Sydney: Obesity has reached epidemic proportions worldwide, with around 2.8 million people dying each year as a result of being overweight or obese, according to international health experts.To discuss the problem of obesity and evaluate a solution being developed by the Public Health Association of Australia, international nutrition experts met at an obesity and nutrition conference in Sydney.

Globalisation has brought fast food culture to Chinese cities, contributing to major obesity problems. A study in 2006 found that over one-fifth of the one billion obese or overweight people in the world are Chinese, a new agency reported.

“The rise of multinational fast food outlets has been a key change in our environment leading to fatter foods and fatter people,” said Bruce Neal, professor at the George Institute for Global Health in Sydney.

"As fast as we get rid of all our traditional vectors of disease, infections, little microbes, bugs, we are replacing them with the new vectors of disease, which are massive transnational, national, multinational corporations selling vast amounts of salt, fat and sugar," Neal said.

“Over time, consumers in developed countries have become acculturated to larger serving sizes that are well above what's necessary for an enjoyable, sensible and nutritious meal,” said Tim Gill, associate professor at the University of Sydney's Boden Institute of Obesity, Nutrition, Exercise and Eating Disorders.

Most shoppers base their food choices on price rather than nutritional value, with lower socio-economic status consumers more likely to eat high energy-dense foods such as sugary drinks, said Marion Hetherington, a professor of biopsychology at the University of Leeds.

However, Jennie Brand-Miller, a professor at the University of Sydney's School of Molecular Bioscience, said low-fat diets may not in fact be best for our health.

"Low-fat dietary advice has not been helpful on a population level. It is consistently associated with weight regain. It does not reduce the risk of chronic disease," said Miller.

"We need to pay more importance to protein. Protein is satiating, and we've undervalued it. We need to pay more attention to the sources of carbohydrate -- we need to switch from high GI to low GI carbohydrates," Miller added.


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