Aussies lead the obesity race

Chris Danks
Australians are getting fatter at a rate faster than anywhere in the world, a new study find. Image courtesy of Getty Images

A new study finds that obesity rates in Australians rates are rising at an alamaring rate - and the kids aren't far behind.

Almost one in three Australians are obese, with a new report by The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation reporting obesity rates have soared by more than 80 per cent in the past 33 years in Australia and New Zealand – the biggest increase in the 200-country strong survey.

Obesity — defined as a body mass index of more than 30 — affects Australia’s adults at more than four times the rate of their children, amplifying the risk of cancer, diabetes, arthritis and cardiovascular disease.

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But children are catching up, with the proportion considered overweight — a BMI of at least 25 — soaring by half in the past three decades.

The results of the global study into obesity rates, published in the medical journal The Lancet, show almost a quarter of the country's children and 63 per cent of the adult population is overweight.

The proportion of obese adults bulged from 16 per cent in 1990 to 29 per cent last year.

Worldwide, the number of overweight and obese people has risen from 857 million in 1980 to 2.1 billion people, the study finds.

Professor Alan Lopez, who was among the international researchers working on the study, says the numbers should be of concern.

"We are at the levels of overweight and obesity as the US is; three decades ago obesity levels in Australia were a half to a third of what they are now," he said.

"We need to understand that overweight and obesity is not just something at an individual aesthetic level, it has serious health consequences.

"It ought to be taken much more seriously by the public health community in Australia."

The findings will pressure the government into bringing back the health food-star rating system and restricting junk food marketing associated with sports, much like tobacco was subjected to in the 1990s.

Professor Rob Moodie, former chair of the National Preventative Health Taskforce, says as other areas of Australian health improve, obesity rates are getting dramatically worse and the Government needs to regulate the fast food industry.

"The kings of Australian sport are major ambassadors of junk food and junk drinks. That's what our kids learn," he said.

Australian T20 captain George Bailey. Image by Getty Images

"You look up to these wonderful sportsmen, and they're chomping away on junk food."

While Australian obesity rates have soared since 1990, we still rank as only the 25th-most obese country. Tonga tops the list. Vietnam and Cambodia are the world’s least obese countries.
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