Obesity is now a major problem in Ireland – over 60 per cent of adults aged under 65 are either obese or overweight according to a new survey.
The National Adult Nutrition Survey has also revealed that obesity rates amongst Irish men have tripled over the last 20 years.
The survey was undertaken amongst 1,500 adults ranging in age from 18 to 90 who kept food diaries over a four day period.
They also answered a series of questions about their diet and exercise patterns and undertook blood pressure checks and weight assessments while blood and urine samples were also tested.
The results show that obesity has increased dramatically in Ireland in the last 20 years with men most at risk.
Male obesity has risen from eight per cent in 1990 to 26 per cent in men under the age of 65.
Female obesity was at 13 per cent 20 years ago and now stands at 21 per cent
The highest levels of obesity were found in men aged between 51 and 64, at 42 per cent. For those aged 65 and older, 75 per cent of women and 85 per cent of men were overweight or obese.
Just under 40 per cent of adults between 18 and 64 years of age were of normal weight.
TV is now the major recreational attraction for Ireland’s new generations of couch potatoes according to the nationwide poll.
Obese adults watch more television than those who are overweight who in turn watch more TV than adults of normal weight.
Women of normal weight watch 16 hours of television a week while obese women watch an average of 23 hours.
Exercise is most common amongst men and women of normal weight - men engage in more occupational and leisure activities while women are more active in household tasks.
The Department of Food, who funded the study, found that Irish people eat too much fat and salt and not enough fruit, vegetables or fiber while Irish women don’t have enough
iron, calcium and vitamins D and A in their diets.
The famed potato is still a staple of the Irish diet with adults consuming an average of 127 grams a day but adults under 65 years eat twice as much processed, chipped or roasted potatoes as those over 65 who prefer their spuds boiled or mashed.
Tea is still the beverage of choice for 90 per cent of the Irish population while a third of adults under 65 admitted to binge drinking – consuming six or more units of alcohol – on at least one of their survey days.
Dr Anne Nugent of UCD’s Institute of Food and Health told the Irish Times that the increase in obesity in adults needs to be tackled.
She said: “Obesity is strongly related to diabetes and is also linked with increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, gall bladder disease, bone joint disorders and certain cancers.
“There is a need to identify ways to help adults to adopt healthy eating and physical activity habits.”