nationwide improvements in diet and physical activity levels could
save 1000 lives each year from 2011 - and the benefits are greatest
A study in the latest New Zealand Medical Journal estimates that by
eating less fatty and sugary food, less salt and more vegetables and
fruit we could reduce the number of people dying each year from 2011
onwards by almost 1000. The study is a follow-up to a report released
in 2003 by the Ministry of Health and the University of Auckland looking
at the relationship between nutrition and deaths due to chronic disease.
The current report specifically looks at differences between Maori
The original study estimated that poor nutrition and physical inactivity
potentially played a role in up to 11,000 deaths in New Zealand in
1997 (two in every five deaths), with more than 4500 premature deaths
attributed to high cholesterol. It showed that high blood pressure
resulted in about 3700 deaths, overweight and obesity contributed to
3200 deaths, and inadequate vegetable and fruit intake contributed
to 1600 deaths.
Deputy Director-General of Public Health Don Matheson welcomes the
latest report on ethnic disparities in the burden of poor nutrition.
He sid that small reductions at the population level in our average
blood pressure, average cholesterol levels; average body weights and
increase in vegetable and fruit consumption would have a major impact
on population health.
Dr Matheson said that any study like this makes a number of assumptions,
but provides a useful estimate of the scope for health gain.
The calculations show that the gains are available to all of us, but
are even greater for Maori.
He says the key messages for individuals from the study are:
- eat at least five servings of vegetables and fruit each day
- choose foods and drinks that are low in fat, salt and sugar
- be physically active for at least half an hour a day.
Dr Matheson said that we are well placed to use the framework of the
primary health strategy to get some improvements in cholesterol and
levels through the emphasis on keeping people well and managing chronic
conditions. We can also expect to gain major health benefit from implementing
the Government's Healthy Eating-Healthy Action strategy, which aims
to provide a supportive environment to enable New Zealanders as a population
to eat better and to be more physically active.