Skip to content Skip to main navigation

Opinion

Expert strata, facilities & building management services

The skinny on fat – we’re the biggest losers

By Kim Fischer - 17 August 2015 60

fat man measuring tape

In Canberra, just over 50 per cent of us are overweight and 20 per cent of us are obese. The prevalence of obesity is now so high that the ACT Government has set up an obesity management service for very obese people.

We all know the potential consequences of being obese, including diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure, and heart disease, as well as breathing and digestive disorders. All of these problems put a strain on the ACT’s health system. But nothing more vividly illustrates the problem of obesity than Type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is a preventable but serious disease, highly correlated with obesity. Symptoms of diabetes are subtle but over time can lead to much more serious consequences including kidney failure, blindness, heart attacks, and limb amputations.

Over 40 per cent of Type 2 diabetes cases would disappear if obesity were also eliminated from the population. Costs of managing the disease in Australia have been estimated at $14 billion per year.

Canberra has an incidence of Type 2 diabetes slightly above the national average. With at least 13,000 people suffering the disease, Type 2 diabetes costs $190 million per year in the ACT alone.

The personal impacts and productivity impacts on the workforce are also significant, with estimates that over 10,000 people across Australia have had to quit work due to ill health caused by Type 2 diabetes. Of this group, nearly 7 out 10 live in poverty.

While establishing nutritional cause and effect is difficult, there are two big reasons which can be shown to have a big effect: portion size and sugar.

A CHOICE study showed that people ate 20-50% more if large portions were placed in front of them, whether in larger plates at restaurants or in larger portions like a bag of chips. Additionally, the study found many examples of food outlets encouraging consumers to “supersize”, spending a little more to get a lot more food, even if this exceeded their necessary dietary intake.

Similarly, while grains are an important part of healthy eating, the new Australian dietary guidelines halves the recommended serving size for grains as part of controlling portion intake.

The Australian Government doesn’t specify what a “serving size” should be, and so consumers are often confused about how much they should be eating. Foods made from grains are often very energy dense, particularly pasta, and it can be easy for people to overeat without realising it.

Sugar is also a major concern for weight control. Australia consumes the fifth-largest amount of sugar per person in the world. With increasing recognition that sugar affects our bodies in very similar ways to other drugs, the medical profession is calling for sugar to be regulated in a similar way to alcohol and tobacco.

For example, a 10 per cent tax on soft drinks in Mexico cut sales by 6 per cent nationally, and by up to 17 per cent in the lower income groups who are also more likely to be obese. This shows that either people will consume less sugar and our obesity levels will drop, or we will at least have the money to treat the results of these poor choices later.

What do you think?

Should we tax sugar to cover the costs of obesity?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

What’s Your opinion?


Post a comment
Please login to post your comments, or connect with
60 Responses to
The skinny on fat – we’re the biggest losers
rubaiyat 3:21 pm 17 Aug 15

Evilomlap said :

First of all, serving sizes are not realistic. A recommended ‘serving’ of any given breakfast cereal wouldn’t feed a freakin canary. Secondly, nutrition panels are needlessly (but probably deliberately) confusing. The ‘% of daily intake’ thing is a little better, but the traffic light system they use in the UK is much better. For each type of ingredient ie fats, sugars, protein, they have either a green, yellow or red colour code.

None of that “just happened”.

This government and industry worked hand in hand to ensure the information is unintelligible, and portion sizes are minuscule to hide the poor quality of the food and shift the blame onto the consumer for eating “too much”.

Carbohydrates, sugars and indicators of salt “sodium” are manipulated to hide what they really are.

The industry which completely changes packaging all the time to match media campaigns and “specials” claimed it would be very expensive and need years to implement labelling changes. Lies and more lies, supported by the government which gets substantial donations from the companies and individuals affected.

The government repeatedly acts against Australian citizens and the interests of its own voters and will not even endorse origin labelling, something that should have been demanded by the National Party.

