NACCHO #ABS Aboriginal Health Download Report : Consumption of Food Groups from the Australian Dietary Guidelines, 2012-13

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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders consume too little of the five major food groups and too much sugar and other discretionary foods, according to figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) today.

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Like the rest of the population, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ diets fail to meet the 2013 Australian Dietary Guidelines, which recommend minimum serves for vegetables, fruit, dairy products, lean meats and alternatives, and grain-based foods.

ABS Director of Health, Louise Gates said the latest results showed Aboriginal and Torres Strait adults consumed an average of 2.1 serves of vegetables per day, which is less than half of the 5-6 serves recommended by the Guidelines.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults consumed almost one serve (or 30 per cent) less vegetables than non-Indigenous people,” said Ms Gates.

“They also consumed just one serve of fruit on average, half the recommended two serves per day.”

In remote Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people consumed less than one serve (0.9) of fruit (e.g. less than one medium sized apple) and less than one serve (0.9) of dairy products (e.g. less than one cup of milk) per day, which was lower than those living in urban areas (1.3 serves for both fruit and dairy products).

However, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in remote areas consumed around half a serve more of grain foods and lean meats and alternatives than people living in urban areas.

“The data also shows that 41 per cent of the population’s total daily energy intake came from energy-dense, nutrient-poor ‘discretionary foods’, such as sweetened beverages, alcohol, cakes, confectionery and pastry products,” said Ms Gates.

On average, this equates to over six serves of discretionary foods per day, triple the number of vegetable serves consumed. The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend limiting discretionary foods to occasional, small amounts.

KEY FINDINGS

The 2013 Australian Dietary Guidelines (ADG or the Guidelines) recommend that Australians “Enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods from the Five Food Groups every day and drink plenty of water”.1

This publication provides analysis on the consumption of the Five Food groups from the Australian Dietary Guidelines using nutrition data collected in the 2012-13 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey (NATSINPAS).

FIVE FOOD GROUPS

In 2012-13, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people consumed an average total of 10 serves of foods from the Five Food Groups per day.

Vegetables and legumes/beans group

    • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged two years and over consumed an average of 1.8 serves of vegetables and legumes/beans per day compared with 2.7 among non-Indigenous people.
    • The number of vegetable serves consumed increased with age, with children aged 2-18 years consuming 1.4 serves per day on average compared with 2.1 among adults aged 19 years and over.
    • The average daily consumption of vegetable and legumes/beans serves for each age-sex group of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people was considerably less than the respective recommendations.

Fruit group

    • Around 1.2 serves of fruit (including fruit juice and dried fruit) were consumed per day on average by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged two years and over, compared with 1.5 serves per day in the non-Indigenous population.
    • Fresh or canned fruit made up 62% and one-third (34%) came from fruit juice.
    • Children consumed more serves of fruit than adults, averaging 1.6 serves per day compared with 1.0 respectively.
    • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in non-remote areas consumed more serves of fruit on average than those living in remote areas (1.3 serves compared with 0.9).
    • The average daily consumption of 1.0 serves of fruit by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults was half the recommended two serves.

Milk, yoghurt, cheese and alternatives group

    • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged two years and over consumed an average of 1.2 serves of milk, yoghurt, cheese and alternatives per day, compared with 1.5 serves among non-Indigenous people.
    • Dairy milk made up almost two-thirds (65%) of this food group, followed by cheese (30%).
    • The average daily consumption of milk, yoghurt, cheese and alternatives for each age-sex group of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, with the exception of children aged 2-3 years and girls 4-8 years, was considerably lower than the respective recommend number of serves.

Lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds, and legumes/beans group

    • The average consumption of lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds and legumes/beans was around 1.6 serves per day for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged two years and over, slightly less than for non-Indigenous Australians (1.7 serves).
    • People living in remote areas consumed more serves of lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds and legumes/beans than those living in non-remote areas (2.0 serves compared with 1.4).
    • Lean red meats made up almost half (49%) of the serves of lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds and legumes/beans. The contribution of lean red meats was higher for people living in remote areas compared with non-remote (61% compared with 44%)
    • The average daily consumption of lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds and legumes/beans for each age-sex group of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, with the exception of girls 2-3 years, was considerably less than the respective recommendations.


Grain (Cereal) foods group

    • On average, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged two years and over consumed around 4.1 serves of grain (cereal) foods per day, compared with 4.5 serves among non-Indigenous Australians.
    • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in remote areas consumed more serves of grain (cereal) foods on average than those in non-remote areas (4.6 serves compared with 4.0 serves)
    • One-quarter (25%) of grain (cereal) foods consumed were from wholegrain and/or high fibre varieties.
    • The average number of serves of grain (cereal) foods consumed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander boys aged 4-13 years and girls aged 4-11 was equal to or greater than the recommendation.

WATER

The Guidelines also include the recommendation that Australians drink plenty of water. In 2012-13, the average amount of plain water, including both bottled and tap, consumed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people was around one litre per day (997 ml), 76 ml less than the average for non-Indigenous people (1,073 ml). An additional 262 ml of water was consumed from other non-discretionary beverages such as tea and coffee. Plain water contributed just under half (48%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ total beverage consumption, slightly less than that of non-Indigenous Australians (50%).

UNSATURATED SPREADS AND OILS

The Guidelines also recommend a daily allowance for unsaturated fats, oils and spreads. In 2012-13, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 2 years and over consumed an average 1.4 serves of unsaturated spreads and oils from non-discretionary sources.

DISCRETIONARY FOODS

The Guidelines recommend that discretionary foods (i.e. those not necessary for nutrients but are often high in saturated fat, salt, sugar or alcohol) are only consumed sometimes and in small amounts. However, over two-fifths (41%) of total daily energy in 2012-13 came from foods and beverages classified as discretionary. 2

According to the Guidelines, a serve of discretionary food is around 500-600 kJ. Based on this, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people consumed an average of 6.1 serves of discretionary foods per day, which was higher than the non-Indigenous population average of 5.5 serves. The leading contributors to serves of from discretionary foods were alcoholic beverages (10%), soft drinks (9.1%), potato products such as chips and fries (8.2%), pastries (7.1%), cakes and muffins (6.4%) and confectionary (6.3%).

This graph shows the mean serves consumed from the five Australian Dietary Guidelines food groups and unsaturated spreads and oils from non-discretionary sources plus serves of discretionary foods for Australians aged 2 years and over by Indigenous status

(a) Based on Day 1. See Glossary for definition.
(b) From non-discretionary sources unless otherwise specified.
(c) A discretionary serve is defined as 500-600 kJ. Discretionary serves were derived by summing energy from discretionary foods and dividing by 550 kJ. Does not include meats that do not meet the ADG criteria but are not flagged as discretionary.
Sources: National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey, 2012-13 and the National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey, 2011-12.

ENDNOTES

1. National Health and Medical Research Council, 2013, Australian Dietary Guidelines. Canberra: Australian Government. <https://www.nhmrc.gov.au/_files_nhmrc/publications/attachments/n55_australian_dietary_guidelines_130530.pdf >, Last accessed 27/10/2016

2. See discussion of Discretionary foods from 4364.0.55.007 – Australian Health Survey: Nutrition First Results – Foods and Nutrients, 2011-12, <http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/4364.0.55.007~2011-12~Main%20Features~Discretionary%20foods~700 >

More details are available in Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey: Consumption of food groups from Australian Dietary Guidelines (cat. no. 4727.0.55.008), available for free download from the ABS website, http://www.abs.gov.au.

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