Ki­wis re­tain bronze plac­ing in obe­sity stakes

The Southland Times - - NEWS - RACHEL THOMAS AND TOM HUNT

Ki­wis are fat and get­ting fat­ter.

A new Or­gan­i­sa­tion for Eco­nomic co-op­er­a­tion and Devel­op­ment (OECD) ‘‘obe­sity up­date’’ shows that nearly one-in-three Ki­wis is obese and the only fat­ter na­tions are the United States and Mex­ico. New Zealand has been in third place since at least 2007 but then 26.5 adults were obese.

That rate has crept up to 30.7 per cent. While no pre­dic­tions were made in the re­port of where New Zealand’s waist­lines were head­ing, it did show that all coun­tries were pre­dicted to see a ‘‘steady in­crease’’ in obe­sity un­til at least 2030. The US, with a 38.2 per cent obe­sity rate, then Mex­ico, at 32.4 per cent, were the two most obese na­tions, while Ja­pan then Korea – at 3.7 and 5.3 per cent re­spec­tively – were the least obese.

Christchurch bariatric sur­geon Steven Kelly said: ‘‘Ba­si­cally, it’s bad and it’s get­ting worse.

‘‘Obe­sity con­tin­ues to in­crease at 0.5 per cent year on year, and it’s cer­tainly not slow­ing up.’’

Some of his pa­tients had body mass in­dexes (BMIs) of be­tween 70 to 80. BMI any­where over 30 is con­sid­ered obese, while 40 or above is mor­bidly obese.

‘‘Ev­ery week now, I would see a pa­tient who is over 200 kilo­grams.

‘‘Ten years ago you would be lucky if you saw one 200kg per­son a year.’’

The Min­istry of Health sta­tis­tics – which are more re­cent than the OECD ones – state al­most one in three peo­ple aged 15 or over is obese. Why are we so fat? The rea­sons for New Zealand’s bur­geon­ing waist­lines were com­plex, but it was es­sen­tially a toxic com­bi­na­tion of ge­net­ics and our en­vi­ron­ment, Kelly said.

For most of his­tory, food scarcity and famines had kept civil­i­sa­tion lean, he said.

‘‘Now, we live with the same genes but have en­ergy-dense read­ily-avail­able food any­where. ‘‘And ev­ery­body overeats.’’ The av­er­age Kiwi ate 350 more calo­ries ev­ery day than they needed, Kelly said.

Auck­land bariatric sur­geon Richard Bar­bor said we lived in a ‘‘toxic food en­vi­ron­ment’’.

‘‘The big­gest thing that keeps get­ting spun out in the me­dia is this fal­lacy of choice – that some­how eat­ing is ev­ery­body’s in­di­vid­ual re­spon­si­bil­ity.

‘‘If you ex­pose hu­mans un­healthy foods they get fat.

‘‘The hu­man body isn’t de­signed to fend off all these cor- to po­rate food out­lets. Our pop­u­la­tion needs pro­tec­tion from toxic foods.’’

That was where ac­tions such as ban­ning junk food ad­ver­tis­ing to chil­dren, adopt­ing sugar taxes and putting re­straints on peo­ple sell­ing re­fined car­bo­hy­drates should come in, he said.

Pub­lic health Pro­fes­sor Tony Blakely from Otago Univer­sity be­lieved ex­cess en­ergy in­take was the big­gest rea­son be­hind the epi­demic. ‘‘The food in­dus­try ... cre­ates foods that are tasty and en­joy­able to us so we’re left with ex­cess en­ergy in­take.

‘‘If we’re going to turn this around we do need to change the en­vi­ron­ment.’’

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