Minister Wallace highlights the need for a reduction in our fat, sugar and salt intake in order to address high obesity levels in the Irish population
Ms Mary Wallace, T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children with special responsibility for Health Promotion and Food Safety today, (25th November, 2008), called for a reduction in the consumption of foods high in fat, sugar and salt as she announced the publication of a new report which provides a detailed analysis of the nutritional status and dietary habits of the Irish population. This sub-report from the 2007 Survey of Lifestyle, Attitudes and Nutrition (SLÁN) entitled “Dietary Habits of the Irish Population” reviews trends in the numbers who are overweight and obese; patterns of fat, proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals intake; and consumption patterns in relation to the food pyramid. It also provides information regarding meal habits, household food expenditure and positive lifestyle behaviours.
A major concern in the Irish diet is the over consumption of foods high in fats and sugar, such as oils, butter, cakes and biscuits. On average, SLÁN 2007 respondents consumed 7.3 daily servings of these types of food, which according to the food pyramid should be ‘used sparingly’ (i.e. less than three servings daily).
Central obesity (as defined by a large waist measurement) is associated with a higher risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease and 60% of those surveyed had a waist measurement that would be defined as centrally obese, with a gender breakdown of 47% men and 70% women.
“The findings from this report confirm that, as a population, we eat far too many foods which are high in fat, sugar and salt. We all need to make a conscious effort to reduce our intake of these foods. Poor dietary habits are a major threat to the health and well-being of the population. The message from this new report to eat healthy foods and to reduce our consumption of high fat and sugary foods could not be any clearer.”said Minister Wallace.
The SLAN 07 Study was funded by the Department of Health and Children, and the analysis for the sub-report on nutrition was carried out by the UCC Department of Epidemiology and Public Health led by Professor Ivan Perry.
“The level of salt in the Irish diet is also a huge concern. The Report shows that dietary salt intake among respondents was excessive with 71% of all respondents exceeding the upper recommended intake limit of 6g of salt per day. This highlights the importance of the ongoing work with the food sector to reduce the salt content of processed foods. Indeed the food sector have a clear responsibility to work with the health sector to make the healthier food choices the easier choices to make.”said UCC professor, Ivan Perry.
The Department of Health and Children is finalising a National Nutrition Policy which will identify the actions required across various sectors to address the nutritional needs of the population. The policy will have a particular focus on the 0 -18 year age group. The policy is expected to be published early in 2009.
The Department of Health and Children is co-ordinating a national salt reduction programme as part of an EU framework to reduce salt in breads, meat products, cheeses and ready meals by 16% over the next four years.
Download the report SLÁN 2007: Dietary Habits of the Irish Population
SLÁN 2007 is the third study of its kind in Ireland, following previous surveys in 1998 and 2002. The 2007 SLÁN survey involved a nationally representative sample of 10,364 respondents of whom 9,223 (89%) completed a standard Willett Food Frequency Questionnaire. The survey included additional anthropometric measurements (taken by trained field workers) and other physical examination data from two sub-samples: 967 younger adults aged 18-44 years and 1,207 older adults aged 45 years and over.