World Hypertension Day – Know your numbers!

Dr Bianca van der Westhuizen

 

 

According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa, high blood pressure, or hypertension, is a very serious risks factor that contributes to the development of heart diseases and strokes. Globally hypertension causes around 7.5 million deaths per year and many people are not even aware that they have hypertension. In South Africa more than 1 in 3 adults live with high blood pressure and it is responsible for 1 in every 2 strokes and 2 in every 5 heart attacks. 17 May is World Hypertension Day with the theme “Know your numbers”.

What is blood pressure? It is the pressure that the blood applies on the arterial wall. The systolic blood pressure (upper value) refers to the force of the blood on the arterial wall when the heart beats whereas the diastolic pressure (lower value) refers to the force when the heart rests. Blood pressure is needed for blood to reach the rest of the body and circulate back.

As mentioned, hypertension is one of the most important risk factors for a healthy heart. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can damage your heart as well as your blood vessels which supplies al the important organs with blood.

Can we tell if we have high blood pressure? Even though there are some symptoms of high blood pressure, most individuals are unaware of it. It is often called the “silent killer” for this reason. It is crucial to have your blood pressure measured at least once a year.  Some of the common symptoms of hypertension are sweating, headaches, anxiety, dizziness, trouble sleeping and nose bleeds.

Blood pressure is measured using a non-invasive procedure where a pressure cuff is placed on your upper arm.  A normal blood pressure is usually around 120/80mm Hg. Blood pressure should be measured more than once, on separate occasions before a diagnosis for hypertension can be made.

The International Society of Hypertension strongly advocates that prevention is key and individuals can reduce their risk by following these 10 guidelines:

  1. Maintain a healthy body weight
  2. Exercise for an average of 30 minutes a day
  3. Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables – daily
  4. Cut down on salt consumption
  5. Reduce fat and sugar intake
  6. Don’t smoke tobacco
  7. Reduce caffeine
  8. Don’t drink too much alcohol – stick to daily recommendations
  9. Add beetroot and beetroot juice to your diet
  10.  Avoid stress where possible and allow time for relaxation

Know your numbers this May-measuring-month by checking your blood pressure for free! Check out the South African hypertension Society for a free screening centre near you at https://www.hypertension.org.za/pages/measure-your-blood-pressure. Remember to tag the following hashtags #checkyourpressure and #MayMeasurementMonth when doing your screening!

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Taking the guess work out of label reading

Dr Bianca van der Westhuizen (Food Evolution Research Laboratory (FERL), STH

Understanding how to read the nutritional information panel can be a powerful tool in making sure you make healthier food choices. This task can be daunting in some case if you don’t know what to look out for. Let’s look at some easy tips to follow and what to look out for.

The most important aspects of reading a label is to look at the information panel and then to look at the ingredient list.

1. Read the Nutrition Information table

A simple table can be used to determine what to look out for when choosing a healthier food option. We mainly look at the total fat, saturated fat, sugar, sodium and fibre when making our decision. Foods in the ‘low’ group can be eaten more often, but foods in the ‘high’ group should rarely be eaten or only on special occasions. Additionally to this, include products with a fibre content of more than 3g/100g.

                                   

2. Read the list of ingredents

Ingredients are always listed in order of weight, where the ingredients used in the greatest amounts are listed first, followed by those used in smaller amounts. Often the first three ingredients listed on the label make up the largest portion of the food item. Look out for sugar, salt and bad fats which may often be listed under different names. Below are some sneaky words to look out for:

  • Sugar

Brown sugar, concentrated fruit juice, corn syrup, dextrose, treacle, fructose, glucose, glucose syrup, golden syrup, honey, invert sugar, lactose, malt, malt extract, maltose, isomaltose, maltodextrin, maple syrup, molasses, raw sugar, sucrose, sugar, cane sugar.

  • Bad fats

Animal fat, beef fat, butter, chocolate, carob, coconut oil, cream, dripping, ghee, hydrogenated oils, lard, margarine, milk solids, monoglycerides, palm oil, seeds, nuts, coconut, tallow, shortening, trans fats, vegetable fat.

  • Salt

Baking soda, salt, MSG (monosodium glutamate), any word containing the term sodium, nitrates, nitrites.

