A weighty problem

  • Health
  • Sunday, 31 Aug 2003


ACCORDING to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there’s a growing health trend among industrialised and developing countries that is fast unfolding as a potential health crisis. It’s called globesity, a term, coined by WHO, that combines the words global and obesity. 

In just five years, the number of obese persons worldwide swelled to a staggering 300 million from 200 million people in 1995. And the problem of obesity is not just confined to industrialised nations – an estimated 115 million individuals in developing countries also suffer from obesity-related diseases. 

Medical research shows that obesity increases the risk of developing chronic illnesses such as heart attack, Type 2 diabetes, stroke, depression and certain types of cancer. 

Undoubtedly, the obesity outbreak is too big a crisis to ignore. In light of this, the Malaysia Association For The Study Of Obesity (MASO) will be organising the second Asia-Oceanic Conference on Obesity, which will provide a unique opportunity for medical practitioners, nutritionists, dieticians, health educators and academicians to gain greater insight in addressing issues on obesity.  

The scientific conference entitled Combating the Obesity Epidemic: A Shared Responsibility, will feature eminent speakers from Australia, China, Europe and the Middle East, including International Obesity Taskforce (IOTF) chairman Prof Philip James, from the United Kingdom. During the three-day conference, there will be 10 symposium sessions covering broad topics related to obesity, such as the genetics of obesity, childhood obesity, active lifestyle for weight management, and the pharmacological and surgical treatment of obesity. Totalife, a multi-level marketing company involved in nutritional and slimming products, is the major sponsor of this event. 

According to MASO president Dr Mohd Ismail Noor, the conference would serve as the perfect platform in addressing common issues as well as outlining problems and guidelines pertaining to obesity. 

“In terms of classification of body weight in adults according to body mass index (BMI), there are slight differences between cultures. In 2000, the IOTF proposed that adult Asians with a BMI of >23 be categorised as overweight, as compared to WHO’s standard BMI of >25 for the same class. So, in which category do Malaysians fit in? Unlike Westerners with bigger body frames, Asians don’t have to be big before they suffer health problems. Excessive eating and a sedentary lifestyle are two common evils that contribute to obesity. 

“The current nutrition and health scenario also suggests that Malaysia has not benefited from the Western experience. We need to intervene before dietary patterns such as the fast food or 24-hour food syndrome become typical of the affluent Malaysian society.”  

Continues Dr Mohd Ismail, “According to one study, the annual direct cost of disease correlates directly to the BMI, that is the greater the BMI, the higher the costs. For example, it costs about US$12bil (RM45bil) and US$2bil (RM7.6bil) to treat a person suffering from Type 2 diabetes with a BMI of 29 and 23 respectively.  

Dr Mohd Ismail, a professor of human nutrition, adds that lifestyle interventions should be attempted six months before considering drug treatment. 

The conference will be held from Sept 7 – 9, 2003 at the Renaissance Hotel, KL. For details, call MASO at 03-40405679.  

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