Source: The Mercury, 24 December, 1996, p.9
By KATE HANNON in Canberra THE average Australian is getting heavier at the rate of a gram a day fueling a nationwide obesity epidemic, medical researchers say. A study of national weight gain has found Australians have been steadily increasing in size for the past 15 years to the point where roughly half the population could now be classified as over- weight or obese. Science consultant, Professor Gary Egger, said the spread of auto- mation and labour-saving devices were mainly to blame. To compensate for work now done by ma- chines, the average per- son would have to spend three hours a week in the gym. We have a major obes- ity epidemic in this country," he said. "You've got 55% of men and 35% of women who are regarded as over- weight or obese. I regard that as an epidemic and anybody working in the area does. Professor Egger, Ad- junct Professor in Health Sciences at Deakin Uni- versity in Geelong and scientific director of the Gutbusters weight loss program, said lifestyle ac- counted for about two thirds of the weight gain since the early 1980s. "It just strikes me as ludicrous that you're con- sidered to have made it when your house is fully automated and you go to the gym for half an hour during the day," he said. People might exercise but they used a remote control for the garage door, for the television, drive-in shops instead of walking, moving walkways or lifts for one or two floors. National Heart Foun- dation statistics also re- flect the changing shape of Australians since 1980. They show an increase in the average weight of men and women without any change in average heights. Professor Egger said diets were not the answer. And Helen O'Connor, a lecturer in the Depart- ment of Bio-medical Sci- ences at Sydney Univer- sity, agrees. She said the incidence of people with high chol- esterol was falling and so was the rate of deaths from cardiovascular dis- ease but Australians were getting fatter. Ms O'Connor said she believed the reason was a combination of things in- cluding less activity as a result of technological change, higher dispos- able incomes which meant people had more money to spend on food and the availability of junk foods in vending machines meant more snacking between meals. "People clearly eat more calories than they expend through activity," Ms O'Connor said. People were also eating foods that used to be regarded as luxuries. She said each individ- ual had an ideal healthy weight but there was a point where the level of body fat became a health hazard, increasing the chances of heart disease, late-onset diabetes, gall stones and some cancers.
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