Eating habits taught in the 70s to blame for weight gain in older generations

Sep 29, 2019
New research has found the eating habits taught as children throughout the 1970s are to blame for weight gain later in life. Source: Getty

Piling on a few extra kilograms as you age is not uncommon with those occasional sweets seeming to go right to the hips, but new research has found it’s not current behaviours and diets that are to blame for weight-gain but the habits taught as kids during the 1970s.

While shelves are piled with chocolates and lollies galore and obesity rates have risen exponentially of late, the study published in the Economic and Human Biology revealed the increase in sugar intake back in the 70s has led to this growing issue.

During this era it was discovered children were consuming about six grams per kilogram of body weight, which was about three times that of adults during that time. According to the study this was because of the growing love of soft drink, with consumption of the sugary drink increasing by 135 per cent across all age groups from 1977 to 2001.

Perhaps surprisingly this dropped throughout the 2000s and 2010s, however obesity rates increased dramatically in 2016. After further investigation of the obesity rates and consumption of sugar over different eras, the researchers came to the conclusion that there is a generational delay in weight gain from years before.

“We have modelled the recent increase of US adult obesity rates since the 1990s as a legacy of increased consumption of excess sugars among children of the 1970s and 1980s,” the research explained. “Our model proposes, for each age cohort, that the current obesity rate will be the obesity rate in the previous year plus a simple function of the mean excess sugar consumed in the current year.”

Adding: “This supports the perspective that the rise in US adult obesity after 1990 was a generational delayed effect of the increase in excess sugar calories consumed among children of the 1970s and 1980s.” Obesity has become a major cause for concern around the world with the 2017-18 Australian Bureau of Statistics National Health Survey showing that 67 per cent of Australian adults (12.5 million people) are obese. This increased from 63.4 per cent in 2014-15.

Further to this, an alarming study from the United Kingdom earlier this year claimed that obesity now trumps smoking as the leading cause of four different types of cancer in Britain. The study, released by Cancer Research UK, said that excess weight causes 1,900 more cases of bowel cancer than smoking in Britain each year.

It was a similar result for cancer of the kidneys, with 1,400 more cases caused by being overweight than smoking. The study also found that obesity caused 460 more ovary cancer cases than smoking in the UK and 180 more liver cancer cases.

“Scientists have so far identified that obesity causes 13 types of cancer but the mechanisms aren’t fully understood,” Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive said in a statement. “So further research is needed to find out more about the ways extra body fat can lead to cancer.”

Earlier this year, experts also called on governments to highlight the very real risk of obesity causing cancer, noting that similar campaigns have resulted in less people smoking. “There isn’t a silver bullet to reduce obesity, but the huge fall in smoking over the years – partly thanks to advertising and environmental bans – shows that Government-led change works,” Linda Bauld, Cancer Research UK’s prevention expert, said.

“It was needed to tackle sky-high smoking rates, and now the same is true for obesity.” The research also claimed that the modern world doesn’t make it easy to be healthy and while governments need to take action, there are changes people can make to their diet and lifestyle to reduce the risk.

“Small things like swapping junk food for healthier options and keeping active can all add up to help reduce cancer risk,” Bauld said.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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Do you think what you were fed as a child could be to blame for any weight gain later in life? Did you consume much sugar as a child?

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