The 1999-2000 Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle Study indicated over seven million, or 60% of adult Australians aged 25 years and over were overweight. Of these, over two million (21%) were obese. Sixty-seven per cent of men and 52% of women in Australia were now overweight or obese.
The fattening of Australia has continued. By 2014-15 the proportion of men who were overweight or obese increased to 71% and for women to 56%. Most alarming was the degree of obesity among children. The 2015 study found that one in four Australian children aged 2 to 17 was overweight or obese, including 20% of those aged 2 to 4. The prevalence of severe obesity among adults had almost doubled since 1995. And many estimates predict that the situation will worsen in the future, with one-third of children carrying too much weight by 2025. Excess weight contributes significantly to rates of disease including cancers, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, strokes and death.
Statistics like these are fuel for critics of our fast-food culture. In 2018 Australians spent nearly 32% of the household food budget on fast food. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics Australian Health Survey in 2011-12, fewer than 7% of Australians consume a diet consistent with the Australian Dietary Guidelines. They found that 35% of adults’ kilojoules (and 41% of children’s) came from less healthy food and drinks. According to the Cancer Council NSW, the average fast food meal provides about half (47%) of an adult’s daily energy requirement.
In 2011 the Australian Government recommended that fast food providers display the kilojoule count of products on their menu boards to help consumers make healthier food choices. This has become mandatory in New South Wales, South Australia, the ACT, Queensland and Victoria. Few fast-food chains have committed to displaying them nationally, whether mandatory or not. There is also some doubt as to whether people understand kilojoule counts or what the daily recommended kilojoule intakes are for men, women and children.