The director of nutrition with Safefood, Dr Aileen McGloin, has called for a re-doubling of Government efforts to address the issue of obesity in Ireland.
New research launched by the all-island body indicates a high level of public support for policies addressing the increasing rates of obesity in the country.
Dr McGloin told RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland there is also particular support for government-led policies aimed at tackling childhood obesity.
This included over two-thirds of respondents backing the ban of vending machines in schools, as well as a majority of people supporting planning restrictions on the opening of fast-food outlets near schools.
While the figures are from before the Covid-19 pandemic, new statistics from the UK indicate a further increase in obesity levels. Given the similarities in eating patterns between the two countries, this led to concern that there may be a similar pattern in Ireland, she said.
Dr McGloin pointed out that obesity levels were higher in deprived areas where healthy eating was not always an option due to financial reasons.
The research indicated a high level of public support for any measures that would address the issue including a ban on unhealthy food advertising, with 80.2 per cent supporting restrictions on advertising aimed at children and almost 70 per cent supporting restrictions on the marketing of unhealthy foods to adults.
There was also a high level of support for educational campaigns surround healthy eating in schools, with 80 per cent of people recognising that obesity was a serious public health challenge.
However, just 47.3 per cent of people supported measures to restrict portion sizes in restaurants and fast food outlets.
The research coincides with the All-Island Obesity Action Forum, which is being held in Belfast on Tuesday, hosted by Safeway in partnership with the Departments of Health in both Ireland and Northern Ireland.
The event brings together leading experts from across Ireland and the UK to explore a range of policy approaches to address overweight and obesity, and public support for such policies.
Previous research by Safeway estimated that overweight and obesity issues were costing €1.6 billion every year in direct and indirect costs.