Advice on the importance of a healthy lifestyle along with the health statistics pointing out the risks of not doing so are all too often ignored.
That is glaringly obvious from an examination of the rates for diabetes, cancer, overweight and obesity in the population covered by the Western NSW Local Health District.
To start, 59.1 per cent of the population was overweight or obese in 2016. Also in 2016 the District, among peers, had the 4th highest rate of diabetes or high blood glucose in people aged over 16 (11.1 per cent). And it has a concerning high rate for cancer and it is expected to keep growing.
The risks of continuing to ignore advice and following bad eating habits, not exercising etc. are clear.
While significantly harmful conditions themselves, diabetes and overweight and obesity can lead to even more serious health complaints. Besides impacts on sufferers and families, treatment costs are a gigantic burden on the national health system.
And one serious source of the problem is our consumption of sugar.
The average Australian consumes:
- 25 teaspoons of sugar a day – 11 intrinsic sugars found naturally in fruit, vegetables and milk. The rest are “free sugars” (and optional) which include “all the guilty pleasures we associate with sugar”
- two teaspoons of free sugars a day more than recommended. This amounts to 730 teaspoons or three kilograms of pure sugar a year.
- 2310 teaspoons of sugar in drinks a year – our biggest “sugar fix” – with soft drinks and mineral waters on top of the list of drinks with the most sugar
Excessive consumption of free sugars is one of the greatest preventable threats to our health. It is linked to obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular and dental disease and even, some studies suggest, depression. It is addictive.
Two organisations, Marathon Health and Cancer Council NSW, back the push by the Australian Medical Association, for a tax on sugary drinks as a means to reduce waistlines and improve community health.
Politicians, and the food and drink industry, object to the tax idea.
It will be a long fight.
Meanwhile, the community needs to clue itself up on the sugar threat and make moves to cut its reliance on what is viewed as an increasingly harmful, if tasty, product.