consumed as part of those calories for normal bowel function especially in adults.

    • The shelf 2 should give recommendations for people who are exercising, Low-intensity 3-5g/kg BM, Moderate 5-7g/kg and High-intensity 6-10g/kg BM. There should also be separate recommendations for both athletes and non- athletes for the frequency at which they consume foods.

    • Include both the Glycemic load of the each of the foods against a reference food with a low Glycemic load but for this to work there needs to be more education around Glycemic load and Glycemic index.

Group 3

Sorcha Regan, Shauna Morley & Eoin O’Keeffe

  • Re-designed to focus on fermented dairy products similar to the Mediterranean food pyramid rather than products like milk.
  • Promote consumption of goat and sheep dairy products rather than cow’s milk.

      Shauna Geary, Fiona Casey, Sara Murphy


·         The average life expectancy is growing for both genders in Ireland. Elderly people are more prone to falls and certain diseases e.g. Osteoporosis. Therefore, fortified milk with Vitamin D and Calcium or an increase in the number of servings should be included in the food pyramid for the elderly population.

·         The number of dairy servings should be reduced to two servings a day to combat the rising numbers of obesity in Ireland. The relevant calcium intake would not be affected due to the high servings of Vegetables.

·         Alternative dairy options should be included in the dairy shelf for individuals who suffer from allergies or lactose intolerance. For example, Almond Milk, Kefir or Greek Yoghurt.

  Group 4


     The three changes we propose to alter the latest Food Pyramids are:
-    1. Separate beans & nuts, fish, poultry and red meat rather than encouraging their consumption in equal levels.
-    2. Have beans and nuts on a lower level on par with vegetables and include legumes and sprouts.
-    3. Move fish down lower on the pyramid to encourage its consumption and move red meat further up to discourage regular intake.

   Group 5


        Elaine Brennan, Edel Ryan and Bernadette Coffey


·     Saturated, trans and unsaturated fats should be separated out into different shelves.
·      Saturated and trans fats should remain in shelf two.
·      Unsaturated fats should be relocated to the bottom shelf.
·      New and clear guidelines in relation to portion sizes should be implemented.


         Group 6

         Elizabeth Kennedy, Aisling Towey and Clodagh Treacy


  •        The first observation of the newest food pyramid is portion size. It is necessary to quantify what a portion size is. The pyramid also gives no indication as to how much of fat, sugar or salt our body needs to function.
  •        Processed meats should be included on the top shelf of the pyramid as 65-70% of sodium occurs in manufactured foods.  The RDA for salt is 4g per day for adults, and two sausages can contain up to 2g of salt and 12g of saturated fat. Two sausages would total 65% of saturated fat intake.
  •       The top group of the pyramid only depicts carbonated drinks as high sugar. However, squash or fruit concentrates have high sugar content and are full of additives, such as E129 (Allura red).
  •        It can be observed that there is no alcohol present on the table. It’s shown that the consumption of red wine, amongst other natural antioxidants, can reduce oxidative stress and encourage healthy aging. 

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