OBESITY is a crucial public health problem that is increasing globally.
Adults are considered overweight when their body mass index (BMI) is above 25, and obese when it hits more than 30.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 39% of adults aged 18 years and above were overweight in 2016, while 13% were obese.
It also stated that 38 million children under the age of five were overweight or obese in 2019.
Clinical dietician and certified bariatric educator Ng Kar Foo said obesity should be managed like any other chronic disease, such as diabetes and hypertension.
“We all should recognise obesity as a complex, progressive, relapsing chronic disease that needs evidence-based comprehensive treatment and long-term follow-up.
“Managing obesity is not merely to reduce body weight. In fact, it is to improve body composition, overall health and most importantly, quality of life, ” he said.
Ng was one of three speakers at a webinar on “Obesity Management” organised by Star Media Group, with healthcare company Johnson & Johnson as education partner.
He stressed that effective obesity management involved a multi-modalities and multidisciplinary team approach.
“Nutrition and physical activity remain the key foundation in the management (of obesity) and are supported by behaviour therapy, pharmacotherapy and/or bariatric surgery.
“To implement any of the modalities, it is essential to consult the right medical or health professionals.
“Bariatric surgery is an effective treatment to manage obesity and obesity-related diseases, ” he explained.
Meanwhile, consultant upper gastrointestinal and metabolic surgeon Dr Mustafa Mohammed Taher said: “Obesity is a risk on your life, and it is related to 65 major illnesses.
“Bariatric is another term for weight reduction surgery.
“Bariatric surgery is one of the effective methods of controlling and curing medical illnesses related to obesity, ” he highlighted.
Asked by webinar moderator Sheahnee Iman Lee about the surgery’s success rate in Malaysia,
Dr Mustafa said: “For weight reduction, it does reduce 70% to 80% of your extra weight, with the help of a good dietician.
“There has been more than 95% success rate of weight (reduction) in bariatric surgery.”
On misconceptions regarding the surgery, Dr Mustafa, who graduated from Baghdad University in 2000, said: “There is no short cut here. You must follow the diet, exercise and maintain your weight.”
Ng told participants that persons eligible for bariatric surgery must follow a very strict dietary plan, and would be guided by dieticians to reduce a small amount of body fat and body weight to prepare for the surgery.
“This will improve metabolic health and reduce any possible surgical complications, ” he pointed out.
On the key considerations for individuals before committing to the surgery, Ng said: “They don’t need to reduce 10kg to 20kg of their weight. Losing at least 5% of their initial weight is enough to enhance the surgical outcome.”
He said those eligible for the surgery would need a minimum of two weeks’ preparation to enhance the surgical outcome.
Additionally, he said a support group was important for people considering bariatric surgery.
Ng received the Outstanding Clinical Instructor Award from the Malaysian Dietitians Association in 2017.
Later, guest speaker Mohd Hasli Alfie Ahmad Sobri, popularly known as Chef Bob, shared his personal experience and what motivated him to undergo bariatric surgery.
“It was my only hope to lead a normal life. I did it because of my health issues. I took it as a chance, hoping it would change (my life).
“I lost 110kg, and my health improved, ” he said.
He added that now at 61kg, he felt lighter and was more active.
Chef Bob researched bariatric surgery for one-and-half years before making his decision.
On the challenges he faced in terms of diet, he said: “I need to eat slowly, which takes time, but I enjoy my food.”
He said that he had the strong support of his family and they knew that he was happy.
On how he paid for the surgery, Chef Bob said he opted for an Employees Provident Fund (EPF) withdrawal.
Another bariatric surgery patient, whose name was withheld, told participants that he had joined a fintech programme to get a RM30,000 loan for the surgery.
“I made a monthly repayment of RM600 for five years, ” he said, adding that the terms of repayment would depend on the individual’s financial background and the bank granting the loan.