Should kids with Downs syndrome be on a multivitamin?

Many thanks to Danielle Voller for writing up this topic for me.  I was asked this question by a mum who had heard that Downs syndrome kids all needed to be taking zinc tablets.

Zinc plays a central role in the maintenance of the immune system, and is important for growth and development in children. Zinc is found naturally in foods such as red meat, poultry, fish/seafood, whole cereals and dairy food.

It has generally been thought that children with downs syndrome have lower levels of zinc than typically developing children, however this is yet to be scientifically proven.  A recent study measuring the nutrient requirements of  downs syndrome children (that were very overweight) , showed that the reported energy intake was restricted in these kids, meaning that the overall vitamin and mineral intake was low, which resulted in deficiencies. This specific study recommended a multivitamin and mineral supplement in these children with restricted diets.

One study showed a potential benefit in supplementing downs syndrome children with zinc, reporting improved immune function and accelerated growth, however another study showed no evidence to support the use of zinc supplement in downs syndrome children.

When searched in google, the majority of websites suggest that there is a need to supplement zinc in children with downs syndrome, as some of the problems associated with downs syndrome may be caused by the lack of zinc. Others suggest that long term, a healthy, nutritious diet will be most beneficial.

The bottom line is that it is important for your child to be having a balanced diet including a range of vitamins and minerals.  Based on the evidence at hand, zinc or multivitamin supplementation is not something that should be given to every child.  To ensure your child is receiving the best nutrition, visit your local Accredited Practising Dietitian to get some individual advice.


Mothers Day Breakfast

This blog was written by Danielle Voller APD who is working part-time with Dietitian Services Qld.

Mother’s Day is coming up soon, so why not treat mum to a healthy, delicious breakfast in bed!  We have come up with some yummy brekky ideas that are sure to give your mum a great start to the day, and are also healthy, which she will love!

Porridge with sliced banana and a sprinkle of cinnamon

Grilled ham, cheese and tomato on wholegrain toast

Poached egg, grilled shortcut bacon on wholegrain toast

Fruit salad with low fat yoghurt

Vegetarian breakfast – poached egg, grilled tomato, mushrooms, feta cheese and spinach on wholegrain toast

Poached egg with avocado and tomato on toast

If you need recipes, check out as this website had great recipes for:

Healthy breakfast slice

Ham and avocado omelette

Apple and spice porridge

Wishing all the mums a lovely day on Sunday.



Ecofriendly Food Challenge Week 2 – local seasonal fruit and vegetables

The challenge for the week was to look at whether I was buying seasonal fruit and vegetables and also how many miles away from home my food was travelling.  I think most people are aware that for the environment it is better to buy locally.

If you live in Queensland you can download the seasonal fruit and vegetable wheel from to see what is in season.  (The state fruit and vegetable growers websites often have information on seasonal fruit and vegetables.)  When I had a look at the chart, most of the fruit and vegetables I buy are available locally and in season except carrots.  However, a lot of the food I was buying at the supermarket had travelled many ‘food miles’.  To get fresher local produce the food markets are the best option.  For time poor people like me, I discovered Food Connect and received my first box of fresh produce last Thursday.  You can definitely taste the difference with food picked the day before delivery.  Check out their website for more information – they have systems in place for New South Wales and Queensland.  Another website is  – you can plug in your post code and it tells you what farmers markets or locally produced food is available nearby.  Finally the last website that was interesting during this week’s challenge was  If you go to this website it has plenty of resources including a meal planner that helps you to plan your meals and prevent you from buying more food than you need for the week.

I do talks to groups about healthy eating on a food budget using the FoodCents information.  It is interesting to see that by purchasing seasonal fruit and vegetables locally you can keep to a budget easier and also be doing your bit for the environment.

Love to hear any tips or comments people have.











Ecofriendly Food Challenge Week 1

Great ideas from other people trying the food challenge.  Our homework for week 1 was to try to reduce food waste going in to the landfill bin.

Some of the great ideas people came up with:

  • buy a Bokashi bin as you can put all kinds of scraps including meat into it
  • leave the green bags in the car so you don’t forget to take them to the supermarket
  • plan meals so that you don’t buy too much food – also saves money
  • purchase and use a compost bin
  • check out what items can be recycled – it’s amazing what can go in the recycling bin

Personally, I found that I could reduce my food scraps by using the compost bin and not getting lazy and just putting waste into the landfill bin, planning meals definitely helps reduce waste and I’m thinking about buying a Bokashi bin.

The ecofriendlyfood website is a great resource for practical ideas on being more enviromentally friendly.

Ecofriendlyfood Challenge

What can I do to be more eco-friendly?  There’s a great Qld site that is about to run an ecofriendlyfood challenge and it’s not to late to join up and learn practical tips on being more eco-friendly.

If you would like to register go to and receive a free resource kit.

My goal is to blog once a week about my experiences.  This week I’ve got to measure how full my wheelie bin is with food related waste.  I’d love to hear people’s comments if they try the challenge.






Coeliac Awareness Week – Not Feeling Like You?

Coeliac (“seal – e- ack”) disease is estimated to occur in 1 in 100 Australians yet the symptoms range in severity and can mimic other conditions like irritable bowel symdrome making it difficult to diagnose. Symptoms include tiredness, low iron levels, diarrhoea and/or constipation, abdominal bloating, and excessive wind. In women trying to fall pregnant, undiagnosed coeliac disease can cause fertility problems.

If you think you may have coeliac disease it is important to get screened and diagnosed before making any dietary changes. Adults need to be eating 4 slices of wheat containing bread per day for the screening blood test to be accurate. Then the Doctors will do a gastroscopy and biopsy to confirm the diagnosis.

