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Fat farm: Australia is a global heavyweight

Date

Peter Jean

It's no wonder that Australia is the fifth fattest nation on earth.

A report released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare yesterday showed many Australians were consuming too much food that is high in fat and sugar and not enough vegetables or wholegrain cereals.

The report, Australia's Food and Nutrition 2012, said Australians exceed the world average consumption of alcohol, sweeteners, milk, animal fats and fruit.

But Australian consumption of vegetables and cereal was below the world average.

The AIHW report said that 90 per cent of people aged 16 and over failed to eat the recommended five serves of vegetables each day.

Most adults didn't eat enough fruit and adolescent girls failed to eat enough dairy foods or alternatives.

People in remote areas had difficulty accessing a variety of affordable healthy foods.

The report said that restaurant and takeaway meals was the highest weekly item of food expenditure for Australian households in all income groups. In 2009-10, high-income households spent $389 on food and beverages each week, or 18 per cent of household expenditure. Low income households spent $113, or 20 per cent of expenditure on food.

AIHW spokeswoman Lisa McGlynn said: ''The rising cost of healthy food meant that it was cheaper for some people to eat takeaway food than healthier foods.

''It can cost less to feed a family on food from some of the fast-food outlets than it can to feed a family on some of the foods that would be considered to be appropriate and what experts recommend a family eat.''

On average, ''treat'' or extra foods such as chips, biscuits, pastries, soft drinks and alcohol contributed 36 per cent of the energy intake for adults and 40 per cent for children.

One quarter of adults and one in 12 children aged between five and 12 in Australian are obese.

''That's about three million people aged over five which puts us fifth in the OECD countries for the proportion of the population who are obese,'' Ms McGlynn said.

The release of the report coincided with the launch of a discussion paper on a proposed national food plan.

Heart Foundation ACT chief executive Tony Stubbs said the food plan should have a strong focus on health issues, including reformulating processed foods to reduce fat and salt content.

''If we're going to make a difference to obesity levels in the country, to reduce heart disease, stroke, Type-2 diabetes, osteoporosis and some cancers - which are all major issues in the community - we actually do need to address how food plays a part in reducing all of those issues,'' Mr Stubbs said.

''Reducing saturated fat and salt content is a major part of that as is increasing fruit and vegetable consumption as well.''

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