Aussies will soon be as fat as Americans | Natasha Wallace | 04/23/10

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Hundreds of thousands of Australians will die unnecessarily over the next few years simply for being too fat.

Obesity has become the single biggest threat to public health in this country of 22 million.

Recent research by the Western Australia public health department shows that obesity has overtaken tobacco as the leading preventable cause of disease in that state and health experts have warned the data will be reflected across the country once it is carried out by other public health departments.

Fat Facts

  • 66 percent of adult Australian males are overweight or obese.
  • 55 percent of adult females are overweight or obese.
  • One in four children are overweight or obese.
  • Children's energy outputs have dropped by 650 calories in the past 50 years (equivalent to about three hours of walking).
  • 40 percent of children do not play organized sports.
  • It is estimated that if current trends continue, 80 percent of all Australian adults will be overweight or obese by 2020.
  • A minimum 140 Australians die prematurely every day from obesity-related disease.
    Source: Obesity Prevention Australia.

It is a hard fact to swallow given that health experts warned the government of a looming ''obesity epidemic'' more than a decade ago but little action was taken beyond convening a few talk fests on the issue.

Obesity as a cause of illness and premature death has doubled in just six years, accounting for 8.7 percent of all disease in the state in 2006, according to the WA research published this month. Smoking accounts for 6.5 percent.

The data paints a dire picture for the population and the public purse over the next 20 years.

At least 140 Australians die prematurely every day from an obesity-related disease, amounting to more than 50,000 people a year, according to the non-profit group Obesity Prevention Australia.

It took nearly half a century to discourage people killing themselves with smoking -- the latest Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development figures show the percentage of adults who smoke daily has halved from a rate of 35 percent in 1983 to 17 percent in 2007. But while Australia is a world leader in winning the war on tobacco, it does not have the luxury of time to arrest the dramatic escalation of obesity rates.

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