It’s always important to be cautious when choosing foods and to use the labels as a helpful source.

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Moringa: a food treasure for humanity 

In many countries around the world as well as in South Africa, there is an increasing number of people suffering from Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) mainly diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease and chronic respiratory disease. Unhealthy diet is one the leading risk factors. The Food Evolution Research Laboratory would like to share with you how important indigenous foods consumption may be helpful to prevent those diseases.                                                                               

 

One of this Indigenous vegetables that we usually find in different forms in our local markets, supermarkets or elsewhere and for which we generally have a low interest is Moringa. Do you know that this plant is now considered as a “superfood?” this due to its nutritional value, medicinal properties and health benefits. The specie Moringa olifeira, also known as horseradish tree, ben tree, or drumstick tree, is commonly consumed as vegetable in Africa and South Asia. All the parts of the plant (leaves, pods, roots, bark, flowers, seeds, and fruits) are edible and are used to make medicines.

Moringa is a source of proteins showing the presence of all the essential amino-acids in their structure. It is also a rich source of vitamins and minerals. Indeed, it contains significant amounts of vitamin A, C, and E; calcium; potassium; iron and zinc. Leaves are the most nutritional rich part of the plant. They have 9 times the protein of yoghurt, 15 times potassium of banana, 25 times the iron of spinach, 10 times Vitamin A of carrots and 0.5 times Vitamin C of oranges.

Besides, Moringa contains phytochemical compounds that confer its medicinal/health value. This plant is used to treat diseases such as diabetes, cancer, epilepsy, heart problems and high blood pressure, anaemia, arthritis and rheumatism. Its efficiency against constipation; diarrhea; stomach pain; stomach and intestinal ulcers; intestinal spasms; headache; kidney stones; fluid retention; thyroid disorders; and bacterial, fungal, viral, and parasitic infections has also been reported. Furthermore, it has been described as an anti-inflammatory, an immune system booster, a libido booster, as preventing pregnancy and as increasing breast milk production.

As this plant is an easily cultivable one, it therefore appears as a sustainable solution for malnutrition and for NCDs fighting. One can benefit from most of its above-mentioned properties by directly and moderately consuming its fresh leaves as vegetables or their available derived products, especially leaf powder for food supplementation, capsules (powder in a capsule) or tea. Moringa oil, made from seeds, is rather generally used for beauty purposes (skin and hair care).

Dr Alex Kamgain

Postdoctoral Research Fellow: Food Evolution Research Laboratory (FERL)

     

Michael Rudolph

I am married to Professor Jeanne Zaidel Rudolph and I’m blessed with five daughters, five sons- in- law
and sixteen grandchildren.

 Qualifications

BDS (Wits) 1970, MPH (Harvard) 1977, MSc (Wits) 1981 and Specialist in Public Health Dentistry (Wits) 1984. Former HOD Community Dentistry 1978 -2011; Professor Emeritus; University of Witwatersrand; Senior Research Associate , Faculty of Humanities, University of Johannesburg Director, Siyakhana Initiative


I have been a role model and mentor in effective leadership, management, teaching training and research in Dentistry, Health Promotion and Food Security as well as building capacity in these key roles in SA. I regard my networking skills with government departments, private companies and with colleagues from higher educational institutions as an important asset. I have had over 40 years of experience in teaching, training and mentoring a cadre of new leaders in health care in SA.


I have undertaken a wide range of research studies over a similar period of time which has influenced strategic interventions and policy in oral health, health promotion and food security at national, provincial and local levels. My guidance, supervision, support and encouragement in research has resulted in many of my black students completing their Masters and PhD degrees. I am constantly seeking and implementing innovative ideas, technologies and methodologies in various aspects of my work but simultaneously ensuring that these are in alignment with global, national and local policies and models. I have shown consistent commitment to working with disadvantaged communities in SA for the past 40 years.


I see my involvement in the past ten years in urban agriculture, food security, job creation and promoting healthy communities as one of my most challenging yet extremely rewarding of my professional career. I started the fledgling Department of Community Dentistry at Wits in 1978; took up a full time post in 1981 and was appointed as Professor and Head of the Division of Public Health Dentistry at Wits 1991. I trained, supervised and mentored many specialists; several of whom became Deans or Deputy Deans of Faculties of Health Sciences and Dentistry in SA, and Heads of academic and government departments thus contributing to key leaders in this field. I have played an active role in supervising research reports in the School of Public Health; attended and presented papers; several as key note speaker at numerous International and national conferences and published almost 80 journal articles in local and overseas journals.


