A Question of Time: 50 Years of Growing Obesity

Back in the 1960s and 1970s, it was pretty rare to find anyone with a serious weight problem. Sure, other health issues were worse than they are today, but obesity just wasn't a problem for most people. How things have changed! Nowadays, the world - and doctors' waiting rooms - are full of people struggling with their weight.

A Growing Problem

The first signs of what would become an increasingly widespread obesity problem didn't really begin to surface until the 1980s.  Initially, the situation wasn't too serious, but over time the prevalence of obesity has increased significantly. By 1989–90, the rate of obesity was around 9-10%; by 2001 it had risen to 16% in men and 17% in women. Today, almost 2 out of 3 adults in Australia are obese. 

You Are What You Eat

This left researchers asking why. Lifestyle changes are partly responsible, with deskbound careers replacing manual labour and video games replacing sports. But the real problem might be our changing diets.

Processed Problems

The days when people mostly ate fresh foods are gone. Nowadays, more and more of our foodstuffs are heavily processed, and are often loaded with obesity-causing ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup.

The solution is likely to be complex. It's pretty clear, though, that diet can make a difference. We can't turn the clock back 50 years, but changing our diets to include more fruit and vegetables needn't be too hard. Options such as fresh juice are a great way to improve your diet, for example.

It's not all bad news. Changes in the availability and variety of foods have brought improvements in nutrition. By substituting beneficial foods for high fat and sugar, you can enjoy a 21st century diet without the 21st century waistline.


Catherine Craig
Catherine Craig

Author