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Overweight and Obesity - The Heavy Truth!

Overweight and obesity is a major – but largely preventable – public health issue in Australia.

In 2019, out of 22 OECD member countries, Australia had the 6th highest proportion of overweight or obese people aged 15 and over.

In Australia:

  • 1 in 4 children aged 2 to 17 are overweight or obese

  • 2 in 3 adults are overweight (36%) or obese (31%)

  • about 2 in 3 adults have a waist circumference that puts them at high risk of chronic disease

  • overweight and obesity increases with age – in 2017–18, 46% of those aged 18 to 24 years were overweight or obese, compared with 75% of those aged 55 to 64 years

  • those aged 65 to 74 years are the most likely of all age groups to be overweight or obese (78%)

  • 8.4% of the total burden of disease was due to overweight and obesity in 2015

The causes of overweight and obesity are not easy to define. Although diet and physical activity are central to maintaining a healthy weight, social, environmental, behavioural, genetic and physiological factors all play their part in contributing to weight gain. For many, weight gain is hard to avoid and very difficult to reverse.

Gaining weight can increase your risk of health problems, like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. People with most of their body fat around their waist, which surrounds our vital organs, are at an increased risk.

People also often have unrealistic expectations of how much weight loss is possible. Weight loss goals should be realistic (e.g. 1–2 kg per month), and even small amounts of weight loss improve health and wellbeing. Weight management must focus on health improvement and behavioural change rather than only on weight loss.

Lifestyle interventions are the first approach in weight management, with an aim to reduce energy intake, increase physical activity and encourage behavioural change. Interventions that manage all three of these areas have been shown to be more effective than those that address only one or two. More intensive interventions of very low-energy diets (e.g. meal replacement products), weight loss medicines and even surgery may be required if no weight loss or reduction in waist circumference is seen after three months.

Weight loss medicines and products should be used with a healthy diet and increased physical activity. Your local pharmacy is your health destination, with many offering weight management products and services.

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