Catalyst on ABC now stars University of Newcastle Professor Clare Collins

This is Professor Clare Collins tasting fat on the ABC science program Catalyst.

Professor Collins, a University of Newcastle nutritionist, is now a presenter on the show.

She appears in her first episode on Tuesday at 8.30pm.

The two-part special, titled Feeding Australia, reveals breakthroughs in science and technology that will shape what we eat in future.

The professor travels across Australia meeting growers and scientists who are wrestling with the question of how to grow tasty and nutritious food, as Australia’s population grows.

“Wait until you see the cinematography. The images of Australia ... you just go, ‘God we live in an amazing country’.”

Thinking about the future of food means thinking about food supply and the food environment.

“We need to think about it now, rather than wait until we are in crisis and cannot feed everyone,” she said.

In one part of the show, she does a fat-taste experiment at the Centre for Advanced Sensory Science at Deakin University.

“There are tastebuds and sensing mechanisms in your body for detecting fat. Being a nutrition scientist, I was aware of that but highly sceptical,” she said.

“It gave me the chance to look at the evidence around their science. I actually appreciate the science now – I believe it.

“And I could see how it may help us in terms of managing and reining in our tastebuds that have kind of got out of control in the modern world.”

The show examines how people can reset their tastebuds to survive in the modern, ultra-processed food world.

She said the fat-taste experiment showed that there were other taste-sensing mechanisms in the body, aside from sugar, salt and sour, that were influencing “how much you eat and how much you can’t stop eating”.

“This differs based on genetic susceptibility. But even with that, you can still take back control of your tastebuds once you’re aware of these things.”

Professor Collins has previously appeared on Triple J on ABC radio with Dr Karl, talking about food and diet.

She had previously done background research for Catalyst. Then they asked her to be a presenter. Her response: “Absolutely”.

She was initially a bit nervous, but talking to other scientists soon put her at ease.

“We’re so busy as researchers doing our research,” she said, adding it was good to see research happening in other people’s labs.

“I really enjoyed talking to other people who are just as passionate about their world as I am about my world,” she said.

Common Cold Remedies

When we spoke to Professor Collins, she was into week-three of a cold.

Which is why she wrote a piece on The Conversation website, titled “Health Check: should I take vitamin C or other supplements for my cold?”.

“When it comes to the common cold (also called upper respiratory tract infections), there is no magic cure,” she wrote.

“Some supplements may deliver very minor improvements. Here is what the latest research evidence says.”

Vitamin C: For the average person, taking vitamin C does not reduce the number of colds you get, or the severity of your cold. In 30 studies comparing the length of colds in people regularly taking at least 200 milligrams of vitamin C daily, there was a consistent reduction in the duration of common cold symptoms. However, the effect was small and equates to about half a day less in adults, and half to one day less in children. 

Garlic: Only one study has tested the impact of garlic on the common cold. Researchers asked 146 people to take garlic supplements or a placebo daily for 12 weeks. They then tallied the number and duration of their colds. The group that took garlic reported fewer colds than those who took the placebo. The duration of colds was the same in both groups. Because there is only one trial, we need to be cautious about recommending garlic to prevent or treat colds. 

Probiotics: In a review of 13 trials of probiotic supplements that included more than 3700 children, adults and older adults, those taking supplements were less likely to get a cold. Their colds were also likely to be of shorter duration and less severe, in terms of the number of school or work days missed. Most supplements were milk-based products such as yoghurt. Only three studies used powders, while two used capsules. The quality of the all the probiotic studies, however, was very poor, with bias and limitations. This means the results need to be interpreted with caution.

Echinacea: A review of echinacea products found they provide no benefit in treating colds. 

Chicken soup: Researchers have shown comfort foods, such as chicken soup, can help us feel better. Chicken soup can increase nasal mucus flow. This relates to our ability to break down and expel mucus to breathe more clearly. 

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