Why Australians are getting fatter

December 23, 2014

Poor nutrition and growing levels of obesity are taking a toll on the health of Australians, an expert I spoke to recently warn, as an increasing number of people consume fast food and lead sedentary lifestyles.”The prevalence of obesity is not yet that high. However, given the World’s large population and the growing numbers, it’s a cause for concern,” expert working in Perth said.He cited high-fat foods, imbalanced diets and a lack of physical activity as the main culprits.The Australian state governments are now regularly conducting basic health research surveys.Australia’s consumption power is one of its key economic strengths. The country’s economy is growing on the back of domestic consumption of goods ranging from cars to mobile phones, and, more recently, to property.Given the country’s productive demographics, spending growth is likely to continue for the next 30 years, rising with per capita income.Food companies have been major beneficiaries of this consumption boom. Where in the past, Australians were satisfied with instant organic products, today they are eating sugary snacks and bread. Sugar consumption is on the rise and there’s tremendous growth in the snack industry. There’s also a growing population, an increase in income per capita and changes in lifestyle.Breads which in Australia are often high in sugar content as well as local sweet snacks and more Western-style products are growing in popularity, a sign of increasing sophistication among Aussie’s consumers.

This rising taste for sugar-laden food is good for consumer food companies, but as has been seen in other western countries, higher sugar consumption will lead to higher incidence of obesity and diabetes, which in turn will lead to higher health-care costs.Both the government and private companies must bear this in mind as they push the consumption of high-sugar snacks. Short-term gains will lead to longer-term pain if we do not manage this trend prudently.Only about 30 percent of Australians eat enough vegetables and fruit, while only half are engaged in sufficient physical activity, one of the health studies conducted in 2013 revealed.“Consumption patterns have also changed among people. They eat a lot of fast food and not enough fruit and vegetables,” Perth expert told your blogger.“People used to eat at home, but now they often eat outside. But because good food is expensive at restaurants, they tend to eat junk food,” he added.Australia’s annual economic growth has allowed millions of people to enter the middle-income class and gain access to high income class amenities, including fast food.

A recent health profile shows that obesity is more prevalent in households that spend more per capita, including among those with higher education and those who live in cities like Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra, Gold Coast and Perth. Lack of exercise and poor diet are among the risk factors that trigger cardiovascular diseases, added the expert.In one of the conversations, I was informed that an increased body mass index which is a simple height-for-weight measure is a major risk factor for non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders, and some cancers and no doubt non-communicable diseases such as stroke, hypertension and diabetes have replaced communicable diseases are some of the leading cause of death in Australia. World Bank report few years back noted that half of overweight people live in nine very different countries like Brazil, China, Germany, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Russia, Turkey and the United States and I wish not to see Aussie being among them. In Australia, healthy foods remain affordable. Vegetables and fruit are relatively cheap here but majority of people simply choose unhealthy diets out of lack awareness and there is need to be more vigorous campaigns to promote healthy lifestyles, including the need for exercise and balanced nutrition.

Contador Harrison