Friday 30 September 2016

Revealed: New plan to stop Ireland becoming the fattest country in Europe

Published 22/09/2016 | 02:30

Progress on health goals set in 2000
Progress on health goals set in 2000

The first obesity plan to stop Ireland becoming the fattest country in Europe will be launched by the Government today with the aim of securing a 5pc reduction in our average weight in the next decade.

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The 'Healthy Weight for Ireland' plan, to be launched by Junior Health Minister Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, wants a national 'Operation Transformation'-style effort to secure a sustained weight loss annually.

The cross-department drive, which will incorporate improvements in our surroundings to make it easier to exercise, will also feature a revised food pyramid which indicates what we should being eating most of and what we need to limit.

The pyramid suggests the correct amount of protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals we should be eating daily to maintain good health.

The last food pyramid - which is divided into six shelves - was produced in 2010 and put carbohydrates, a good source of nutrients and fibre, at the bottom shelf level. This meant it was the food group we could eat most of in the day.

Read more: School and shop-bought lunches make our teenagers fat

It could comprise six or more servings of energy-providing carbohydrates such as porridge, potatoes, pasta, brown bread and rice.

In the new guide, the highest bulk group will be replaced by fruit and vegetables.

The introduction of a sugar tax on fizzy drinks is also planned but it will not be enforced until 2018.

Other elements include:

■ Making PE a Leaving Cert subject to increase the exercise of young people. It will remain optional but it is hoped to encourage more girls to be active.

■ Food companies will come under more pressure to reduce ingredients such as fat, sugar and salt.

■ There will be stricter codes around the marketing of food and drinks, particularly to children.

■ More calorie posting to allow us make informed food choices.

It comes as a new report in 'The Lancet' medical journal today places Ireland in 13th place on a world league table of countries for progress in meeting health targets set out in 2000.

The targets cover a wide range of areas including child overweight, infant mortality and transmission of diseases.

The Central African Republic, Somalia, and South Sudan were ranked as worst.

Read more: Three-quarters of toddlers being overfed by parents

The USA ranked 28th in the world. This relatively poor performance was mainly driven by deaths due to interpersonal violence, HIV, harmful alcohol consumption, childhood overweight, and suicide.

The USA also did badly compared to other high-income countries on maternal, child, and neonatal mortality reflecting the large differences in access and quality of healthcare in the USA.

Obesity expert Prof Donal O'Shea said: "We know that children as young as two are presenting to weight clinics and are seriously overweight, and we know that one in four children in Ireland is overweight or obese.

"This disease is the greatest public health problem facing Irish society."

Irish Independent

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