I conceived and developed the Community Oral Health Outreach Programme and Mobile Dental System which has demonstrated its viability in providing primary oral health care to tens of thousands of children, adults and disadvantaged communities in indigent areas in SA for 35 years. This project remains one of Wits’ flag ship outreach programmes. I started the Health Promotion Unit at Wits for teaching, training and research and involving National University partnerships, Government departments and Metropolitan Councils, NGO’s and private industry.

I established, planned, implemented and managed the Siyakhana Initiative which has attracted global, national, provincial and wide community interest. This Initiative is now considered a hallmark for integrated programmes to promote urban agriculture, ecological health in urban and peri urban settings through appropriate innovative and practical training, improved food security, greater job creation, economic opportunities and healthier environments linked to sustainable climate smart agricultural practice, food security, nutrition and healthy lifestyles. The Siyakhana initiative is in the forefront of teaching, research, advocacy and community engagement. Numerous newspaper articles have been published and national TV programmes flighted on SABC. The development and offering of the first online course in food security in Africa has been particular rewarding and facilitating and managing the research regarding the role of women in food security and in the labour force has been an important contribution. Many 15 research studies across several disciples have been carried out at Siyakhana garden and or linked to the project’s activities.


I have established several higher educational links and partnerships with overseas institutions such as Harvard University, New York University, Queens University (Canada), University College London, London South Bank University, and Hadassah University (Jerusalem), University of Switzerland and in Africa, Obafemi Awolowo University (Ife, Nigeria) Lilongwe University (Malawi) and University of Namibia. Received the Johnson and Johnson Preventive Award by Federation Dentaire International in collaboration with World Health Organisation for the best preventive programme a Health Education Package for Dentistry". Received the Vice Chancellor’s Academic Citizenship award at Wits in 2004.

Salt Awareness Week – Time to take action!

Annually the world and South Africa remind our population of the dangers of too much salt in our diets. This year is no exception, and from the 4th to the 10th of March we will celebrate Salt Awareness week. The Food Evolution Research Laboratory (FERL) based within the School of Tourism and Hospitality (STH) conduct research that improves decision making towards healthier food choices leading to healthier lifestyles and for this reason would like to remind you of just how much salt you are allowed to consume per day.

It is well known that food as we know it has evolved in terms of processing and fitting in with our busy lives. Although convenient, this evolution of food sometimes has some consequences like a higher salt content. Salt is present in almost all the processed foods we eat and is indicated on the lable as sodium. We are only allowed to consume 2000mg of sodium per day which is the same as one teaspoon of salt.

So what should you look for on the label?  Look on the ingredient list for these words: Salt or any ingredient that contains the word “sodium”, MSG, baking soda or baking powder.  If any of these words are in the first three ingredients on the food label of a food, it is likely to be high in salt.  You can further explore the salt content of the food by checking the Nutritional Information Table.  Look at the value for sodium in the “per 100 g” column and not the “per serving” column.  You can use these sodium values to compare different products and choose the one with the lowest amount of sodium. Here is a very helpful table (taken from the Salt Watch website) to use when deciding whether a product is high in salt or not:

 

 

 

 

Cutting back on salt has received a lot of attention in South Africa in the past 6 years, based on data showing that we are consuming too much salt.  This led to our Health Minister signing legislation to reduce the salt content in certain food products (i.e. breakfast cereals, breads, ready-made-meals, cheese etc.).  June 2016 was the first target date with a follow up in June 2019, where our food will have to comply with a lower salt content. Soon you and your family will be eating less salt, without even noticing it!

Look out for more information on social media this coming week about salt. FERL encourages research around the evolution of food: the change in eating patterns with food away from homes, the movement toward healthy eating and combatting non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

Dr Bianca van der Westhuizen

Post doctoral Research Fellow: Food Evolution Research Laboratory (FERL)

 

 

                                 FERL: SCHOOL FEEDING SYMPOSIUM                         

                 

FERL – Food Evolution Research Laboratory, hosted its first symposium on School Feeding at the School of Tourism and Hospitality, University of Johannesburg, on Friday 12th of October 2018. FERL was honoured to have hosted key stakeholders such as Ms. Carina Muller and Ms Mavis Ranwedzi from the Department of Basic Education, Professor Mosa Selepe from the University of Limpopo and Professor Amit Sharma from Penn State University, USA.The symposium focused on key studies that have been conducted over the past 3 years and some of which are currently undergoing further research and development.

