Public Health Nutrition

HOT TOPIC – The WHO)s 2004 global strategy on diet, physical activity, and health: status and renewal of effort

The prevalence and trends in overweight and obesity in Irish adults between 1990 and 2011

Elaine A Boylana1, Breige A McNultya1, Janette Waltona2, Albert Flynna2, Anne P Nugenta1 c1 and Michael J Gibneya1

a1 UCD Institute of Food and Health, University College Dublin, Room L2.57, Science Centre South, Belfield, Dublin 4, Republic of Ireland

a2 School of Food and Nutritional Sciences, University College Cork, Cork, Republic of Ireland


Objective Obesity is a serious public health issue, the prevalence of which is increasing globally. The present study aimed to investigate trends in overweight and obesity in Irish adults between 1990 and 2011.

Design Anthropometric data from three Irish national food consumption surveys were used to calculate trends in BMI, waist circumference and waist:hip ratio.

Setting Three cross-sectional food consumption surveys: the Irish National Nutrition Survey (1990), the North/South Ireland Food Consumption Survey (2001) and the National Adult Nutrition Survey (2011).

Subjects A collective sample of free-living Irish adults (n 3125), aged 18–64 years.

Results There were significant increases in mean weight, height and BMI from 1990 to 2011. Significant increments were also reported in waist and hip circumferences and waist:hip ratio between 2001 and 2011, with concurrent increases in the proportion of individuals at risk of developing CVD, particularly females aged 18–35 years. In 2011, 23·4 % of the Irish population was classified as obese; with the mean BMI increasing by 1·1 kg/m2 between 1990 and 2001 and by 0·6 kg/m2 between 2001 and 2011.

Conclusions The present paper characterises obesity levels in Irish adults from 1990 to 2011. Absolute levels of overweight and obesity have increased between these time points. Of concern is the increase in the proportion of young women classified as at risk of CVD, using waist circumference and waist:hip ratio. Effective prevention strategies are needed to avoid further increases.

(Received August 28 2013)

(Revised February 11 2014)

(Accepted March 10 2014)

(Online publication April 10 2014)


  • Obesity;
  • Ireland;
  • BMI;
  • Waist circumference;
  • Waist: hip ratio


c1 Corresponding author: Email