Unhealthy food

Unhealthy diet and high BMI (overweight and obesity) is the biggest preventable risk factor in Aotearoa/New Zealand, jointly they account for 17.5% of premature death and disability

Key facts:

  • Aotearoa/New Zealand has the third highest rate of overweight and obesity for adults and children within OECD countries.
  • Dietary risk factors, which include overweight/obesity and unhealthy diets, are by far the biggest contributor of health loss in Aotearoa/New Zealand (17.5%).
  • Unhealthy diets are heavily influenced by unhealthy, obesogenic food environments, which in turn are influenced by the degree to which healthy food policies are implemented.
  • On average, 36% of the food bill for unhealthy foods and drinks.
  • There are about 3 times as many fast food outlets and convenience stores per 10,000 people in the most versus the least deprived communities
  • Children are exposed to on average 8 ads for unhealthy food per hour during their peak television viewing time.
  • Two in five schools still sell sugar sweetened drinks

Progress to date:

We are not on track to meet the WHO targets of no increase in adult obesity and diabetes from 2010 levels.

While childhood overweight and obesity rates are more stable, they are at a very high level (one in three) with high disparities. Expert groups suggest a target of achieving 25% prevalence of childhood overweight and obesity with reduced disparities by 2025 is an appropriate target for Aotearoa/New Zealand.

Other targets for nutrition suggested by expert groups (NZMA, INFORMAS) are also not being met.

Additionally, Health Coalition Aotearoa and other food expert groups remain concerned about changes to the food regulatory system between Australia and New Zealand which has negative implications for public health. Read more here. 

Aotearoa/New Zealand has the third highest rate of overweight and obesity for adults and children within OECD countries.

Priority prevention policies*:

  • Healthy food policies in schools and early childhood learning centres
  • Regulations to restrict the marketing of unhealthy foods to children and adolescents
  • A 20% health levy on sweetened drinks
  • Strengthen the Health Star Rating system and make it mandatory
  • Government-led healthier food reformulation, focusing on the serve size, energy, sodium and sugar contents of fast foods and supermarket products

For more information on healthy eating and nutrition research visit: Diabetes NZ, DIET, Edgar Diabetes & Obesity ResearchHeart Foundation and INFORMAS.