Friday, June 20, 2008

Obesity epidemic: We are the world's fattest

AUSTRALIA'S obesity epidemic has been drastically underestimated, according to the latest comprehensive study showing 9 million adults are fatter than they should be.

The report says Australia is the world's most overweight nation, ahead of the supersized Americans.
Experts are now calling for extreme measures like gym discounting and denial of surgery based on body mass index (BMI) to rectify the situation.
"These might be controversial but they won't just be targeting a small sub-set of Australians," said Simon Stewart, head of preventive cardiology at the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute.
"Overweight and obese people now make up the vast majority of us and these are the drastic measures now needed to bring these numbers down."
The report, released ahead of the Federal Government's obesity inquiry, presents the results of height and weight checks carried out on 14,000 adult Australians in 2005.
It gives the most thorough picture of obesity since the AusDiab study in 1999, and Professor Stewart, the author, said it shows the burden has been underplayed.
"Based on the old data and self-reported surveys, we had thought that 7 million adults were obese or overweight, but it is actually 9 million," he said.

The report, entitled Australia's Future Fat Bomb, shows the middle-aged are leading the way, with seven in 10 men and six in 10 women aged 45 to 64 now registering a BMI of 25 or more.
An analysis of the data shows there will be an extra 700,000 heart-related hospital admissions in the next 20 years due to obesity alone.
Almost 125,000 people will die as a result, many prematurely.
"I would regard this as now the biggest threat to our future health," Professor Stewart said.
"As we send our athletes off to the Olympics let's reflect on the fact that we would win the gold medal problem now in the world fat Olympics if there was such a thing.
"We used to be down mid-table, but I'm picking that we're now the gold medal favourites."
The report calls for a national weight loss strategy on the scale of smoking and skin cancer campaigns, including subsidising gym memberships and personal training sessions for heavier people.
Wait lists for surgery could be prioritised on the basis of weight loss.
"These are some of the controversial things we need to deal with because the healthcare system is going to be overwhelmed by weight-related hospitalisations from knee replacements through to heart attacks and strokes."
Professor Ian Caterson, director of the Institute of Obesity, Nutrition and Exercise at the University of Sydney, agreed such measures were needed.
"Governments have to start thinking outside the square because as we get fatter and older as a nation things are just going to get worse," he said.


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