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Overweight and obesity are serious, chronic medical conditions that are associated
with a range of debilitating and life-threatening conditions. They are also among the
most complex and difficult problems to treat.

Diseases and conditions associated with overweight and obesity impose huge
financial burdens on health-care systems and the community. Studies have
estimated that the health care costs of excess body weight in Australia today are
about $1.2 billion.

Fact: Being overweight or obese affects your health

People who are overweight or obese are at increased risk of health problems,
ranging from the psychological to the physical. Immediate problems include:

low self-esteem

social isolation


heat intolerance

breathlessness on exertion


Other health consequences of excessive body fat include:

type 2 diabetes

gall bladder disease

sleep disorders

high blood pressure

coronary heart disease


some cancers


back problems

reproductive abnormalities.

Fact: The number of children who are overweight or obese is increasing

The number of overweight and obese Australian children and adolescents has
doubled in the last 15 years. It is estimated that between 20 and 25 percent of
children and adolescents are now overweight or obese.

Because many of these people are at risk of becoming overweight or obese as
adults, preventing and managing obesity in children is a priority.

In 1999-2000 almost 60 per cent of Australians – 7.5 million people – were
overweight or obese.

Fact: Poor diet is a key risk factor for overweight and obesity

While many factors can influence an individual's weight, overweight and obesity
are mainly caused by an imbalance when energy intake from foods exceeds
energy expended in physical activity.

Australia’s fresh food and vegetables may be among the best in the world, yet
most people don't eat enough of them.

There is growing evidence that eating the recommended amount of fruit and
vegetables not only contributes to good health, but also protects against a
number of diseases.

Increasing the average person’s fruit and vegetable intake may be the single
most important dietary change needed to reduce the risk of major diseases and
is a vital part of weight management.

A National Nutrition Survey undertaken in 1995-96 collected comprehensive data
from about 13,000 people on how much fruit and vegetables we eat. It collected
information on people aged two years and older from both metropolitan and rural
areas across Australia.

The survey found that:

Children ate less fruit and vegetables than recommended, with around 30
per cent eating no fruit or vegetables on the day before the survey.

Consumption of fruit by both boys and girls declined with age.

42 per cent of adults did not eat any fruit on the day of the survey.

Only 17 per cent of adults had the recommended daily amount of fruit (two

16 per cent of adults did not eat any vegetables on the day of the survey.

About 32 per cent of adults reported eating more than 300g (four serves)
of vegetables a day. This is the minimum recommended by the National
Health and Medical Research Council.

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The more recent 2001 National Health Survey gave similar results:

Men and women aged 18-24 years reported the lowest levels
of fruit and vegetable intake.

Almost half of this age group reported a daily vegetable intake
of three serves or less, and a fruit intake of one serve or less,
which is only about half the amount recommended for good

Results from the two surveys also indicated that:

Fruit intake was highest in Western Australia and South
Australia and lowest in Tasmania and the Northern Territory.

On average, people in rural and remote areas ate more
vegetables than those in rural centres and metropolitan areas.

People born in European countries other than the UK and
Ireland had higher fruit intakes than those born in Australia,
the UK, Ireland or East Asia.

People who live in the most disadvantaged socioeconomic
areas, who live alone (especially men), or are unemployed are
more likely to have an inadequate fruit and vegetable intake.

People living as a couple with children were most likely to
have an adequate intake of fruit and vegetables.

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ABS (2003). Health Risk Factors, Australia. Cat No. 4812.0. Commonwealth of
Australia: Canberra.

AIHW: A rising epidemic: obesity in Australian Children and Adolescents, Risk
Factors Data Briefing Number 2, October 2004. Canberra: AIHW.

AIHW: Bennett SA, Magnus P & Gibson D 2004 . Obesity trends in older
Bulletin no. 12. AIHW cat. no. AUS 42. Canberra: AIHW.

AIHW: Dixon T & Waters A-M 2003. A growing problem: trends and patterns in
overweight and obesity among adults in Australia, 1980 to 2001. Bulletin No. 8.
AIHW Cat. No. AUS 36. Canberra: AIHW.

Al-Yaman F, Bryant M & Sargeant H 2002. Australia’s children: their health and
wellbeing 2002.AIHW Cat. No. PHE 36. Canberra: AIHW.

Dunstan D, Zimmet P, Welborn T et al (2001) Diabesity and Associated
Disorders in Australia 2000. Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle Study.
International Diabetes Institute.

McLennan W and Podger A (1999). National Nutrition Survey. Foods Eaten
Australia 1995. In Baghurst P, Beaumont-Smith N, Baghurst K & Cox D (1999).
The relationship between the consumption of fruits and vegetables and health
status. Report to the Department of Health and Aged Care and SIGNAL.

Must A and Straus RS (1999). Risks and consequences of childhood and
adolescent obesity. International Journal of Obesity, 23 (Suppl 2):S2-S11.

NHMRC (2003) Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Management of Overweight
and Obesity in Children and Adolescents. Commonwealth of Australia:

NHMRC (2003). Dietary Guidelines for Australian Adults. Commonwealth of
Australia: Canberra.

NSW Health Department (2002a). NSW Obesity Summit Background Paper.
NSW Health Department: Sydney.

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