Once a diagnosis is made, choosing gluten free foods is the treatment to prevent short and long term problems. An Accredited Practicing Dietitian will help you understand what foods can be included, foods to eat to get all your vitamins and minerals and how to read food labels to avoid gluten. The Dietitian will communicate with your Doctor to make sure you have regular blood tests to check iron status, vitamin D, folate and vitamin B12.

Many foods and meals are naturally gluten free – free from wheat, barley, oats, rye and triticale. Below is a frittata recipe that can be used as a main meal or lunch with a salad.

What are some of your favourite gluten free recipes or products? Please feel free to post them for others to share.

Vegetable Frittata

Serves 2 people

3 eggs

1/4 cup low fat milk

1/4 cup reduced fat tasty cheese

pepper to taste

parsley dried or fresh to taste

1tspn oil eg extra virgin olive oil

50g ham off the bone – diced

1/2 tomato or 8 cherry tomatoes – sliced

1/2 cup mixed frozen or fresh cooked veggies eg corn, peas, carrot

Preheat a small non stick pan and add 1tpsn oil, then cook ham and tomato. In a bowl, mix eggs, cheese, milk, pepper, parsley, and frozen or fresh vegetables together. In the small fry pan add the egg mixture and cook until the egg mix is nearly set. Place the fry pan under the grill and cook for 2-3 minutes until cooked. Serve with a salad or sliced and served cold in a lunch box.

Nutrition Information per serve

Energy 1040kJ, protein 21g , fat 16g, saturated fat 6g carbohydrate 4g, fibre 2g.

Beetroot Juice – Recent Study

Many thanks to my client that asked me about beetroot juice and cycling.  If you are a keen cyclist check with your Sports Dietitian before filling your drink bottle with beetroot juice!  It may not meet all your fluid and performance goals.   In June this year, the Journal Med Sci Sports and Exercise published an article on beetroot juice and cycling time trial performance.  It was a preliminary study as it only had 9 athletes in the trial.  It was a randomised trial meaning that for one experiment athletes were given 500mls of beetroot juice and for the next trial 500mls of nitrate-depleted beetroot juice.  The study did show an improvement in cycling performance for a 4km and 16.1km cycling time trials of 2.8% and 2.7%.  The big question now is will the results be the same when a larger group of athletes try the same experiment?  Are there any side effects of drinking 500mls of beetroot juice just before a cycling time trial?  Love to hear any experiences if you have tried this already.

Gluten Free Food Expo Coming To Brisbane

Coeliac disease is a condition requiring a life long gluten free diet to prevent symptoms and nutritional deficiencies.  The range of gluten free food available has increased significantly over the last 19 years since I started working as a Dietitian.  As anyone with coeliac disease can tell you, gluten free breads, biscuits, pancake mixes are more expensive to purchase.  So, if you have coeliac disease – go to the Gluten Free Food Expo to sample all the different foods for free!  Sunday 30 October 2011 from 9am to 4pm at the Commerce Building at the RNA Showgrounds.  Tickets are $10 or $5 if you are a Coeliac Society member and kids are free.

BodyMedia Body Monitoring System

I’ve been looking for where to purchase these since I saw them being used in the ABC  Science’s Making Australia Happy television show.  (This was a great show – you can still see the episodes on DVD if being happier is a goal for you).  These body monitors are brilliant and I expect that many Dietitians will be using them in the future.
I’ve been trialling one this week.  The monitoring system is worn on your left arm around your triceps muscle and monitors lots of things including daily movement, kilojoules burned, degree of physical activity, steps taken and even assesses quality of sleep!
This is going to be an extra tool that I can use with clients particularly those struggling with overweight and finding it hard to lose body fat.  The BodyMedia system measures daily energy expenditure.  If clients keep a food diary while wearing the BodyMedia , I will quickly be able to assess why weight loss has been difficult.
For athletes, this will assess energy expenditure and I will be able to really fine tune quantities of food needed for optimal performance with training and competition.
Keep an eye on the Website for the introductory offers for using this system in the next few weeks.

Does Caralluma fimbriata extract help with weight loss?

I was asked about this herbal extract recently.  It’s being marketed in a weight loss supplement at the moment. 

Caralluma fimbriata is extracted from an edible cactus that is grown in India.  It is marketed as an appetite suppressant that will help people lose weight.  In the supplement on the market in Australia the dosage is 6g of Caralluma fimbriata.

So let’s talk about the research available on this extract. 

Remember that in the pharmaceutical industry a drug cannot be sold until there are several long term studies.  A good solid study would have at least 1500 volunteers with at least half receiving the active study drug, half receiving a placebo “non active” tablet, with the side effects closely monitored and results documented for at least 1 year.

There was one study on humans that ran for 60 days.  Fifty overweight volunteers were in the study with half receiving placebo. The dose of the extract was 1g per day.    The study found that there was a significant drop in waist measurement and appetite and a trend of weight loss that wasn’t statistically different between groups.

The only other study was on 18 rats.  The rats were given two different types of food (pellets or pellets and “cafeteria style food”  and given differing doses of Caralluma fimbriata for 90 days and there was an effect on appetite on the 3rd week of taking the extract in the highest dose and less weight gain in those receiving Caralluma fimbriata.

Bottom line:
This extract may or may not help with weight loss, there’s not enough research. There haven’t been any long term studies to show what kind of weight loss could occur and be sustained at 1 year.  Side effects are unknown at this stage.  It is constantly amazing how herbal extracts can be marketed as helping with weight loss with very small research studies compared to the medications that a doctor can prescribe.
Journal Nutrition Metabolism  2010: 2010:285301 Antiobesogenic and Antiatherosclerotic Properties of Caralluma fimbriata Extract

Appetite 2007 May 48 (3) : 338-44  Effect of Caralluma fimbriata extract on appetite, food intake, and anthropometry in adult Indian men and women.