30 September 2006

Fat Malaysia

The MySoN (Malaysian Shape of the Nation) survey shows that:
  • Malaysia has the most number of fat people in the Asean region.

  • During the last 10 years, the number of fat people in Malaysia has more than doubled, resulting in more Malaysians falling ill with diseases such as hypertension and diabetes.

  • 48 percent of Malaysian men and 62 percent of Malaysian women are fat.

  • Malaysian Indians are the fattest at 63.4 percent followed by Malays (53.5 per cent), Chinese (50.8 per cent) and others (45.2 percent).

  • 13.5 percent of the Malaysian adult population is diabetic, compared with only 8.3 percent in 1996.

You can read more about this new report here.

I wonder how my good friend Bayi will react to this. Bayi is my best friend in Malaysia, and when I met him, he certainly looked healthier than I was at the time. Then again, Bayi is very health-conscious, and he may not be the typical Malaysian if we are to believe the survey above.

If Malaysians are indeed getting heavier and bigger waistlines, I think it is because their country is improving in terms of progress. The more developed a country becomes, the better the lifestyle. You know what I mean. There are more delicious food available and people tend to have less physical activity to burn their excess calories. More cars mean less time walking. Extra calories always translate to fat and waist circumferences of more than 90cms or 35.4 inches for men and more than 80cms or 31.5 inches for women. The MySon survey used waist circumference as their test for abdominal obesity. This is a much better obesity detector than BMI, which has its limitations.

In the Philippines, 21 percent of Filipino adults are obese. 22 percent of them are in Cebu, Bacolod and Iloilo, and 19 percent of them are in Manila. [source: Philippine News Online, Sept 2006]

Since we are still very much a third-world country, it might take some time before we overtake Malaysia in the heavyweight category. Why can't progress also mean a healthier lifestyle? Is it human nature to take things easy when life is good?

11 reactions:

bayi said...

Thank you, Dr Emer, for your kind words about me. I don't think I am as healthy as you described.

I read the news article the day it appeared in the papers. And I thought I was one of the statistics!

Though hard-hitting, the statistics speak for themslves and I can verify that the statistics are very factual. This has to do with the changing lifestyle that comes with prosperity of a nation. It's the price we pay for not educating our people as they become more affluent. The jobs today are more sedentary in nature than ever. The hard and tough physical jobs are given out to foreign laborers from Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. We hardly do housework anymore, leaving them to maids mainly from Indonesia. We send our cars to the car wash. We get Indonesian gardeners to tend to our gardens.

On top of this, there is a mushrooming of fine dining restaurants every time a suburb is created and these restaurants are packed as soon as they are open for business. This is an indication of where the money is going!

While an increasing affluence is a good trend to achieve, the direction of consumer spending is worrisome.

Another factor is the food we eat. White rice is the staple food and I remember many people telling each other that you can't get fat on rice because it's not oily. White bread comes in a close second for choice of food. The Malays love their breakfast of steamed white rice in coconut milk, called nasi lemak locally, and this is a real killer eapecially when the rice comes with chili cooked generously in oil. The Chinese love their lechon and all things pork! The Indians and Malays tend to eat more rice than they should with their curry, which goes very well with white rice. The Chinese are not far behind.

A heartening trend though, is the fact that the population is more health conscious today than before. ore people exercise in the mornings. Gyms are mushrooming all over the bigger towns. Many say that it is just the in-thing to be seen at the gyms. Whatever, as long as one gets some exercise.

Me? I am worried about my own health. I have put on some weight since Dr Emer's visit because my exercise routine has been reduced as a result of a sports injury. But I am determined to recover quickly and not to go the way of my father, who died of diabetic-related causes at the age of 63.

rolly said...

Too bad I belong to the minority here in Manila. We only comprise 19 percent. Well, at least I belong somewhere.

Hope you and yours are okay!

Dr. Emer said...

BAYI: Thanks for your insightful comments and added information, my friend. I couldn't agree more --- nasi lemak, while sinful, is truly delicious! Do not worry too much. We will live longer than 60 or 70. :)

TITO R: We can make it 18 percent by exercising regularly. ;)

ann said...

I am worried about my kids too.

ipanema said...

I couldn't agree more to what Bayi has mentioned. I'm not surprised why Malaysian Indians top the list of obese people in Malaysia. Imagine curry, murtabak, etc. Malays love carbo food so much. While the Chinese are more health conscious, even here in my location.

When it comes to physical exertion, you can find the Chinese in gyms, dance studios, badminton courts and up the hill doing their daily workout. It's surprising though that I seldom see Indians in these places.

I really wish that progress would mean a healthy lifestyle. As more people become busy, the more they spend time in their offices with their sedentary jobs, forgetting to eat healthily. More pressure would mean more time spent on work in some cases. While some are very religious with their daily exercise, others fall to their seats pounding till night falls.

Price of progress? Too costly I think.

Dr. Emer said...

ANN: Exercise and correct dieting will solve your worries. :)

IPANEMA: Thanks for explaining why Bayi is healthier. ;)

bayi said...


Terima kasih (Thank you), I feel better already! *LOL*

ipanema said...

Sorry bayi, just came in today.

hehehe...sama-sama. :)

Anonymous said...

waist circumferences of more than 90cms or 35.4 inches for men and more than 80cms or 31.5 inches for women.
Are you sure your numbers are not off? I read elsewhere it is 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women. 30 inches for women is a US size 5 or "Small". So, 31.5 inches is around US size 8. These are small sizes.

For example, I am 5'2" and weight 122 pounds, medium frame. Hardly overweight, right? According to the US tables, this puts me in the middle of my ideal weight, not even overweight. And my waist is 30 inches; OK if I tighten my belly muscles, it might be 29. I wear small size skirts. Are you saying I am overweight? Would you like a picture?

Also, wouldn't it also depend on height? A 5' 8" woman with 31.5 inch waist is hardly obese. Unless malaysian women are all short and have small frame....

Dr. Emer said...

ANONYMOUS: Are you sure your numbers are not off? No, they're not off. I'm just quoting from the report what obesity indicator they used.
Are you saying I am overweight? Would you like a picture? No need for pictures. No one said you were overweight.

The validity of commonly used anthropometric tests for obesity has been debated on for years. The study which I presented here was done in Malaysia only. Have you been to Malaysia? In general, compared to Caucasian women, most Asian women are indeed of lesser height and have smaller frames.

Inappropriate labelling of obesity and being overweight admittedly occurs with these tests, and those conducting these tests should be aware of the limitations. Have you read my links on BMI limitations above? Here is another useful link. As for waist circumference, I'd like you to know that as a test for abdominal obesity, it can not be used uniformly on all populations and ethnic groups.

Thanks for your questions. 'Hope I answered them. Next time, it would be appreciated if you can properly identify yourself before leaving comments.

Latifer said...

Salam All,

Waist alone is an inaccurate indicator. People all over are still using BMI as the height and aged are factored in the statistics of obesity.

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