Aims: To report the prevalence of obesity and body fat distribution in the New Zealand population and to determine if there is a trend to increasing obesity and changes in body fat distribution.
Methods: Body weight, height, two skinfolds (triceps and subscapular), and waist and hip circumferences were measured on 4,420 New Zealanders as part of the 1997 National Nutrition Survey (NNS97). These results are compared with data from the 1977 National Heart Foundation Survey (n=1,800) and the 1989 Life in New Zealand Survey (LINZ89) (n=3,300).
Results: 35% of the population (40.4% males, 30.1% females) were classified as overweight and a further 17% as obese (14.7% males, 19.2% females) in NNS97 compared to 32% overweight and 11% obese in LINZ89. Body weight and body mass index have increased in the last two decades. In addition, there has been an increasing trend towards central obesity as estimated by waist to hip ratio and subscapular to triceps ratio.
Conclusions: The increase in body weight, obesity, central obesity, and the proportion of the population likely to exhibit health risk indicators presents an increasing health problem in New Zealand.