The Australian paradox: a substantial decline in sugars intake over the same timeframe that overweight and obesity have increased

Nutrients. 2011 Apr;3(4):491-504. doi: 10.3390/nu3040491. Epub 2011 Apr 20.


Ecological research from the USA has demonstrated a positive relationship between sugars consumption and prevalence of obesity; however, the relationship in other nations is not well described. The aim of this study was to analyze the trends in obesity and sugar consumption in Australia over the past 30 years and to compare and contrast obesity trends and sugar consumption patterns in Australia with the UK and USA. Data on consumption of sugar in Australia, the UK and USA were obtained from the Food and Agriculture Organization for the years 1980-2003. The prevalence of obesity has increased 3 fold in Australians since 1980. In Australia, the UK and USA, per capita consumption of refined sucrose decreased by 23%, 10% and 20% respectively from 1980 to 2003. When all sources of nutritive sweeteners, including high fructose corn syrups, were considered, per capita consumption decreased in Australia (-16%) and the UK (-5%), but increased in the USA (+23%). In Australia, there was a reduction in sales of nutritively sweetened beverages by 64 million liters from 2002 to 2006 and a reduction in percentage of children consuming sugar-sweetened beverages between 1995 and 2007. The findings confirm an "Australian Paradox"--a substantial decline in refined sugars intake over the same timeframe that obesity has increased. The implication is that efforts to reduce sugar intake may reduce consumption but may not reduce the prevalence of obesity.

Keywords: sugars; Australia; epidemiology; obesity; sucrose.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Beverages
  • Carbonated Beverages
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Dietary Sucrose / administration & dosage*
  • Female
  • Fruit
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Overweight / epidemiology*
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Dietary Sucrose