Three million Malaysians risk grave illnesses

  • Nation
  • Tuesday, 09 Sep 2003

KUALA LUMPUR: Some three million Malaysians who are on the plump side risk getting serious illnesses associated with obesity, Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng said. 

Chua said a nationwide survey by his ministry in 1996 also showed an obesity rate of 4.4% among Malaysian adults and as such there was an urgent need for the people to change their “eating culture”. 

He said overweight and obesity among others, led to increased risks of coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, breast, colon and prostate cancer, which were all on the increase in Malaysia and also contributed significantly to osteoarthritis, a major cause of disability in adults. 

“This (overweight and obesity problem) is of concern not only in this country but also all over the world,” he told reporters after opening the 2nd AsiaOcenia Conference on Obesity here yesterday. 

About 300 medical personnel and observers from 26 countries including India, China, Australia, France, Mexico and Thailand are attending the three-day conference themed “Combating The Obesity Epidemic: A Shared Responsibility”. 

Close to 1.1 billion people in the world are now considered to be overweight or obese. 

Chua said that the better standard of life enjoyed by Malaysians now was one of the contributing factors to the overweight and obesity problem. 

“Because people who get higher income and enhanced socio economic status ... the first thing they want to do is eat more. They want to eat richer, fatty food, more red meat, more sugar and this results in many problems to the population and their health,” he said. 

Chua said the Government was implementing various measures to tackle this problem and these included the introduction of the National Food Safety Policy last June and the proposed National Nutrition Policy to educate the public on healthy eating and healthy choice of food. 

He said the National Nutrition Policy draft was now being fine-tuned by various agencies before being submitted to the Cabinet for approval.  

Chua said Malaysia’s National Nutrition Policy would be modelled on Norway’s which had a lot of experience in dealing with the overweight and obesity problem of its population. 

He said that Norway during the Second World War had an acute fall in total and saturated fat intakes and consequently death rates from coronary heart disease were low but these rates escalated after the war and by the 1960s coronary heart disease was affecting a very large portion of the adult population. 

However, in response, Norway established a national nutrition council and formulated a new nutrition policy that involved consumers, the food industry and others. – Bernama  

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