Tackling expanding weight problem at food source

University of Newcastle laureate professor Nicholas Talley
University of Newcastle laureate professor Nicholas Talley

THE notion that we eat too much and do not exercise enough is too simplistic, a Hunter academic says.

University of Newcastle laureate professor Nicholas Talley said there was increasing evidence that highly processed, highly sugared foods were not just giving us extra calories, but changing the way our bodies function.

“We are what we eat, that old saying is true, and when we change our dietary intakes we change what’s going inside of us, the way we work, including the bacteria inside of us,” he said. “That’s part of the problem – it’s not the whole problem, because we do exercise less, partly because we drive and we live in cities where it can be hard to walk as much as we would need to, but also, unfortunately, if you become overweight or obese as a child you are more likely to continue to have that problem long term.”

Professor Talley, pro vice-chancellor of global research at the University of Newcastle and editor-in-chief of The Medical Journal of Australia, recently represented Australia at the Science20 meeting in Germany to discuss global health for the G20 summit in Hamburg in July.

He chaired a national summit on obesity in 2016, where he said representatives from the food industry, urban planners, and health professionals agreed they needed to work together.

“If the government went with something like a sugar sweetened beverage tax, they’d actually have funding available to support all aspects of a program,” he said.

“Obesity is a serious disease, and the really alarming part of it is that it is increasing,” he said. “We’ve had this increase over the last three or four decades, and according to the projections, that is going to continue, and that is very worrying. There are certain diseases that can lead to obesity, but obesity itself is a condition that leads to all sorts of other, very serious, health problems in a significant number of people.”


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