Australians eating more cakes than fruit, health survey finds

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 21st May 2014
The Heart Foundation is concerned that Australians are eating more cakes than fruit

More than two thirds (68 per cent) of Australian adults are eating biscuits and cakes daily compared with 58 per cent who eat fruit, according to results from the Australian Health Survey (AHS) food and nutrients highlighted by the National Heart Foundation.

Australian Food News reported on Monday that the data, which was collected by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) provided the first comprehensive analysis of what Australians are eating in almost 20 years. The survey found the average total energy intake marginally down to 7,400kj for women (from 7,481 in 1995) and 9,954kj for men (down from 11,049kj). The survey also showed the average daily intake of carbohydrates down from 257g to 226g for the average adult.

The Heart Foundation said that while there had been some improvements in the Australian diet since the 1995 survey there are still some “very concerning” trends.

  • Fruit and vegetables – only 1 in 14 people (7 per cent) were found to be eating enough fruit and vegetables. One in four adults reported eating no vegetables, and more than 40 per cent had no fruit.

  • Saturated fat – the results of the survey showed that the average Australian adult was getting 12 per cent of their daily energy from saturated fat, which the Heart Foundation said was “still far too high and more than 70 per cent higher” than it should be. The data also showed that Australians were getting this saturated fat from highly processed foods like cakes, biscuits, pastries (23 per cent); and meats, including processed (21 per cent) and dairy (24 per cent – including things like ice-cream).

  • Salt consumption averaged 2,445mg daily, just above the maximum upper limit set by the NHMRC (2,400mg). The Heart Foundation said that his result meant salt added at the table or during cooking (which was not counted in the survey) would put most people “well in excess” of the recommended intake.

“We need a three-pronged approach, with robust food labelling, a comprehensive reformulation program and solid education campaigns,” said Kellie-Ann Jolly, the Heart Foundation’s National Spokesperson and Director of Cardiovascular Programs, Victoria. “The importance of working with industry to reformulate food cannot be understated,” she said.

“Everyone knows that it’s important to eat a balanced diet and be active, but this data reveals just how many of us struggle to achieve this healthier lifestyle,” Ms Jolly said. “Tackling our expanding weight problem needs to be the country’s top priority as being overweight puts a lot of strain on bodies,” she said.

The Heart Foundation said it believed that part of the solution lies in the development of the Australian government’s fledgling food reformulation program.

The Heart Foundation said it was encouraged by the Federal Government’s interest in improving the Australian food supply, and urged continued commitment and expansion of the Australian Government’s Food and Health Dialogue to achieve this.

“The Heart Foundation has been pushing hard for this data which will help us to get a picture of the nation’s health and inform our future priorities,” Ms Jolly said.

“With poor diet a driving force behind obesity, cardiovascular disease and many chronic diseases – we’ve long known what we should eat but we haven’t known what we are actually eating until now,” Ms Jolly said.

“We certainly hope that that it is not another 20 years until the next report, and that this marks the start of regular consistent nutrition data which will help inform our evidence based approach to population health,” Ms Jolly said.

The AHS food and nutrients data is based on dietary recall of a sample of 12,100 Adults and children. It is the most comprehensive study of the health of Australians ever undertaken and was conducted by the ABS in 2011-13 and part funded by the National Heart Foundation of Australia.