World study highlights NZ obesity rate

7 February 2014

World study highlights NZ obesity rate

A World Health Organisation study of fast food purchases per capita has found that New Zealand is one of the worst, with a sharp increase in both fast food consumption and obesity rates.

In a ranking of 25 countries, New Zealand had the fourth highest increase in terms of fast food purchases.

The authors behind the study suggest that better regulation of food products is the answer to cutting back on unhealthy eating.

Rather than looking at the density of fast food outlets or self-reported fast food consumption as researchers have done in the past, the authors took the novel approach of taking data on the number of fast food transactions per capita from 1999 to 2008 in 25 high-income countries and compared them with figures on body mass index (BMI) in the same countries over the same time period as an indication of fast food consumption.

A person with BMI of 25 or more is considered overweight, while one with a BMI of 30 or more is considered obese.

The authors of the study found that while the average number of annual fast food transactions per capita increased from 26.61 to 32.76, average BMI increased from 25.8 to 26.4. Thus, each 1-unit increase in the average number of annual fast food transactions per capita was associated with an increase of 0.0329 in BMI over the study period.

Auckland University's Professor of Population Nutrition and Global Health, Boyd Swinburn, says New Zealand should be taking notice of the study.

"New Zealand, the US, UK and Australia tend to be quite de-regulated, but northern european countries in particular tend to be more regulated, so what they found was that the higher the level of regulation, the less the fast food purchases and the less the obesity," Mr Swinburn said.

So we're starting to dig into some of the underlying causes if you like of the environment that's creating the obesity."

Mr Swinburn says we need to stop marketing fast food to children.

"Many countries have regulations against that and in New Zealand we say it's ok, we'll leave it up to the industry."

He also says we should look at introducing a calorie count on menu boards to see how many calories are in the item we're buying.

"I don't think we're doing things right in New Zealand and there's quite a few countries now that are getting the picture and are starting to put some regulations in place to make the environment less creating of obesity."

One in three kiwi children are said to be overweight or obese.

NZ Obesity Statistics - Ministry of Health 2012/13

7 February 2014

NZ Obesity Statistics - Ministry of Health 2012/13

Obesity key facts and statistics

This page provides introductory statistics about obesity in New Zealand as it affects adults and children.

Adult obesity statistics

The 2012/13 New Zealand Health Survey found that:

  • almost one in three adults (aged 15 years and over) were obese (31%), a further 34% were overweight
  • 48% of Māori adults were obese
  • 68% of Pacific adults were obese
  • there has been an increase in obesity in males from 17% in 1997 to 30% in 2012/13
  • there has been an increase in obesity in females from 21% in 1997 to 32% in 2012/13.

Child obesity statistics

The 2012/13 New Zealand Health Survey found that:

  • one in nine children (aged 2 to 14 years) were obese (11%)
  • a further one in five children were overweight (22%)
  • 19% of Māori children were obese
  • 27% of Pacific children were obese
  • children living in the most deprived areas were three times as likely to be obese as children living in the least deprived areas. This finding is not explained by differences in the sex, age or ethnic composition of the child population across areas of high and low deprivation
  • the childhood obesity rate has increased from 8% in 2006/07 to 11% in 2012/13.

Obesity Q n A - Ministry of Health Website

7 February 2014

Obesity  Q n A - Ministry of Health Website

Obesity questions and answers

Obesity is defined as an excessively high amount of body fat (adipose tissue) in relation to lean body mass. Obesity is associated with a substantially increased risk of a number of health conditions.

Why are we concerned about obesity?

There is evidence that obese children and adults are at greater risk of short-term and long-term health consequences.

Obese children are likely to be obese into adulthood and to have abnormal lipid profiles, impaired glucose tolerance and high blood pressure at a younger age. Obesity in children is also associated with musculoskeletal problems, asthma and psychological problems including body dissatisfaction, poor self esteem, depression and other mental health problems. Obesity is also associated with a long list of adult health conditions including Type 2 diabetes, ischaemic heart disease (IHD), stroke, several common cancers, osteoarthritis, sleep apnoea and reproductive abnormalities.

The impact of excess body weight on these diseases operates, at least in part, through its effects on insulin resistance, blood glucose, blood lipids and blood pressure. It is important to note that although BMI cut-offs have been used to define overweight and obesity, the risk of disease increases as BMI increases in all population groups, even those within the ‘normal’ range.

What causes overweight and obesity?

Overweight and obesity are the result of a positive energy balance – that is, a long term excess of energy intake (food and beverage consumption) over energy expenditure (basal metabolic rate, physical activity).

Although some people are more genetically susceptible to weight gain than others, the rapid increase in the prevalence of obesity in recent years has occurred too quickly to be explained by genetic changes and most experts believe it is due to living in an increasingly ‘obesogenic’ environment – one that promotes over-consumption of food and drinks and limits opportunities for physical activity.

How is obesity measured?

Body mass index (BMI) is a commonly used measure to classify underweight, overweight and obesity in both children and adults. BMI is a measure of weight adjusted for height and is calculated by dividing weight in kilograms by height in metres squared (kg/m2).

International cut-off points for adults aged 18 years and over
ClassificationBMI score (kg/m2)Risk of co-morbidity (multiple diseases)
Underweight < 18.50 Low risk (but risk of other clinical problems increased)
Normal range 18.50–24.99 Average risk
Overweight 25.00–29.99 Increased risk

Obese (class I)

Obese (class II)

Obese (class III)

≥ 30.00



≥ 40.00

High risk

Moderate risk

Severe risk

Very severe risk

For children aged 2−17 years, BMI cut-off points developed by the International Taskforce on Obesity (IOTF) are used to define thinness, overweight and obesity. The IOTF BMI cut-off points are sex and age-specific, and have been designed to coincide with the WHO BMI cut-off points for adults at age 18 years


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