Obesity – an emerging health crisis

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia is headed for an obesity crisis if eating and lifestyle habits don’t improve, health and nutrition experts have warned.

Reacting to official statistics showing an alarming rise in the nation’s obesity rate, they said the time has come for all concerned to take a hard look at their lifestyles and make gradual changes.

Vice Dean of UPM’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Associate Professor Dr. Barakatun Nisak ​​Mohd Yusof, said recognizing obesity as a disease would be a step in the right direction.

He explained that this would allow people to seek medical intervention earlier as with patients with other problems, such as fever.

“Most people see obesity from a cosmetic perspective and don’t realize how it’s a catalyst for problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, and even diabetes.

“Covid-19 also puts obese people at higher risk of experiencing severe symptoms,” he said, adding that nearly 80% of his type 2 diabetes patients were obese.

Professor Barakatun added that a structured approach to tackling obesity was necessary, especially among people with chronic diseases, as it required medical intervention and gradual lifestyle changes.

He also noted that only 20% of the population were aware of the healthy plate portions approach or the Ministry of Health’s “Suku-suku-separuh” initiative, adding that active implementation of this could lead to a drop in obesity rates. from the country.

The campaign suggests that people eat meals that comprise a quarter of carbohydrates, such as rice or bread, and another quarter of protein, such as fish, chicken or meat, and the other half of vegetables and fruits.

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Certified bariatric educator and clinical dietitian Ng Kar Foo also expressed the need to recognize obesity as a chronic disease.

“It’s something that requires multidisciplinary support and long-term treatment beyond eating less and moving more,” he said.

Healthy eating, he said, is not a tiring process if done at the right pace, adding that a healthy diet will lead to physical, mental and social health.

Ng added that people should ask for better food options when eating out as a way to better manage their weight.

“In mamak restaurants, for example, one can opt for thosai instead of roti canai. The same can be done with beverages and customers can opt for sugar-free options,” she said.

The president of the Malaysian Nutrition Society, Dr. Tee E. Siong, described obesity as the “mother of all diseases” and warned of the alarming rate of overweight or obese school children.

“A study conducted in 2017 also showed that at least 30% of primary and secondary school children were overweight or obese.

“If we don’t nip this in the bud, we’re seeing a growing number of obese adults in the next 20 years and repercussions on their health,” he said.

Tee said education played a big role in lowering obesity rates, adding that parents need to be good role models.

Physical educator and health coach Sebastian Tan said that many people tried to lose an excessive amount of weight in a short period of time.

“This can lead to exhaustion, which can cause the individual to regress and eventually gain back the lost weight,” he said.

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Instead, he said there were other steps that could be gradually implemented as alternatives.

“People can implement simple steps like moving or taking more steps daily,” he said.

The Ministry of Health recently reported that half of Malaysia’s adult population was overweight or obese and warned that the matter was reaching an alarming level.

It said that 30.4% of Malaysian adults were overweight and 19.7% were obese.

Obesity rates also increased each year, from 14% in 2006 to 15.1% (2011) and 17.7% (2015). The next study will be carried out in 2024.


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