Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

The Obesity Paradox

Credit: iStockphoto

Credit: iStockphoto

By Tim Olds

In the past 10 years there has been no increase in the fatness of kids, either in Australia or in many developed countries. At the other end of life, fatter adults are living longer than lean adults. What can be going on?

Professor Tim Olds is group leader of the University of South Australia’s Health and Use of Time program.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

In August 2006 I asked in this magazine whether the increase in childhood obesity was due to gluttony (kids eating much more now than they used to) or sloth (kids being less active now than they used to be). Contrary to most of my colleagues, I argued that the answer was sloth. There appeared to have been no increase – in fact there was a decrease – in energy intake in children since the end of World War II. I still think I was right on that one, but in the meantime the obesity battlefront has changed a lot.

End of the Epidemic?

In 2007 there were dire predictions that we were losing the obesity war. Experts warned about the apparently exponential increase in the prevalence of overweight and obesity in children, both in Australia and around the world. One British study, the inaptly named Foresight Report, suggested that by 2020, 42% of 2–11-year-old boys and 48% of girls of the same age would be overweight or obese, about double the figure at the time. By 2050, the report said, 90% of kids would be overweight or obese. Another researcher told us that more than half of all Australian adolescents would be overweight or obese by 2030.

Researchers in the UK, Australia and the US were predicting that this would be the “first generation to die before their parents”. They meant that the life expectancy of that generation would be lower than that of their...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.