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Australia: an obese nation « Previous | |Next »
July 24, 2012

The ABC's Foreign Correspondent highlight the explosion of global obesity in places (China, India, Mexico, Brazil) where just a few decades ago hunger was a headline health concern.

Australia is also becoming an obese nation. Around 60% of Australians are overweight or obese, even though this epidemic only began around 1980? The consequence is increased risk of diabetes, heart attack and stroke, fatty liver, and breast and bowel cancer. Obesity has overtaken tobacco as the major burden of disease in Australia.

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The reasons for this situation are two fold. The first lies in our food supply, which is highly processed, high fattening but very tasty and easy to get. The globalised food system generates a huge quantity of processed foods rich in fat, sugar and salt, which provide energy (calories or kilojoules) at very low cost. The energy-dense, nutrient-poor processed foods are much cheaper in terms of calories per dollar than are fresh minimally-processed foods that are the recognised basis of a healthy die--such as fresh plant foods, wholegrain cereals, lean meats and fish.

Secondly, there is inactivity through leisure-saving and entertainment technology such as cars, television, and computers. This points to action in areas that encourage incidental physical activity at the population level – urban planning to encourage walking, cycling and the use of public transport and workplace innovations.

The financial pressures on the health system from the burgeoning burden of disease attributable to overweight and obesity will probably be the trigger to push governments into action. The processed food industry is an extraordinarily powerful and influential lobby in Australia and throughout the world. It successfully lobbied against traffic-light labelling in Australia and it will resist significant public health initiatives to address obesity.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 11:59 PM |