Evilomlap 2:55 pm 17 Aug 15

First of all, serving sizes are not realistic. A recommended ‘serving’ of any given breakfast cereal wouldn’t feed a freakin canary. Secondly, nutrition panels are needlessly (but probably deliberately) confusing. The ‘% of daily intake’ thing is a little better, but the traffic light system they use in the UK is much better. For each type of ingredient ie fats, sugars, protein, they have either a green, yellow or red colour code.

rubaiyat 2:49 pm 17 Aug 15

Corporations package worthless water in a bottle.

Consumers buy it, avoiding the freely available alternative.

If you struggle with just how trained you are to do what you are told, no government programs or token brochures are going to fix that.

Step back, take a long hard look at what you are doing and take that first step towards thinking for yourself.

rubaiyat 2:27 pm 17 Aug 15

TuggLife said :


Cancel
TuggLife 2:01 pm 17 Aug 15

Cancel
rubaiyat 1:40 pm 17 Aug 15

TuggLife said :

A minor point – the Australian Government (with the Australian Dietary Guidelines) does actually clealry specify what constitutes a serving size: https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/food-essentials/how-much-do-we-need-each-day/serve-sizes . A serving of cooked pasta is 1/2 cup (75-120g). What can be confusing for consumers is that a serving size according to the Australian Dietary Guidelines can be very different to what the manufacturer has determined is a serving size on the nutrition panel.

There are many other ways for a government to support healthy food choices other than taxing unhealthy foods (which is fraught with classification problems, a la John Hewson’s birthday cake). Legislating for consumer-friendly nutrition labelling, investing in infrastructure for producing healthier foods, incentivising health food retailers to enter low-income areas, and regulating to prevent positioniong unhealthy foods where children gather are all effective means for government policy to have an impact on the choices consumers make.

A minor point is this government and Tony Abbott when Health Minister have opposed those exact measures.

Btw Faux Health Food Stores are no solution. The problem is not that complex nor is the really obvious solution. There are however a lot of interest groups making sure nothing gets done.

TuggLife 12:51 pm 17 Aug 15

A minor point – the Australian Government (with the Australian Dietary Guidelines) does actually clealry specify what constitutes a serving size: https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/food-essentials/how-much-do-we-need-each-day/serve-sizes . A serving of cooked pasta is 1/2 cup (75-120g). What can be confusing for consumers is that a serving size according to the Australian Dietary Guidelines can be very different to what the manufacturer has determined is a serving size on the nutrition panel.

There are many other ways for a government to support healthy food choices other than taxing unhealthy foods (which is fraught with classification problems, a la John Hewson’s birthday cake). Legislating for consumer-friendly nutrition labelling, investing in infrastructure for producing healthier foods, incentivising health food retailers to enter low-income areas, and regulating to prevent positioniong unhealthy foods where children gather are all effective means for government policy to have an impact on the choices consumers make.

Richard Fox 12:40 pm 17 Aug 15

One simple tax won’t “cover the costs of obesity”. In fact, just one method won’t help at all.

The key is in a number of methods. Cheaper access to fitness equipment through community gyms, more dietary education (not just for children but adults, particularly in the 40-55 age group), active public transport that allows you to do incidental exercise, even subsidised fruit and veg could all play a part.

Through its sprawled nature, Canberrans rely on their car a lot. Removing that reliance will take several generations. Light rail, urban density, removing car parking spaces at workplaces and a vastly improved bus system must help that.

