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High carb? Low carb? – It’s more about the quality of carb!

Research into the quality of carbohydrates on our supermarket shelves aims to give New Zealanders clear advice on what foods to enjoy most.

Dr Andrew ReynoldsDr Andrew Reynolds, at University of Otago, has been granted a three year Fellowship from the Heart Foundation to find out more.

The Heart Foundation announced $3.7 million of funding today for heart research and specialist training for New Zealand cardiologists in 2019, bringing the total awarded by the charity since its formation in 1968, to more than $74 million dollars.

"There is lots of confusion about carbohydrate intakes and their effect on health.

Many people talk about the amount of carbohydrates, high carb or low carb diets for instance. This is the wrong focus, as carbohydrates range from simple sugars which in high intakes are associated with poorer health outcomes to dietary fibres which in high intakes improves health. My research is about the quality of carbohydrates not the quantity, looking at the benefits of foods that are naturally high in fibre," says Dr Reynolds.

He says wholegrains in the food supply are changing and becoming more refined and often ultra-processed.

"We need to refocus on which carbohydrate-containing foods to eat. High intakes of whole grains, vegetables, legumes, and whole fruits are associated with improved health outcomes. My research is about measuring and understanding these benefits, and hopefully will encourage people to eat these foods groups for example by  replacing refined grains with wholegrain foods."

The research will have a focus on managing heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Dr Reynolds says this is important for all New Zealanders and with particular relevance for Māori and Pasifika people who have much higher rates of heart disease.

The work will look to inform the marketing of foods, national and international policy guidelines and food labelling practices in New Zealand.

"A three year fellowship with the Heart Foundation is an incredible opportunity. I am an early career researcher who needs to attract funding to pay for my role, and to do my projects. Having three years of job security means that I can commit to longer term projects, collaborate better with other researchers, and contribute more to health research in New Zealand." - Dr Andrew Reynolds. 

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