Malaysia is the fattest country in ASEAN with its obesity rate on the rise, Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said recently.
According to statistics from the National Health and Morbidity Surveys, 15.1 per cent of Malaysians aged 18 and above were suffering from obesity. More than 35 per cent are either obese or overweight with a body-mass index of more than 25.
“This is not a glorious title. We are outweighing all our ASEAN neighbours and are number six in the whole of Asia – behind some Middle Eastern countries,” said the Health Minister.
It was also reported that over 2.6 million adults were obese while over 477,000 children below the age of 18 years were overweight in Malaysia.
As for other ASEAN countries, the Philippines rank second in obesity cases, followed by Singapore and Thailand, according to research by the India Diabetes Research Foundation.
The minister also pointed out that Malaysians poor eating habits was worrying as their high consumption of fat and meat would lift their body weights, resulting in them developing diseases such as diabetes, heart attack, kidney disease, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
“We are increasingly becoming couch potatoes; we are not leading an active enough lifestyle to prevent ourselves from becoming obese, which is a precursor to many health problems,” he said.
A study by Universiti Putra Malaysia found that women in Malaysia generally are more likely to become obese while male Malays and Indians also have higher cases of obesity as opposed to Chinese residents. State-wise, Sarawak has the highest rate of obesity, Sabah the lowest.
The pandemic of obesity has been restricted to developed, high-income countries until few decades ago, but recently, it has penetrated even the poorest of nations in the world. Southeast Asia has undergone considerable socioeconomic transition in the last three decades which has resulted in increased availability of food, better transport facilities and better health care facilities. The changing trend was seen first in the urban populations and in the recent years, with improving socioeconomic scenario in the rural areas, the changes were seen even among the urbanising rural populations as well.