Researchers reveal what's to blame for the global 'tsunami' of obesity
Packaged foods are to blame for the ‘tsunami’ of obesity and diet-related disease facing the world, says new Australian research.
A global survey conducted by The George Institute for Global Health and published in Obesity Reviews has shown that a growing number of people are eating packaged foods and the ramifications for their health are disastrous.
After analysing more than 400,000 food and drink products from 12 countries and territories researchers found that some of the world’s most obese nations – the United Kingdom, United States, and Australia – actually had some of the healthiest packaged foods.
But that’s not enough to prevent the onslaught of diet-related diseases to come, said study lead author Elizabeth Dunford.
“Globally we’re all eating more and more processed foods and that’s a concern because our supermarkets shelves are full of products that are high in bad fats, sugar and salt and are potentially making us sick,” said Dr Dunford.
Acting executive director of The George Institute and study co-author Bruce Neal said that “billions of people are now exposed to very unhealthy foods on a daily basis”.
“The obesity crisis is just the first ripple of a tsunami of dietary ill health that is coming for us,” he said.
“We have to find a way that the food industry can profit from selling rational quantities of quality food, rather than deluging us with unhealthy junk. There are few greater priorities for human health.”
Australia is “as obese as any country in the world at the moment”, added Prof Neal.
Australians in a healthy weight range – numbering around 5.92 million – are close to being eclipsed by the number of obese Australians – 5.82 million. In fact, more than two-thirds of Australian adults are overweight and obese – and the likelihood of this increases with age.
Prof Neal says government intervention is sorely needed.
“One would hope that as the health and social consequences of obesity become more apparent, that government is going to do something,” he said.
A recent Australian study by Deakin University’s Global Obesity Centre revealed that supermarkets tempt shoppers with massive discounts on junk food while leaving healthy items off the menu, and junk foods were often discounted twice as often and at nearly double amount than healthier foods.
“Cutting down on sugary drinks – the largest contributor to added sugars in Australians’ daily diets – is key to tackling Australia’s obesity epidemic,” said lead author Christina Zorbas.
“Evidence-backed proposals like a sugar tax, which is being implemented around the world, can be easily undermined if sugary drinks continue to be discounted so heavily by supermarkets.”
“Discounts on unhealthy food and drink warrant serious attention as part of a comprehensive strategy to promote healthy diets and reduce obesity.”