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Public Health Report 2014

Diet - summary

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Too much sugar, salt and lack of activity

The general diet in Norway is good and food is safe compared to many other countries.

Dietary patterns are constantly changing. Sugar intake is lower today than 10 years ago but the decline has stalled. On average, the annual intake was 29 kg sugar per person in 2012 but sugar intake is not evenly distributed. Children and adolescents have a high sugar intake and young people aged 16-24 drink significantly more sugary drinks than other groups.

Groups with a higher education or high income have a healthier diet than groups with lower socioeconomic status. 
Salt intake in the population is also high, with three-quarters coming from processed foods.

Sedentary work, driving and less demanding chores are contributing to the decrease in physical activity. Electronic gadgets, computers, social media and the internet are taking more space in everyday life and offer new challenges for sleep and physical activity.

Only about 30 per cent of the adult population meets the recommendations for physical activity, and 30-year-olds are the least active. Adults spend an average of nine hours per day in sedentary activity.

Physical activity varies in different groups. Adults with college or university education have a higher level of activity and spend fewer sedentary hours than those with compulsory education.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that changes in diet, physical activity and smoking habits could prevent 80 per cent of heart attacks, 90 per cent of type 2 diabetes cases and over 30 per cent of cancers. Estimates from the burden of disease project suggest that diet is also an important factor for the burden of disease in Norway.

The majority of the population obtains enough vitamins and minerals but there are some vulnerable groups. Among these are some immigrant groups at risk of low vitamin D intake. If all women take preventive folate supplements before and in early pregnancy, the number of babies born with spina bifida will be reduced.