News that Irish people are placing an increasing emphasis on healthy eating is welcome. The Ipsos/MRBI poll carried out for Bord Bia this week found that over half of adults are now taking a home-made lunch to work more often than previously, while one third of respondents said they were going out to eat lunch less often.
There has also been a twenty per cent drop in the last ten years in the number of people who own a deep fat fryer. And the finding that just one in twenty children in the State bring crisps to school in their lunchboxes, compared with almost one half of British children, is impressive.
However the finding that 85 per cent of Irish people consider they have a healthy diet is open to challenge. At the very least it calls into question respondents’ understanding of what constitutes a balanced, nutritious diet. It flies in the face of rising obesity figures, with the latest research showing that one in four adults here are obese. Some 45 per cent of men and 33 per cent of women in Ireland are overweight, while Ireland has the fourth highest prevalence of overweight and obesity for men in the EU.
Respected and substantial ongoing research such as the Survey of Lifestyle Attitudes and Nutrition in Ireland (Slan) has consistently found a rising prevalence of overweight and obesity. And the fourth Irish Health Behaviour in School-aged Children Survey, published last month, a large study designed to examine the health of 10- to 17-year-olds, reported lower levels of physical activity compared with previous surveys. It also found a significant increase between 2002 and 2010 in the percentage of young people who reported they were on a diet.
Given the time lag between behavioural change and measurable results in terms of obesity levels, the Bord Bia survey could possibly signal a turning point for the better. But we need to see hard figures from established surveys before we can signal progress on worrying levels of obesity in Ireland.