Increase in prevalence of obesity and diabetes and decrease in plasma cholesterol in a central Australian aboriginal community

Med J Aust. 2000 May 15;172(10):480-4. doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.2000.tb124071.x.


Objective: To document change in prevalence of obesity, diabetes and other cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors, and trends in dietary macronutrient intake, over an eight-year period in a rural Aboriginal community in central Australia.

Design: Sequential cross-sectional community surveys in 1987, 1991 and 1995.

Subjects: All adults (15 years and over) in the community were invited to participate. In 1987, 1991 and 1995, 335 (87% of eligible adults), 331 (76%) and 304 (68%), respectively, were surveyed.

Main outcome measures: Body mass index and waist: hip ratio; blood glucose level and glucose tolerance; fasting total and high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and triglyceride levels; and apparent dietary intake (estimated by the store turnover method).

Intervention: A community-based nutrition awareness and healthy lifestyle program, 1988-1990.

Results: At the eight-year follow-up, the odds ratios (95% CIs) for CVD risk factors relative to baseline were obesity, 1.84 (1.28-2.66); diabetes, 1.83 (1.11-3.03); hypercholesterolaemia, 0.29 (0.20-0.42); and dyslipidemia (high triglyceride plus low HDL cholesterol level), 4.54 (2.84-7.29). In younger women (15-24 years), there was a trembling in obesity prevalence and a four- to fivefold increase in diabetes prevalence. Store turnover data suggested a relative reduction in the consumption of refined carbohydrates and saturated fats.

Conclusions: Interventions targeting nutritional factors alone are unlikely to greatly alter trends towards increasing prevalences of obesity and diabetes. In communities where healthy food choices are limited, the role of regular physical activity in improving metabolic fitness may also need to be emphasised.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diabetes Mellitus / epidemiology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / prevention & control
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypercholesterolemia / epidemiology*
  • Hypercholesterolemia / prevention & control
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander* / statistics & numerical data*
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Obesity / prevention & control
  • Risk Factors