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More New Zealanders dying of obesity – study

Saturday 15 Dec 2012 4:53 p.m.

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Restaurant portion sizes should be cut and adverts promoting unhealthy food banned from New Zealand television to curb Kiwis ballooning waistlines – the advice comes as new figures reveal that we're living longer, but are sicker than ever before.

This year more New Zealanders will die from obesity-related illnesses than will be killed in car crashes.

But obesity is now so common that many of us fail to recognise that it's an issue at all.

“More than 60 percent of adult population are either overweight or obese, that in a sense it seems to be normal,” says medical director of the Heart Foundation, Dr Norman Sharpe. “And so I think that leads to a degree of denial and inaction.”

Latest research from the Global Burden of Disease study reveals obesity is now killing three times as many people worldwide as malnutrition.

And in New Zealand a high body-mass index is now the leading cause of years lost in lifetimes thanks to poor health.

It's alarmed health experts who say it's time more drastic measures were introduced.

Dr Sharpe recommends “such things as regulating or monitoring portion sizes in restaurants”.

Others are more extreme, calling for a ban on fast food.

“After the invention of smoking that was brought from the US, I think McDonald’s is the second most harmful element of civilisation,” says Valery Feigin of AUT University.

Dr Sharpe says adverts promoting unhealthy food should be taken off air.

“It requires a whole of government and a whole of community approach and a long-term approach.”

So while the research shows people are living longer, they are also sicker than before, and the bill for obesity in New Zealand is up to $849 million a year for healthcare and lost productivity.

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