Source: The Mercury, 24 December, 1996, p.9


Australian fatties
hit new heights

Obesity
becomes
national
epidemic

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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