Waistbands are expanding, as migrant communities are tipping the scales more than other Australians.
Our love of food is becoming such a problem that new findings predict over 35 per cent of Australians will be obese by 2025.
Greeks have higher rates of diabetes and heart problems than our Australian counterparts and have similar rates of weight related problems as those in lower socio-economic groups and aboriginal and Torres Strait islanders.
Clinical dietician and Adjunct Senior lecturer at La Trobe University, Dr Antigone Kouris-Blazos believes the weight problems for the Greek community is migration based.
“I think it’s got something to do with the affect migration has on a person’s psyche,” she told Neos Kosmsos.
“They’re migrating from a country that had hardships and food deprivation, and they’ve come to the ‘lucky country’. Food is part of showing that you’re successful.”
Migration probably contributed to larger serving sizes and the introduction of new, fattier foods in what would have been a very lean and healthy Mediterranean diet.
New research conducted at La Trobe University has seen a correlation between migrants and their bulging bellies.
Eating habits for Greek migrants to Australia seemed to deteriorate during the first 10-20 years of settlement, and then improved slightly when they went back to more traditional diets as they were aging.
But, Dr Kouris-Blazos says the improvements are a little too late.
“The thing is the damage has been done. Once you put on weight it’s actually harder to lose it,” she says.
The prevalence of overweight Greeks is doing nothing to curb their risk of diabetes. We are more predisposed to develop diabetes due to our genes and family history than our Australian counterparts.
Cultural Diversity program team leader for Diabetes Australia, Kristie Cocotis says there are many preventable type-2 risks we can eliminate.
“Genetics and family history play a major role in the development of type-2 diabetes. Being overweight and obesity can increase your risk of diabetes, particularly around the waist and abdomen. Age as well,” she told Neos Kosmos.
Sadly many don’t realize that they have diabetes as symptoms may not be apparent. Not being tested can lead to high risk complications.
Symptoms that are not as readily know for diabetes includes the increase the risk of infections, and sleep disorders. One in 20 pregnant women are affected by diabetes and three in five people with diabetes also have cardiovascular disease.
Diabetes is also expected to cause the largest growth in disability in the elderly.
As the fastest growing chronic illness in Australia, now more than ever it is imperative for the Greek community to watch their weight and exercise.
275 Australians develop diabetes everyday the rate of people switching to type-2 diabetes to type-1, which requires insulin injections daily, is rising.
Ms Cocotis believes many Greeks can turn their luck around by eating healthy and exercising.
“There are risk factors you can’t change such as family history, but there are other risk factors that you can change such as increasing physical activity, healthy diet (so increasing fruit and vegetables in your diet) and reducing your weight,” she says.
Next week will be diabetes awareness week, calling for more federal and sate funded diabetes prevention programs.
Greek Diet
Greeks may have a saving grace in this battle. The traditional Mediterranean diet is constantly being heralded for its healthy use of legumes, its non-fatty oils and vegetable based meals.
Now new research by La Trobe University is seeing protective elements to the diet. In an ongoing study of elderly overweight subjects from around the world, the Greeks were not dying, even though they had a higher risk of diabetes and heart disease.
The older Greeks were going back to traditional Mediterranean dishes that were giving them a small protection from being overweight.
Dr Kouris-Blazos believes that a healthy diet is necessary for any weight category.
“It is possible to be overweight and healthy, as long as you’re eating well,” she says.
“If you can’t shift your weight and you are overweight, at least try and eat a healthy diet”.
The cooking methods of Greeks are also being heralded, with new research showing it gives food a more favourable profile.
Low heat cooking like casseroles are healthier options.
Dr Kouris-Blazos believes now more than ever Greeks need to pass on healthy eating habits to their children.
“We should be encouraging the second and third generation to eat the traditional Greek food, plant based more than animal based,” she says.
She believes that pushing children to “eat more, eat more” is very detrimental and will forever influence their eating habits.
Australia is one of the most overweight developed nations, with overweight and obesity now affecting over 60% of Australian adults and one in four children.
Approximately 2.8 million people die each year worldwide as a result of being overweight or obese.
Over one-third of adults aged 20 years and over were overweight in the world.