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Delamere Speech On Nutrition

Hon Tuariki Delamere, Associate Minister of Health
Wednesday, 25 August 1999
Embargoed to 9.30am
New World Supermarket, Thorndon
Molesworth St, Wellington

Kia ora Dr Russell, Dr Durham, distinguished guests....

We have before us today in this document - NZ Food : NZ People - a ground-breaking piece of fundamental research that will help shape our public health policies for years to come.

For that reason, I want first to commend Dr Russell and his team for the extraordinary effort they have put into researching, collating and analysing the data. It's a remarkable piece of research and scholarship of which they can be proud.

It's a somewhat less cheerful story when we turn to the results of the survey.

For example, I'm happy the survey shows that the majority of New Zealanders are getting adequate levels of most nutrients from their everyday diets.

Two-thirds of the New Zealand population meet the recommended vegetable intake of three serves per day and the energy contributed by total fat has decreased since 1989/90 for both males and females.

Blood cholesterol levels have dropped since 1989/90 and New Zealand females have a low risk of inadequate iron intake.

However, other results show that obesity has increased by 50 percent since 1989/90 and that over half of all New Zealanders are now overweight or obese.

That's a future public health problem of, literally, massive proportions.

Similarly, inadequate calcium intakes are seen in females of all ages (21 - 37 percent) and 15-18 year males (33 percent).

Those figures point to serious bone problems in years to come.

I don't intend here to detail everything in the survey, but it means the Ministry of Health now has excellent data on the nutritional status of New Zealanders to guide future policies and programmes.

Because that is the next step. The value of this survey is that it gives us a firm baseline against which we can measure future health policies and trends.

Because the choice of food we eat is such a personal matter, it's important that New Zealanders recognise they have to undertake massive behavioural changes if we are to reverse the trend towards greater obesity that is now evident.

Just to emphasise that point, there's a table on page 180 that shows the changes in the last decade in the choice of food we eat.

You'll be intrigued to learn we are eating more edam and gouda cheese, but less colby, mild or tasty.

Similarly, we're choosing more pears, feijoas, bananas and grapes, but we're cutting back on raisins, pineapples and grapefruit.

On the vegie front, we're getting stuck into the broccoli, brussels sprouts and capsicums, but easing back on green beans, pumpkins, peas, bean sprouts and celery.

It is clear then that we are changing, not because the Government made us, but because we made our own choices.

The good news is that percentage contribution to energy from fat has fallen from 37.5 percent to 35 percent.

However, mean body weight has increased by 3.2 kg. Associated with this increase was an increase in obesity levels from 11 percent to 17 percent.

Those are serious figures and will require action from all of us, the Ministry, agencies involved in combating heart and other lifestyle diseases, and, most importantly, from ordinary New Zealanders, to ensure we don't continue to be an ever-growing burden on the planet.

I compliment Dr Russell and his colleagues on their remarkable research and I commend the results to you all.

Thank you.

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