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Data suggests Australians are growing up as junk food junkies

By RJ Whitehead , 12-May-2014

Data suggests Australians are growing up as junk food junkies

Young Australians are consuming more soft drinks, burgers and chips than ever before, according to a report released today from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. 

In the first detailed information on Australia's eating habits available in 15 years, Louise Gates, ABS director of health statistics, said that new results from the government office’s Australian Health Survey showed 51% of teenage males and 44% of young adult males aged 19-30 had consumed soft drink on the day prior to interview. This is compared to under 30% for the rest of the population.

Burger lovers

"These results show that on a typical day in Australia, one in four teenage males consumes a burger compared with around only one in 14for the whole population. One in five males in this age range also consume chips compared with only one in seven across the whole population

"The report also recorded that rates of consumption of fruit and vegetables for teenagers and young adults were relatively low. Across these age groups, around 40% of males and 50% of females consumed fruit compared with 60% for the whole population.”

Just under three-quarters of teenagers and young adults consumed vegetables on the day prior to interview, almost half of this consumption was of potatoes—including chips—for both teenage males and females

"However, we did find that teenagers and young adults are not the nation's biggest coffee drinkers," added Gates. "While nearly one in two Australians overall drank coffee on the day prior to the interview, only one in seven teenagers and one in three young adults consumed coffee.

Other results from the survey included that just over 2.3m Australians aged 15 years and over reported being on a diet either for weightloss or for some other health reason. Being on a diet was most prevalent among 51-70-year-olds, of which 19% of females and 15% of males were on a diet. 

Additionally, 3.7m people reported avoiding a particular food due to allergy or intolerance. The most common type of food reported as causing intolerance was cow's milk, followed by gluten.

More multivits

The results prompted Carl Gibson, chief executive of the Complementary Healthcare Council, to declare that Australians are being starved of quality nutrients, leading them to reach for the multivitamins.

Just 6.8% of the population met the recommended usual intake of vegetables and just over half, at 54%, met the recommendations for serves of fruit.

It is perhaps not surprising, then, that in Australia there has been a growing use and acceptance of complementary medicines by individuals keen to care for their general health and wellbeing.

Many people take multivitamins because they know they don’t always eat as well as they should, with the typical Australian diet shown to fall well short of the recommended daily nutrient requirements.”

These recent findings follow ABS figures released in April that showed around four million Australian adults were found to be Vitamin D deficient in 2011-12. Vitamin D is essential for the body to absorb calcium effectively, which is important for bone health and muscle function.

Vitamin D deficiency rates were found to be particularly high in winter in Victoria and ACT (49% each) and Tasmania (43%).

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