 Topics of interest were built around: 

  • The ‘National School Nutrition Programme in Johannesburg schools by Dr Kesa(Director of FERL),
  • Awareness and Food safety practices of Food Handlers in schools implementing the National School Nutrition programme in Gauteng North district’ by Ms Randwezi (DBE),
  • Food safety and hygiene practices in Gauteng schools by Ms Thandeka Nyawo (Postgraduate Student: STH)  
  • The pros and cons of National School Nutrition Programme: A case study of Northern KwaZulu Natal by Professor Mosa Selepe
  • ‘Food offerings in schools: when is more too much?’ by Professor Amit Sharma (Director of the Food Decisions Research Laboratory), Penn State University. 

 These topics were built around similar objectives, which were: 

  • To provide daily, culturally acceptable, nutritious meals to enhance learning capacity.
  • To promote healthy lifestyles through nutritional education and support development of food gardens in schools.
  • To promote sustainable initiatives.

This further developed interests around the health and safety aspects of the school feeding programme and how these were implemented. The studies evidently  uncovered the underlying factors and challenges that schools across Johannesburg/Gauteng are faced with on a daily basis. Some of the challenges include shortage of  water supply for food gardens, inadequate access to gardening activities, limited financial resources and support, lack of capacity and training.

It is believed, through these and many more studies schools can serve as the starting point into a bigger community development initiative. FERL has begun its journey to ensuring learners at schools are receiving better quality and highly nutritional foods that are increasing the overall education and development rates of learners. FERL will further encourage it’s research to be developed around enhancing the national school feeding programme.

Ms Mavis Ranwedzi from the Department of Basic Education (DoBE). 

Professor Mosa Selepe from the University of Limpopo.

Dr Hema Kesa, Prof. Mosa Selepe and Ms. Mavis Randwedzi.

 

FERL- Food Evolution Research Laboratory Launch 2018

The launch of the Food Evolution Research Laboratory (FERL) housed within UJ's School of Tourism and Hospitality (STH) took place on Tuesday, 28 August at UJ's Bunting Road campus.

The University of Johannesburg (UJ) is ensuring it stays at the cutting edge of technology and aims to further its research to align to the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

In this regard, FERL have created a Virtual lab that encompasses traditional research principles but also promotes the use of research through newly innovative and critical thinking mechanisms, which can be transferred through a newly developed website and blog, a range of social media platforms and through virtual reality experiences that engages audiences. FERL has collaborated with Samsung Electronics for the provision of modern technology in order to operate as a virtual lab.

Dr Hema Kesa (Director: FERL) said: '' FERL aims to be recognised as a multidisciplinary and collaborative laboratory within and out of the University of Johannesburg specifically aligning itself to the School of Tourism and Hospitality (STH).  The lab would provide innovative growth within a Pan-African spectrum of the STH, especially within the Hospitality department by promoting growth in research.''

The Food Evolution Research Laboratory established its presence through increased demand and aspirations towards enhancing the lifestyles of people across different ages and generation groups that align themselves towards nutrition, health and wellness through research studies.

Prof Amit Sharma from Penn State University, USA and Advisory Board member of FERL added: ''We are particularly interested in exploring the food choices students are making and the impact it has on their academic performance and educational experiences. We are truly excited to be part of the launch of FERL and are really looking forward to continuing this collaboration with Dr Kesa and the University of Johannesburg.''

FERL will encourage research around the evolution of food: the change in eating patterns with food away from homes, the movement toward healthy eating-combatting non-communicable diseases (NCDs), movement from indigenous diets to Westernised diets with the emphasis on good health and nutrition.

 

 From left to right: Dr Diane Abrahams (Director: School of        Tourism and Hospitality Management), Dr Hema Kesa (Director: FERL), Prof Amit Sharma.

     Dr Hema Kesa (Director: FERL)

 

 

 

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