For me, if you’re going to add tax to one product that could cut health problems, why not alcohol?

rosscoact 12:03 pm 17 Aug 15

dungfungus said :

I doubt if the demographic affected most by obesity reads Choice and despite the government now taking a leading role in fighting obesity, the individual must take charge of problems obesity presents.
It would be encouraging too if the private heath funds would give incentives for their members to undertake weight loss programs but regrettably, they don’t.
I recently was told to change my lifestyle (less high living and low thinking) to head off a potential liver problem. The liver is a store for excess body fat and sugars but it has limited capacity.
A specific “middle section” (guts) weight loss was suggested and I happily signed up. The cost was not significant but it would deter some people perhaps. I made enquiries with my private health fund to see what rebates were available and they said there were none (not even for a new pair of gym shoes).
I pointed out to them that the program could avert very expensive medical/hospital intervention and treatment if my liver disorder was not corrected and surely this would be preventive maintenance. They disagreed but wouldn’t discuss their reasons – easier to keep increasing premiums I guess.
The program has been a great success with a loss of 15% body weight over 3 months and I feel better than I have been for 40 years. It does require some physical exertion and mental discipline to eat less of one’s favourite foods but if I can do it almost anybody can.
The hardest thing is to walk past the local takeaway and ignore those delicious, tempting potato scallops in the food warmer.
The best outcome is that my liver is now totally normal and smaller meals, longer walks and some home based daily physical exercise is something to look forward to.

Well done you.

watto23 11:51 am 17 Aug 15

I think there are so many factors associated with weight loss, that any idea that a simple tax on sugar would have a hugely positive affect on obesity is over simplifying the problem. It really needs to be treated much the way that smoking is treated. I’d argue that the majority of people with weight issues, problem also has mental health issue of some kind or require help making the correct decisions.

There is also an emphasis on weight that while being true doesn’t mean one is healthy. I work with plenty of skinny people who eat a lot of take away. Some of them are blessed with a good metabolism, some do exercise, but yet society doesn’t immediately dub them as being unhealthy. I’m not a small person, I’ve always struggled with weight, I don’t eat take away food and I exercise 5-6 times a week. I can do chin ups, push ups and a 20km bush walk is not a challenge. Yet people judge me as unhealthy just because i can’t trim the 10-15 kgs that I’d love to get rid off but is a real challenge to me.

I don’t know what the solution is but I can tell you, when I’ve had mental health issues its usually stemmed from my inability to lose weight.

Ezy 11:28 am 17 Aug 15

Thats awesome news for you dungfungus! There are some other programs out there that are quite good for weight loss and ‘retraining’ on how easy and accessible it is to eat good food. One of the main things that everyone could look at for improving the waist size is to look at your portion size. A year ago I gave https://www.12wbt.com a go and the results were pretty good – I have never been overweight but I just wanted to trim down a bit for cycling. It worked and it taught me that there were a few things I was doing wrong. I lost 5kg and have kept that off since finishing it. A few work mates are doing it now and are enjoying the program. This is a recognised program so you are able to get a refund via your health cover.

Now onto food… It goes well beyond what the takeaway franchises are using to make their food.

People need to be educated on all forms of food that they are eating. Just because things contain sugar, it doesn’t mean other things that don’t contain sugar aren’t doing you damage. Prime example is some of the meat from the supermarket giants. You would know that these animals are contained in questionable ‘meat factories’ and injected and fed with all sorts of chemicals to get them to full size in the shortest amount of time. Where do you think this all ends up? If you eat meat, I highly recommend buying from a butcher who knows the farmers and the conditions as to how the animals are raised and fed. Farmer markets are also a good place to purchase your food.

Last weekend my wife and I visited a place down the coast where we learnt how to cook a few raw + vegan dishes. It was amazing how good this food made you feel – we didn’t need dinner because of how calorie dense the breakfast and lunch were. I am heading down to Tilba next week to listen to Rohan Anderson (Whole Larder Love) and Paul West (River Cottage Australia) talk about setting your garden up for year round produce. It is people like this that I respect their view on what good food is. If you can’t grow some of it yourself, Know where your food is coming from. If you have some time, please go and read some of Rohans stuff http://wholelarderlove.com/blog/ His language is honest and refreshing. It is brutal but people need to look to change their eating habits for their own health and their families health.

rubaiyat 11:06 am 17 Aug 15

dungfungus said :

The hardest thing is to walk past the local takeaway and ignore those delicious, tempting potato scallops in the food warmer.

