Poor dietary habits, lack of physical activities among teens, study finds

  • Nation
  • Friday, 04 Mar 2022

IPOH: Skipping breakfast puts teenagers at risk of obesity, says a medical expert.

According to the Malaysian Association of Adolescent Health vice-president Dr N. Thiyagar, many teenagers said the reasons for skipping breakfast were having no time, no proper breakfast, or having no appetite to eat.

He said a study by the National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) found over 60% of teenagers do not consume enough fruits, more than 90% don’t consume enough vegetables, and some 70% skip breakfast.

Dr Thiyagar, who is also a consultant paediatrician and adolescent medicine specialist, said this could be explained by poor dietary habits and lack of physical activities.

“Also, the study found that only 44% of teenagers perceived they are overweight, and only 14% perceived they are obese.

“Such poor self-reflection and perception of body image make it more challenging,” he said.

The Health Ministry had reported that half of the Malaysian adult population is either overweight or obese, and the ministry warned that the matter was reaching an alarming level.

It was reported that out of 50.1% of Malaysian adults, 30.4% were overweight and 19.7% obese, according to the NHMS 2019.

Dr Thiyagar said several steps must be taken to prevent issues of obesity among teenagers.

He said it was important to proactively educate adolescents and their caregivers; provide nutritional counselling; encourage consumption of fresh, unprocessed foods; and improve the quality of nutritional messaging through social media and school.

Consultant paediatrician and paediatric neurologist Dr Alex Khoo Peng Chuan said the report confirmed what paediatricians have been observing for the past decade with the onslaught of highly processed foods and calorie-dense foods.

He said despite health promotions and school programmes, the rate of increase is alarming and is expected to double with each decade.

“Since the 1990s, the obesity epidemic has been responsible for almost 70% increase in death rates in adults, and obese children are at high risk as far as sickness is concerned.

“Many factors contribute to childhood obesity, such as genetics, the social trend of families toward higher calorie intake, reduced energy expenditure, and the fast-food industry,” he said.

Dr Khoo said the most important strategies are promoting healthy eating habits, regular physical activities, and reducing sedentary activities such as being online and playing computer games.

He said it is important to start them early and young and to involve them in physical activities that they can enjoy with friends.

“For instance In Perak, I actively enrol school-going children in triathlon training with swimming, bicycle riding and running early.

“This pushes the children’s bodies to continuously become more agile and fitter.

“With younger children, health promotion and education of parents are essential, and I focus on the family and get parents to be the model of health with a positive attitude towards food and physical activities without emphasising body weight,” he added.

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Teenagers , study , obesity , breakfast , health


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