21 March 2013

Hungry Planet - Australia

Let's compare the eating habits of these two families living in Australia (from the book Hungry Planet by Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio). I truly admire the courage of all these families, willing to pose for a picture with the food they eat, and all my respect to the authors for the work they are doing.

The first family is the Brown family (3 generations, 7 members) living in Riverview, Australia. 

Their PICTURE is here.

They are of Aboriginal ancestry. The parents' and grandparents' childhood was somewhat different from the life they are living now. Their diet changed as well. You can read more about Aboriginal lifestyle in this great article: Australian Aborigines: Living Off the Fat of the Land by Sally Fallon.

Their food proportions are as follows (8.7 kg of food per person per week):
  • 23% starches (potatoes, rice, bread, cereals, etc.)
  • 10% sweet foods (sugar, biscuits, ice cream, jam, etc.)
  •   5% dairy (cream, yoghurt, cheese)
  • 47% meat, fish, eggs
  •   4% fruits (oranges and bananas)
  • 11% vegetables (pumpkin, carrots, tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, etc.)
If we group these foods, we get:
  • 37% starches + sweet foods + fruits
  • 63% meat, fish eggs + vegetables (the big portion of this being meat, fish eggs)
Beverages (5.6 litres per person, per week):
  • 13% milk
  • 77% soft drinks and juices (they do not consume alcohol). This equals to more than 4 litres of soft drink and juices per person, per week. 
If we look at the proportions, it would be easy to blame their chronic diseases on meat and fat, which takes up almost half of their diet. However, if we look at the Aboriginal diet, at the time when European settlers arrived, they were hunter-gatherers, they relied on animals from the land and sea, and some plant food (roots, leaves, berries, etc.). The meat proportion of their diet was also very high, yet  - according to the settlers - they were strong and sturdy. They did not display the symptoms of chronic diseases. Meat and fat cannot be blamed for the sudden obesity epidemic among these people.


The amount of sugar this family consumes is quite elevated. It equals to 1 kg of sugar (only from sodas and juices) per person, per month, on top of the sugar contained in the sweet foods (sweet food consumption: around 3 kg per person, per month). 

I repeat: each person "drinks" one kilogram of sugar from the beverages in a month

Sugar and refined carbohydrates are definitely new items in the Aboriginal diet. They were not part of their diet for thousands of years, only in the past 50 to 100 years. 

Most of the members of this family are overweight. "All three of the adults have diabetes." (- the authors). The grandmother on the picture suffered from stroke. They are trying to do the right thing by eating low-fat dairy and to replace the regular soft drinks with Diet Coke, eating less salt, etc. I don't think this will bring them closer to a health. Obviously, the first thing to do would be to cut down on sugar.

Article: Sugar, not fat, exposed as deadly villain in obesity epidemic

The second family is the Molloy (father, mother and two children) living in Brisbane, Australia. 

Their PICTURE can be seen here.

Here are the proportions for their food (8.7 kg per person, per week):
  • 20% starches (potatoes, bread, pasta, etc.)
  • 10% sweet foods (jam, biscuits, nutella, etc.)
  •   6% dairy (yoghurt, cream, cheese, butter)
  • 23% meat, fish, eggs 
  • 19% fruits (watermelon, apples, oranges, bananas, etc.)
  • 22% vegetables (quite a lot of legumes and onion, carrots, tomatoes greens, etc.)
The proportions are quite well spread out across the food types. 

Beverages (20.1 litres per person, per week):
  • 40% milk
  • 60% wine, beer and juices. This equals to 3 litres of drinks per person, per week, for this family. One litre less than the previous family's amount of soft drink.
I immediately noticed the higher proportion of milk, compared to the previous countries. 

Facts about Australia (from the book):
  • Overweight population: 70% male, 60% female.
  • Obese population: 21% male, 23% female.
  • Life expectancy gap between indigenous and non-indigenous population: -20%.

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