The REAL state of the nation.
Obesity by the numbers
Over the past three decades, childhood obesity rates in ireland have tripled, and today, nearly one in three children in are overweight or obese. If we don't solve this problem, one third of all children born in will suffer from diabetes at some point in their lives. Many others will face chronic obesity-related health problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, and asthma.
How Did We Get Here?
Thirty years ago, most people led lives that kept them at a healthy weight. Kids walked to and from school every day, ran around at lunch, participated in games in school, and played for hours after school before dinner. Meals were home-cooked with reasonable portion sizes and there was always a vegetable on the plate. Eating fast food was rare and snacking between meals was an occasional treat.
Thirty years ago, kids ate just one snack a day, whereas now they are trending toward three snacks, resulting in an additional 200 calories a day. And one in five school-age children has up to six snacks a day.
Portion sizes have also exploded- they are now two to five times bigger than they were in years past. Beverage portions have grown as well- in the mid-1970s, the average sugar-sweetened beverage was 385grams (25 table spoons) compared to today, kids think nothing of drinking 560grams (37 table spoons) of sugar-sweetened beverages at a time.
In total, we are now eating 31 percent more calories than we were forty years ago–including 56 percent more fats and oils and 14 percent more sugars and sweeteners.
In a article in the Irish Independent DR Donal OShea really gets the point across.
In a stark warning at the Irish Heart Foundation Conference, the country's leading obesity expert Professor Donal O'Shea said that there's been an absolute explosion in the extreme end of obesity, with a 1,200pc increase in those with a body mass index of 52 or over (18 to 25 is normal).
So what's happening and, more importantly, why is it happening? Here are some of most shocking facts about obesity and the damage - physically, emotionally and financially - it's causing to our society today.
1 Nearly two thirds of us are either obese or overweight Almost a quarter of us are obese and a further 37pc of Irish adults are overweight. Among the over-50s the figures are even more alarming.
2 It's putting our children at risk Shockingly, the obesity crisis is now affecting children as young as three and four years of age. The Growing Up In Ireland Study showed that almost 20pc of nine-year-olds were overweight in 2011 and a further 7pc obese.
3 We lack self-awareness of body size There is a common perception that 'obesity' is a highly visible state of overweight. Definitions of overweight or obese are based on Body Mass Index (BMI) which is obtained by dividing a person's weight in kilograms by their height in metres squared. A BMI of 25 - 29 is considered "overweight" while 30 and above is classified as "obese".
So in fact the BMI cut-off for obesity is quite low and the research shows that adults are poor at identifying overweight in themselves. A UK study found that only 25pc of parents recognised that their child was overweight.
4 It's costing us millions The annual cost of obesity is estimated at €1.13 billion, 35pc of this - around €398 million - is in direct healthcare costs. The remaining €728 million are indirect costs in reduced productivity and absenteeism.
5 A ticking time bomb A severely obese person is likely to die eight to 10 years earlier than a person of normal weight. 6 Weight and cancer
risk - the evidence
6 Weight and cancer risk According to the World Cancer research Fund, the evidence that being overweight increases the risk of cancer is stronger now than ever before. In fact, scientists believe that, after not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight is the most important thing you can do for cancer prevention.
7 It can lead to prejudice and discrimination Despite worldwide increases in the prevalence of obesity and the recognition that genetics can be a factor for some individuals, prejudice and discrimination towards obese individuals persists.
8 Sugar is a big part
of the problem
According to Professor Donal O'Shea, the scientific evidence that is there towards sugar contributing to the obesity crisis is stronger now than ever before. Reduce sugar intake in children and you will lower the impact on the child's weight, he says.
"Sugar is addictive in the same way alcohol is addictive. Sugar as in sucrose is less addictive but we consume it in such large amounts," he says.
"The same parts of the brain that light up with alcohol light up with sugary drinks. People will not let their kids smoke a cigarette or drink a glass of wine - there has to be the same attitude to daily consumption of sugar sweetened drinks. These should only be consumed by children very occasionally."