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Men in denial about weight issues as research shows 69% are obese

By Victoria O'hHra

Nearly seven out of 10 men in Northern Ireland are overweight or obese, a new report has revealed.

The Safefood report found that 69% of men - compared with 57% of women in the province - are considered to be obese.

Published today, the survey reveals that men have less healthy diets, eat more fat and salt, less fruit and vegetables, and see food as fuel.

It also showed men here have a tendency to eat larger portions of food, are less likely to be aware of healthy eating guidelines and that many do not regard healthy eating as an important factor for their long-term health.

Even more worrying is the fact that the report reveals men in Northern Ireland are more complacent about their weight issues and so they don't monitor their diet or think about losing weight.

It is the latest research to show the depth of the problem of obesity in the province. In 2013 a Northern Ireland health survey showed 61% of adults are overweight or obese. However, 43% of those assessed as overweight felt their weight was about right or too light, showing individual perceptions are often wrong.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride said at the time that tackling obesity is "one of the biggest public health challenges" in Northern Ireland. But the key findings of this latest survey show that men have a preference for larger portions and their food choices are more likely to be dictated by taste, habit and convenience, while concerns about healthy eating are much more common among women.

Knowledge and awareness of healthy guidelines and the connection of healthy food to good health is generally poor among men.

The most common way to assess if a person is obese is to check their body mass index (BMI). It divides your weight in kilograms by your height in metres squared. A BMI of 30-40 is considered obese,

Following the results of the survey Dr Aileen McGloin, scientific support manager at Safefood, said: "The new year brings the inevitable resolutions for weight loss in 2015. Men in Northern Ireland need to focus on developing a better appreciation of healthy eating, improving their diet and working towards a greater awareness of the impact of what they eat on their overall health.

"The report highlights that men are generally less engaged with food, both in terms of food hygiene and healthy eating, which is contributing to their greater levels of overweight and obesity in comparison to the opposite sex."

Dr McGloin said that some men are the main cook at home and have good food skills, but many need to rethink their food habits.

"TYhis report illustrates that when it comes to tasks such as planning, purchasing, shopping and cooking, women are more likely to be skilled," she said.

"This can make it harder for men to have a healthy approach to eating and diet, thereby resulting in poorer health outcomes."

In 2012, Safefood research found that the estimated annual cost of dealing with the issue of obesity in Northern Ireland is £370m a year.

The agency said about 25% of that total - £92m - was direct healthcare costs, including hospital, GP and drug treatment.

Indirect costs, such as absenteeism and lost productivity at work, accounted for the remaining 75% (£277m).

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