Thursday 22 February 2018

Only one-third of us getting enough exercise

Varadkar bids for fizzy drink tax to be put into Budget to cut obesity

Health of the Nation
Health of the Nation
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Our waistlines may be expanding more slowly, with new figures today showing obesity rates are levelling off or even falling slightly.

However, six in 10 of us are still overweight, the first 'Health of the Nation' report from the Department of Health since 2007 reveals.

It comes as it emerged Health Minister Leo Varadkar has written to Finance Minister Michael Noonan to put a 20pc sugar tax on fizzy drinks in next week's Budget.

He is the second health minister to make this recommendation, which has so far been resisted by the Government.

The measure comes amid increasing evidence that the consumption of fizzy drinks is linked to the risk of obesity, providing high calories but little or no nutritional value.

The Department of Health survey, to be published today, shows that only one in three of us is getting enough exercise.

And only four in 10 men are as active as they should be.

However, we are all well aware our couch potato habits are no good for us.


Taking more exercise is the most popular lifestyle change we want to make, but we are spending an average of five hours a day sitting down.

Recent studies show that extended periods of sitting raise the risks of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression and obesity.

While most are eating fruit and vegetables daily, the majority are also indulging in snacks, at least once daily and sometimes twice a day.

Younger people are less likely to eat breakfast, even though nutritionists believe it provides brain-boosting energy and helps control food cravings.

Overall, four in five describe themselves as being in good health, but our most common health complaints are high blood pressure and back pain.

The report shows less than one in five people smokes, but this is higher among lower socio-economic groups.

However, the generational change in smoking habits means that more adults are now ex-smokers than smokers.

The latest snapshot of our health and well-being comes as the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) announced a national consultation by the Department of Health.

It will seek views on legislation for the introduction of mandatory posting of calories on restaurant and café menus.

The consultation is based on proposals to put calorie counts on non pre-packaged food served by food businesses for immediate consumption on or off the premises.

All interested parties are invited to communicate their views by completing an online questionnaire on the FSAI's website (

The consultation will close on October 28.

The proposed legislation will apply to food businesses regardless of size, type of food sold, type of ownership or location.

It will require all menus, including boards, leaflets and digital menus to display calorie details alongside the price in the same font size and colour.

It is proposed that calorie amounts will be displayed in Kcal (kilo calories) and KJ (kilojoules) using a verifiable tool for calorie counting such as MenuCal - a free online calorie calculator developed by the FSAI to assist food businesses.

However, many chefs in the industry have already rejected the idea.

Irish Independent

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