Saturday, 12 June 2010

Obesity biggest health problem

OBESITY has overtaken smoking as the biggest health issue facing Australian women, a landmark study has found. (note: Obesity in England has risen dramatically in the last ten years. In 1993 it was estimated that an average of 15% of men and women were classed as obese. Now 25% of the population fits the criteria)
The Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health released yesterday found that being overweight or obese was more consistently associated with chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease and asthma than smoking or alcohol use.
"Ten years ago, smoking was the major health problem," said public health expert Julie Byles, of the University of Newcastle.
"That's been overtaken by obesity. That's probably the most startling thing out of all the findings."
Researchers – who have been surveying more than 30,000 Australian women across three generations since 1996 – have found fewer than one in 10 of the younger women ate the recommended five or more different vegetables a day and fewer than four in 10 ate two or more pieces of fresh fruit.
When the study began a decade ago, 20 per cent of those aged 18 to 23 were considered overweight or obese. That had rocketed to 32 per cent among the same group of women – an increase of more than 50 per cent – by 2003.
"It's scary," Professor Byles said.
"Young women are putting on weight at such a rate that they're going to overtake their mothers' generation. By the time they're the same age, they'll be a lot heavier."
Although the 180-page report found few differences in health across urban and remote areas, younger women living in small rural centres had a much higher prevalence of diabetes than other women of the same age.
Professor Byles said messages about healthy eating and exercise were not getting through as strongly as they needed to.
"But if you look at smoking and how long we've been putting out messages about quitting, it's sort of a drip, drip, drip effect," she said.
"If we keep putting out messages about maintaining a healthy weight, good nutrition and physical activity, eventually that will get through too."
The study, which will follow the women until 2016, is a collaboration between the University of Newcastle and the University of Queensland and is funded by the Federal Government.

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