2 in 3 adults overweight

17 Jan, 2012. New research announced by safefood today revealed that despite 2 out of 3 adults on the island of Ireland being overweight (1), only 40% of adults now classify themselves as such (2). This indicates that thousands of men and women are still failing to recognise that they themselves are overweight, and are putting their health at increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. The research was conducted as part of safefood’s ongoing ‘Stop the Spread’ campaign to tackle overweight and obesity.

Other findings of the research identified that concerns about diabetes have doubled in the last year (2) and there has been a marked improvement in adults’ understanding of where to accurately measure their waist* with 35% of respondents correctly saying it is around the bellybutton area, an increase of 6% since last June (2).  The number of people who had measured their waist in the six weeks before the survey was conducted has also increased, with 20% of people claiming to have done so (2). 

Commenting on the findings of the research, Dr. Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, Director, Human Health & Nutrition, safefood said 

"While it’s encouraging to see that consumers are beginning to better understand the problem of overweight and obesity and the associated health problems, as a population we’re not identifying the issue of overweight as applying to us as individuals. The next step is to move from increasing awareness among consumers to actually changing their behaviour and this now seems to be beginning to happen.”

Iain Foster, National Director of Diabetes UK Northern Ireland welcomed the campaign as having an impact on the ground:

"Type 2 diabetes is a serious condition which has increased rapidly due largely to our growing waistlines.  We welcome the safefood campaign which, as well as raising awareness, also provides people with the knowledge they need to properly measure their waist and realize how likely they are to be classed as ‘overweight’.  Studies have shown that 60 per cent of those at high risk of Type 2 diabetes, if given lifestyle intervention, will not go on to develop the condition.  Type 2 diabetes is linked to heart disease, stroke, amputation, blindness and kidney failure so any campaign which prompts action and can prevent people being diagnosed must be fully supported.”

Dr. Anna Clarke, Health Promotion and Research Manager with the Diabetes Federation of Ireland added

"Type 2 diabetes is somewhat of a ‘silent killer’ as if left untreated, it can cause serious health problems yet thousands of Irish men and women are unaware that they have the condition and therefore haven’t been diagnosed and aren’t seeking treatment for it.  Being overweight increases a person’s risk of developing serious health conditions like Type 2 diabetes.  However, sensible lifestyle changes such as eating a healthy diet and doing more exercise can have a huge impact on lowering this risk, so we are delighted to support safefood’s ‘Stop the Spread’ as we believe it has had a real impact on improving people’s understanding of the importance of being a healthy weight.”

The research also revealed that only one in four of the population (23%) has told their partner that they needed to lose weight, with women more likely to do this than men (2).  Similarly, 27% of respondents claim to have told a friend they needed to lose weight, although this was more likely to be done by someone who is overweight themselves or by men (2). “We also need to be realistic and not embarrassed about acknowledging and dealing with weight problems”, added Dr. Foley-Nolan, “and not seeing it as a weakness in our character or an insult in any way.”

The ‘Stop the Spread’ campaign is aimed at alerting people to the fact that being overweight is now the ‘norm’, and tackling the common excuses for excess weight around the middle such as middle-age spread, height or genetics.  The campaign urges people to measure their waist to see if they are overweight. Having a waist size greater than 32 inches for a woman or 37 inches for a man is a clear indication that a person is carrying excess weight.  Building on the success of the campaign to date, 1,700 pharmacies across the island of Ireland and 1,300 GPs in the Republic of Ireland will support the initiative by making free measuring tapes available to the public.

safefood, sponsors of the popular RTE show ‘Operation Transformation’, has developed myot.ie, a mini-web application for viewers of the show where users can track their progress against their leader and access key information while on the move.  Since this series began on 4th January, over 47,000 people have registered on the ‘app’, another indication that men and women are now taking action to lose weight.  Through its sponsorship of ‘Operation Transformation’, safefood is also answering viewer’s weight loss questions through a live link to its Facebook page via the programme’s website www.rte.ie/ot.

The ‘Stop the Spread’ campaign which was launched in May 2011 is a two-year, all island campaign by safefood and comprises television, radio and outdoor advertising, as well as online support at www.safefood.eu.  Useful tips and information on weight loss can be found on the ‘Stop the Spread’ pages on the safefood website and Facebook page.

Further information on ‘Stop the Spread’ is available at www.safefood.eu or by calling safefood on 1850 40 45 67/0800 085 1683.

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For further information please contact: 

Ciara Kennedy / Orla Dormer


Telephone: 01 669 0030 / Mobile: 087 220 2850 (Ciara) / 085 708 6877 (Orla) 

Email: ciara.kennedy@ogilvy.com / orla.dormer@ogilvy.com 


Dermot Moriarty


Telephone: 01 448 0622 / Mobile: 086 381 1034 

Email: dmoriarty@safefood.eu


1. IUNA (Irish Universities Nutrition Alliance) National Adult Nutrition Survey; summary report March 2011

2. ‘Safetrak’ survey of 810 adults on the island of Ireland (safefood / Millward Brown Lansdowne, December 2011)