South's obesity rate not easy to explain

LAUREN HAYES
Last updated 05:00 08/03/2014

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There is "no simple answer" to why the south has a higher obesity rate than other regions, experts say.

A Southern District Health Board profile this week showed 29.8 per cent of all southern adults were classified as obese, compared with the national average of 28.4 per cent.

However, the board cannot explain why the south has a higher obesity rate than the rest of New Zealand.

Women's, Children's and Public Health Directorate medical director Marion Poore said there was "no simple answer" to why southern rates were higher than the average.

The changing nature of food in supermarkets, the increasing consumption of fast food and a reduction in manual labour were all identified factors in higher obesity rates, but these were not unique to the southern area, she said.

Southern Institute of Technology sport and exercise nutrition lecturer Will Payne said the region's obesity was caused by overconsumption.

It did not matter how much exercise a person did if they ate more energy than they burned off, Mr Payne said. Southlanders needed to do 30 minutes of exercise a day to maintain their weight, or at least an hour a day to lose weight, he said.

"We can do better, and especially the younger children coming through - [we need to be] making sure that they get opportunities to be physically active."

However, Southland's younger residents seem to be stepping in the right direction with food.

A sneak peek into the lunchboxes of Southland schoolchildren this week showed, at least in the classroom, youngsters were eating relatively healthily.

Yoghurt, crackers and sandwiches were staples in many of the lunchboxes on show, while spaghetti buns, boiled eggs, celery, rice and popcorn also featured.

A few pies, biscuits and chippies still made their way to school, but these were generally accompanied by fruit - apples and raisins being the most popular.

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