Australia Now the World's Fattest Nation

Australia has become the fattest nation in the world, with more than 9 million adults now rated as obese or overweight, according to an alarming new report.

The most definitive picture of the national obesity crisis to date has found that Australians now outweigh Americans and face a future “fat bomb” that could cause 123,000 premature deaths over the next two decades.

If the crisis is not averted, obesity experts have warned, health costs could top $6 billion and an extra 700,000 people will be admitted to hospital for heart attacks, strokes and blood clots caused by excess weight.

The latest figures show 4 million Australians – or 26% of the adult population – are now obese compared to an estimated 25% of Americans. A further 5 million Australians are considered overweight.

The report, Australia's Future 'Fat Bomb', from Melbourne's Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, will be presented at the Federal Government's inquiry into obesity, which comes to Melbourne today.

A grim picture is painted of expanding waistlines fuelled by a boom in fast food and a decline in physical activity, turning us into a nation of sedentary couch potatoes.

Those most at risk of premature death are the middle-aged, with 70% of men and 60% of women aged 45 to 64 now classed as obese.

The report's lead author, Simon Stewart, said that the best case scenario was that 3.6 million adults were battling obesity. “We could fill the MCG 40 times over with the number of obese Australians now, then you can double that if you look at the people who are also overweight – those are amazing figures,” Professor Stewart said.

“And in terms of a public health crisis, there is nothing to rival this. If we ran a fat Olympics we'd be gold medal winners as the fattest people on earth at the moment,” he said.

“We've heard of AIDS orphans in Africa, we're looking at this time bomb going off where parents have to think about this carefully,” Professor Steward said. “They're having children at an older age, if you're obese and you have a child do you really want to miss out on their wedding?

Do you want to miss out on the key events in their life? Yes you will if you don't do something about your weight now.”

The obesity inquiry in Melbourne will be told that a national strategy encouraging overweight Australians to lose five kilograms in five months could reduce heart-related hospital admissions by 27% and cut deaths by 34% over the next 20 years.

One of Australia's leading obesity experts, Boyd Swinburn, will tell the inquiry in his own submission that a crackdown on junk food marketing to children is paramount in the fight against the epidemic.

With the fastest growing rate of childhood obesity in the world, Australia must make radical changes to the way unhealthy food is promoted if the rate is to be reduced, his submission reads.

Professor Swinburn, director of the World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre for Obesity Prevention at Deakin University, will argue that better nutritional labelling and more funding for effective treatments such as weight-loss surgery are also necessary.

Story from The Age 23/6/2008


Dr. Hooper's Comment

What a title to achieve – the worlds' fattest nation.

For years we have known that we were creeping up to America's high obesity percentages, but we were always able to say that at least one nation was ahead of us on the fat scale.

For years we have at least been able to rest in the knowledge that although we were close – we weren't quite there yet.

Well, now we are.

About 4 million adult Australians are obese, with 72% of middle-aged males and 58% of middle-aged females being overweight or obese. Based on available evidence, this means that those who fall into the overweight or obese category are now at a high risk of a heart attack or stroke in the longer term.

Now there are some problems with the methodology of this study, but the basic premise still remains; we all need to be proactive about our health.

So, before you eat that other donut, or swing past KFC on your way home to grab dinner for the family… do you want to be part of those statistics?

Simple changes to your diet and lifestyle can keep you out of the overweight and obese category.

Don't promise yourself to start walking next week, or to do the 'Lemon Detox' Diet the week after. Take action now.

Start exercising and eating right today, not tomorrow or next week. Make a plan. And stick with it.

Remember; no plan is a plan to fail.

The theory is simple – energy in and energy out. Don't put in your mouth what you can't burn off during your run later.

Want to know more about exercising – and where to start? Read our article on Exercise Deficiency to start understanding why you are overweight.

Need to know why the chips and coke aren't good for you? Read about The Five Worst Foods You Can Eat.

And finally, start eating properly with a good weekly eating plan. Check out our Weekly Meal Planner for a great program that incorporates good, healthy food that will actually satisfy you.