Ireland is now on track to match US rates of gross obesity, the results of the latest online poll indicate. In total, seven in ten respondents described themselves as being overweight.

In a clear indication of the scale of Ireland’s obesity epidemic, some 29% of all respondents categorised themselves as having a serious weight problem, with 24% describing themselves as ‘very overweight’ (obese) and a further 5% describing themselves as ‘morbidly obese’.

The medical term morbid obesity describes people with a BMI (body mass index) of more than 40. This is regarded as a life-threatening condition.

Commenting on the findings of this new survey, Dr O’Shea, consultant endocrinologist at Loughlinstown and St Vincent’s Hospitals, Dublin, said that while the poll would generally accurately reflect the most recent official figures on overweight and obesity in Ireland, these results indicated that more people appear to be entering the dangerous ‘morbidly obese’ category.

Just one in four respondents described their own current weight as ‘normal’, indicating just how profoundly overweight and obesity is impacting on Irish society. Only one in 25 respondents (4%) described themselves as ‘underweight’.

“This costs a vast amount to the individual personally and the health service financially”, Dr O’Shea commented. “If the 5% self-assessed as morbidly obese is accurate, then we have joined the US in terms of the extent of the problem at the higher end”.

Dr O’Shea pointed out that usually, self-reporting surveys tend to in fact significantly underestimate people’s weight problems. “I would hope that is not the case here,” he added.

A major Department of Health-sponsored SLAN survey in 2008 found that more than one-third of respondents reported themselves as being overweight and 14% reported being obese.

OECD figures for Ireland published last week showed that Ireland’s obesity rate is higher than the OECD average. Obesity increases the risk of a range of other conditions, from arthritis to some cancers, diabetes, heart disease, cirrhosis of the liver and risks undergoing surgery. Children born to obese mothers are at a heightened risk of dying by the age of 12 months.

Obesity levels in Ireland have risen dramatically in the last 20 years. In 1990, only one in 10 Irish men were obese; that figure is now officially put at one in four. In the same period, obesity in women has risen from 13% to 21%, according to the Irish Universities Nutrition Alliance (IUNA).

Ironically, the effect of the Government’s recent reduction of VAT rates on certain items means that junk food is now cheaper than ever, representing the double blow of a loss to the Exchequer in VAT revenues and an even greater financial burden of future ill health arising from continued chronic overconsumption of cheap processed foods that are high in fats, sugars and salt.

Courtesy of

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