Sunday, 6 May 2007

the flabby country?

We Aussies tend to think it is other countries that eat too many Big Macs and become supersized, but a new study shows alarming obesity trends in Australia.


A 20-year study of 5000 young people has shown that:

  • in 1985, when they were children, 9% were overweight and 1.5% were obese;
  • in 2005, when they were in their 20s and 30s, 40% of men and 20% of women were overweight, and 13% of both genders were obese;
  • boys who were obese as children are 5 times more likely to be obese at age 30 than healthy weight boys; for girls, the risk is 9 times.

Experts conclude that hormonal changes, poor diet, lack of exercise (partly caused by increased computer usage) and increased consumption of fast foods may all be contributing causes to this alarming trend.

The study was carried out by Professor Alison Venn from the Hobart-based Menzies Research Institute, and seems to show that adolescence is the key period of life where excessive weight gain occurs. However the figures may illustrate an increasing problem in society that just happens to be occurring in adolescence in this particular generation.

Researchers have found that obesity is a major factor in other health matters. for example, 90% of Type II diabetes is preventable if people maintain a healthy weight.

But what should be done? Obviously most of us need to be self disciplined enough to change our lazy eating and exercise habits. But this is unlikely to be enough.

Research in the UK, reported in "in touch", indicates that trying to change individual behaviour across society is not very effective. Far better is to try to change "patterns of food production, marketing, and social norms of consumption" by improving the availability of affordable and nutitious food, making it easier and safer for people to walk for exercise, and finding some way to reduce the availability of junk food in locations where it is not necessary, and its aggressive promotion for profit (popcorn in movie theatres anyone?). Jamie Oliver's crusade for better school food in the UK showed us some of this.

So obesity is not just a problem for individuals, especially parents. Politicians and society need to begin to address our "‘obesogenic environment’, where consumption (of food and many other things) is promoted as the pathway to prosperity, health and a happy life, but actually drains our prosperity into avoidable health care expenses, threatens our health and wellbeing, and shortens our lives." We need to think a little harder about what life and happiness are really all about.

Read more from the Sydney Morning Herald, ABC Radio and "in touch".

Idiot wind, blowing every time you move your teeth .......
We're idiots, babe. It's a wonder we can even feed ourselves.
Bob Dylan, "Idiot Wind", 1974

0 comments so far: