‘Malaysians are poor eaters’

Proof is in the facts: A visitor at the launch of the Malaysian Dietary Supplements Report 2019-2020 taking a closer look at the findings by Madsa.

PETALING JAYA: Although Malaysians are aware of the need for dietary supplements to complement their diet, they may lack the proper knowledge of the actual nutrients they need, causing them to get the wrong ones, a report found.

According to the report – The Malaysian Dietary Supplements Industry Status and Outlook report 2019-2020 by the Malaysian Dietary Supplement Association (Madsa) – Malaysians do not consume enough legumes, fruit, milk and vegetables, which are rich in nutrients such as calcium and iron but have a fondness for sugary drinks.

Despite Malaysians’ lacking in these nutrients, the report revealed that calcium supplements only accounted for 12.2% or RM62.8mil of the local vitamins and mineral supplements market last year.

Iron supplements accounted for a smaller 4.3% slice of the total market worth about RM514mil despite the study reporting a prevalence of iron deficiency among Malaysians.

On the flip side, the study showed that Malaysians were aware of the need for Vitamin C as well as other vitamins and minerals in their diet, making those products the most dominant in the market.

Vitamin C products accounted for 32.8% or RM168.6mil of the pie while multi-vitamins made up 18.6% of the market valued at RM95.4mil.

Henry Law, managing partner of Eigis Consulting who presented the report, said the absence of certain nutrients and a poor diet could lead to serious non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as heart disease, diabetes and anaemia.

“We need to have more conversations about nutrition and also raise the awareness for proper nutrition intake. However, this effort may be hindered by Malaysians’ love for food,” he said.

He said it was likely that Malaysians were also not aware of what was missing in their diet because there were not enough nutritionists who could help them determine the sustenance that their body needed.

“We need to understand that we are poor eaters and we have a nutrition problem,” he said at a forum to launch the research findings yesterday.

Eigis led and conducted the study as Madsa’s research partner.

Prof Dr Fadzilah Adibah Abdul Majid, who is from Universiti Malaysia Terengganu (UMT), said good nutrition was important for one’s health as it benefited cells in the body.

“Therefore, it is more logical to control our diet rather than rely on (pills),” she said.

There were many people who lived healthy lives, said Prof Fadzilah, because they chose more traditional fare such as ulam, adding that many local herbs were able to provide the right nutrients. NCDs happen when we have poor diet and habits, which is why we need to eat properly. We should only take supplements when there is a deficiency,” she said.

Dr Fadzilah, who is attached to UMT’s Institute of Marine Biotechnology, has also conducted research in herbal supplements for diabetes, arthritis and cancer.

She gave a talk entitled Efficacy of Dietary Supplements in Combating Non-Communicable Diseases” at the forum.

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