This is pure learnt response, it is not natural.

To me the usual unfiltered cheap and nasty commercial fryer smell is just pure stink. Which do you think is more accurate? Particularly bad is whatever Subway and also Macdonalds saturate their stuff with.

rubaiyat 10:09 am 17 Aug 15

Curse this “spell correction”.

That should have been “well founded critics”.

The money is always with the bad guys. The corporations use the victim’s money against them.

rubaiyat 10:03 am 17 Aug 15

As with most matters the research and commonsense gets shouted down by the wishful thinking and huge amount of commercial propaganda we are inundated with.

It is not “lifestyle choices” because they are not choices made by individuals, who very very rarely think for themselves, usually just take the easy way out that is conveniently presented to them, herded to their fate.

Consumers close their eyes to the naked manipulation they are subjected to, denying that they are not n charge of their own lives. Marketers cleverly shield their Achilles heel by subtlety denigrating their well funded critics. The tobacco industry runs a devil may care line in movies, letting a “Wimp” warn the tough hero against smoking who shrugs it off, Message being ignore your rational self, just follow your emotions/habits.

The exact same social manipulation has been successfully used by all the unhealthy or dangerous corporations by the same marketing organisations that handled the Tobacco companies’ problems with government health warnings and regulations.

The tobacco wars are still being fought long after the problem was identified by research. We have many more similar major health and safety battles on our hands. The turning point is nearly always when a solid funding source can throw up a strong enough voice against the corporate subversion, to be finally heard by the public.

In the case of smoking the heavy tax on tobacco was used to drive home the Quit message, we need to do the same against the obesity industry. Sugar is not the sole enemy here, junk food and the supersaturation of calories in common food is. We need a sin tax on processed foods. The other major contributor of obesity, lack of day to day exercise is a broader and more difficult to tackle problem.

There are clear and simple structural things we can do to our environment that would encourage exercise rather than discourage it. Those seem patently obvious but face an almost irrational hysteria from those who see any change to the “Lazy Consumer Lifestyle” as an attack on modern society, which it is not because they are not synonymous.

dungfungus 9:20 am 17 Aug 15

I doubt if the demographic affected most by obesity reads Choice and despite the government now taking a leading role in fighting obesity, the individual must take charge of problems obesity presents.
It would be encouraging too if the private heath funds would give incentives for their members to undertake weight loss programs but regrettably, they don’t.
I recently was told to change my lifestyle (less high living and low thinking) to head off a potential liver problem. The liver is a store for excess body fat and sugars but it has limited capacity.
A specific “middle section” (guts) weight loss was suggested and I happily signed up. The cost was not significant but it would deter some people perhaps. I made enquiries with my private health fund to see what rebates were available and they said there were none (not even for a new pair of gym shoes).
I pointed out to them that the program could avert very expensive medical/hospital intervention and treatment if my liver disorder was not corrected and surely this would be preventive maintenance. They disagreed but wouldn’t discuss their reasons – easier to keep increasing premiums I guess.
The program has been a great success with a loss of 15% body weight over 3 months and I feel better than I have been for 40 years. It does require some physical exertion and mental discipline to eat less of one’s favourite foods but if I can do it almost anybody can.
The hardest thing is to walk past the local takeaway and ignore those delicious, tempting potato scallops in the food warmer.
The best outcome is that my liver is now totally normal and smaller meals, longer walks and some home based daily physical exercise is something to look forward to.

1 2 3 4

Related Articles

CBR Tweets

Sign up to our newsletter

Top
Copyright © 2017 Riot ACT Holdings Pty Ltd. All rights reserved.
www.the-riotact.com | www.b2bmagazine.com.au | www.thisiscanberra.com

Search across the site