27 September 2023

CSIRO finds Australian diets unbalanced

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The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) has released its latest Healthy Diet Score report, finding the nation to be failing when it comes to embracing a balanced diet.

After studying the dietary habits of over 235,000 adults across the country between 2015 and 2023, CSIRO found an average diet score of 55 out of 100, well below a healthy level.

Research Scientist at CSIRO and co-author of the Healthy Diet Score, Gilly Hendrie said that although Australians were often perceived as fit and healthy, the low collective score showed they only just meet the pass mark when it comes to national dietary recommendations.

“The score is a stark reminder of the work that needs to be done to improve our eating habits and reduce the national waistline,” Dr Hendrie said.

She said people across Australia, in all occupations and age groups, were invited to participate in the online survey between May 2015 and July 2023, assessing nine areas of diet quality and estimating compliance with the Australian Dietary Guidelines.

So, what is the nation eating?

According to Dr Hendrie, in about 28 serves per week the food component was the lowest scoring area of diet with a score of 20 out of 100.

“Alcohol, cakes and biscuits, chocolate and confectionery, and takeaway foods were found to be the biggest contributors,” she said.

“The average score for vegetables was 58 out of 100 with only four out of 10 adults reporting eating three or more different vegetables at their main meal – an indicator of a healthy diet.”

According to the report, the closest Australians got to meeting the Australian Dietary Guidelines was with beverages, achieving a score of 93 out of 100.

“This high score was achieved by predominantly choosing water over energy dense drinks such as soft drink or juice,” it said.

“Meats and alternatives came in second with Australians registering a collective score of 78 out of 100 for compliance with the dietary guidelines.”

The report showed that while women only had a slightly better diet quality than men (56 vs 53/100), their vegetable intake was markedly higher (62 vs 54/100).

“The good news is that a healthy diet can be achieved with some simple changes,” Dr Hendrie said.

She said improving a collective score was important to increasing wellbeing, tackling obesity and mitigating lifestyle diseases such as heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and some cancers.

“It is clear that we have a long way to go,” Dr Hendrie said. “As a nation, we need to be eating better.”

“It’s never too late to improve eating behaviour and overall health and wellbeing.”

More information, as well as taking the free CSIRO Healthy Diet Score, can be accessed at CSIRO at this PS News link.

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