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In 2007–08, more than 90% of Australian adults did not eat enough vegetables. Almost 50% did not eat enough fruit and 45% consumed whole milk on a regular basis.

People who do not follow a good diet are at greater risk for Type 2 diabetes.

Why is this an important indicator for diabetes?

The proportion of people who are not following national dietary guidelines is an indicator of the number of people at risk for Type 2 diabetes (AIHW 2007). Eating a balanced diet is essential for good health, and a diet that is low in fibre and high in saturated fat increases the risk of becoming overweight or obese. This is a risk factor for Type 2 diabetes (AIHW 2008).

The Australian dietary guidelines for adults (NHMRC 2003) recommends adults should:

  • eat at least five serves of vegetables per day
  • eat at least two serves of fruit per day
  • reduce their daily intake of saturated fat (Box 1).

For this indicator, daily fruit and vegetable consumption is used to estimate fibre intake, and whole milk consumption is used to estimate saturated fat intake in the absence of a better available measure.

What are the results?

In Australia from 2004–05 to 2007–08:

  • The proportion of adults who ate less than five serves of vegetables each day increased from 86% to 91% (Figure 1).
  • The proportion of adults who ate less than two serves of fruit each day also increased from 46% to 49%.
  • The proportion of adults who usually drank whole milk each day remained at almost 45%.

Figure 1: Dietary risk factors among Australian adults, 2004–05 and 2007–08

Vertical bar chart showing for dietary risk factors; per cent on the y axis and inadequate vegetable intake, inadequate fruit intake and usual whole milk consumption on the x axis.

Notes  

  1. Directly age-standardised to the 2001 Australian population aged 18 yeas and over.
  2. Includes only those of whom fruit, vegetable and milk consumption was known.
  3. Based on self-reported data.

Sources: AIHW 2011 analysis of ABS NHS 2004–05 and 2007–08 (reissue).

Box 1: Dietary Guidelines for Australian adults

Enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods:

  • Eat plenty of vegetables, legumes and fruit
  • Eat plenty of cereals (including breads, rice, pasta and noodles) preferably wholegrain
  • Include lean meat, fish, poultry and/or alternatives
  • Include milks, yoghurt, cheese and/or alternatives. Reduced-fat varieties should be chosen where possible
  • Drink plenty of water

And take care to:

  • Limit saturated fat and moderate total fat intake
  • Choose foods low in salt
  • Limit alcohol intake
  • Consume moderate amounts of sugar and food containing added sugar
  • Prevent weight gain by being physically active and eat according to your energy needs
  • Care for your food: prepare and store it safely
  • Encourage and support breastfeeding

Source: NHMRC 2003

What are the data sources?

There are two main data sources:

  • The 2004–05 and 2007–08 (reissue) Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) National Health Survey (NHS) (ABS cat. no. 4634.0), and
  • The 2001 ABS Estimated Resident Population (ERP).

How is this indicator calculated?

These rates are directly age-standardised using the 2001 ABS ERP and compare:

  • numerators: the number of adults consuming:
    • less than five serves a day of vegetables
    • less than two serves a day of fruit, and
    • whole milk, to
  • denominator: to the total adult population (from the ABS ERP).

Are there any data limitations?

  • Data relating to dietary behaviour and weight should be interpreted with caution as the effect of diet on body weight is complex and occurs over a period of time (AIHW 2004). For example, a higher consumption of reduced-fat milk among overweight people compared with those of healthy weight may reflect attempts to lose weight. Furthermore, self-reported measures of dietary behaviour do not indicate actual food intake and are subject to inaccurate or under-reporting of food consumption. These data come from self-reported responses to the surveys and so may be inaccurate. The measure of people not following the guidelines is an approximation that does not cover all aspects of dietary behaviour as detailed in Box 1.
  • Detailed information on food and beverage intake has not been available at a national level since 1995. The ABS National Health Surveys only collect information on selected dietary behaviours: the number of serves of fruit and vegetables 'usually' eaten each day; and the type of milk 'usually' consumed.
  • People in different regions of Australia will have differing levels of access to fruit, vegetables and reduced or no-fat milk. This will affect their dietary choices.

Definitions

Adults are people aged 18 years and over.

At risk dietary behaviours
Table 1 shows the variables used to calculate 'At risk' dietary behaviour.

Table 1: Variables for 'at risk' dietary behaviour
At risk dietary behaviour Proxy variables At risk dietary behaviour Recommended intake
Insufficient fibre intake Vegetable intake Less than 5 serves per day At least 5 serves per day (300g)
Fruit intake Less than 2 serves per day At least 2 serves per day (300g)
High saturated fat intake Usual whole milk consumption High saturated fat intake Reduced-fat varieties or alternatives chosen where possible

Source: NHMRC 2003.

Where can I find more information?

AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) 2008. Diabetes: Australian facts 2008. Diabetes Series No. 8. AIHW Cat. No. CVD 40. Canberra: AIHW.

AIHW 2007. National indicators for monitoring diabetes: report of the Diabetes indicators, Review Subcommittee of the National Diabetes Data Working Group. Diabetes series no. 6. Cat. no. CVD 38. Canberra: AIHW.

AIHW 2004. Physical activity, diet and body weight: results from the 2001 National Health Survey. Risk Factors Data Briefing Number 1. Canberra: AIHW.

National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) 2003. Dietary guidelines for Australian adults. Canberra: NHMRC.

Abbreviations

ABS
Australian Bureau of Statistics
AIHW
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
ERP
Estimated resident Population
NHMRC
National Health and Medical Research Council
NHS
National Health Survey