Monday January 21, 2019

SURVEY – Obesity Becoming A Health Crisis Among The Asia-Pacific Children

Obesity has been observed as the most rapidly growing health crisis among the children of Asia-Pacific

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Obese? Blame it on Fat Cells' Expansion
Obese? Blame it on Fat Cells' Expansion. VOA

Obesity rates among children in Asia-Pacific are rising at a rapid rate, and more action is needed to encourage healthier lifestyles and ease pressure on fledgling healthcare systems, researchers said.

The number of overweight children under five rose 38 percent between 2000 and 2016 in the region, and the problem is growing, said Sridhar Dharmapuri, a food safety and nutrition officer at the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Bangkok.

“The rate of growth in obesity in Asia-Pacific is higher than in many other countries,” Dharmapuri told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“While the United States leads the way on obesity rates, the number of overweight children in Asia-Pacific is rising rapidly, and many countries in this region are now among the most health-threatened in the world.”

Adult obesity rates are highest in the United States, Mexico, New Zealand and Hungary, and lowest in Japan and South Korea, according to a report on member states by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

But the rapid rise in obesity among young people in Asia-Pacific is worrying because overweight children are at higher risk of becoming obese as adults and then developing serious health problems like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and liver disease.

Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand are among the most overweight countries in Southeast Asia, while Samoa, Tonga and Nauru are the most overweight in the Pacific. Australia also has high rates of obesity.

Many of these nations are also struggling to tackle malnutrition among their citizens.

The cost to the Asia-Pacific region of citizens being overweight or obese is $166 billion a year, a recent report by the Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI) said.

Rising wealth levels over the last 20 years have played a major role in the rise in obesity levels, researchers say.

“The region has undergone economic growth, so food has become available at a relatively cheaper price,” said Matthias Helble, an economist at the ADBI in Tokyo.

“For the last 20 years the economic growth has been almost uninterrupted,” said Helble, who has researched obesity levels in the region for three years.

The “obesity time bomb” will be discussed by the 46 member governments attending the FAO conference for Asia and the Pacific, which starts in Fiji from Monday.

Major of the obese children are likely to form the majority of World's children.
Most of the obese children in the world belong to Asia.

Lifestyle choices

In addition to consuming more, as economies have grown, people in Asia-Pacific have moved away from farming into manufacturing, and then to service sector jobs – which are more sedentary, researchers said.

Cities in Asia-Pacific have also seen unprecedented growth over the last two decades; this year more than half the region’s population will for the first time be urban, the United Nations has estimated.

City-dwellers in Asia-Pacific can spend hours commuting – due to poor transport systems and infrastructure – and when they finally reach home they have little time to cook. Many opt to eat out.

This new lifestyle has caused a rise in the consumption of convenience and processed foods, which often contain excess fats and more salt and sugar, researchers said.

People in the region also struggle to maintain a balanced diet, said Dharmapuri, with meals often lacking vegetables.

“The diet is largely rice-based,” he said. “On anybody’s plate, rice takes up between 50-70 percent of the space.”

When people are overweight they often suffer from other health problems, economists said, and this is likely to put pressure on public healthcare systems that are only just being established in many Asia-Pacific nations.

Also Read: Obesity may affect a child’s liver

Absenteeism from work is also higher among obese people, said Helble, adding that overweight people often die earlier than those who lead healthy lives, so have a shorter productive life.

“The term ‘obesogenic environment’ has been used to describe an environment that promotes obesity among individuals and populations,” Elizabeth Ingram of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare — a government statistics agency — said by email.

“It includes physical, economic, political, and sociocultural factors.”

Joint effort

Fixing the problem will likely take years, and researchers said a joint effort by business and governments was needed.

Better labeling on foods to promote healthier options, education about healthier diets and lifestyles, and even healthier school meals would improve the situation, analysts said.

“Being obese can also be seen as a sign of prosperity, because you have enough food to show your wealth through the fact that you have a lot to eat,” said Helble.

Sugar taxes, which have been introduced or are being discussed in the Philippines, Singapore and Indonesia, are also one way to change people’s mindset, he added.

Building more sports facilities at schools and ensuring urban planners include recreational areas for cities and make them more walkable and less polluted, is also crucial.

Governments must work with retailers, like in Singapore, to create a coordinated approach on packaging and promote a balanced diet, researchers said.

Working with retailers to ban unhealthy and sweet foods from checkout areas, and pushing street vendors to switch from fried foods to healthier, more traditional options, are also key.

And countries should adopt a “farm to fork” approach, which encourages farmers to diversify what they grow and be less reliant on growing just rice, said Dharmapuri.

“In some Pacific island countries, it’s actually easier to buy soft drinks and processed foods than buy fruits and vegetables,” said Dharmapuri. “It’s almost a delicacy to have a vegetable in a restaurant.”

Fast food is responsible for this rapidly growing disease called Obesity.
The children having fast food on a regular basis.

Next Story

Obesity Can Shorten Your Dog’s Lives

"For many owners, giving food, particularly tasty table scraps and tidbits, is the way we show affection for our pets," German said

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A Labrador retriever named Jack dines at a pet restaurant in San Juan, Manila, Philippines, Sept. 6, 2014.
Obesity can cut short your dog's lives. VOA

If you thought that obesity affects only humans, you may be wrong. It can also shorten lives of your canine friends, finds a research.

The research, from the University of Liverpool in the UK, reveals that the lifespan of overweight dogs was up to two-and-half years shorter when compared to ideal-weight dogs.

“Owners are often unaware that their dog is overweight, and many may not realise the impact that it can have on their health,” said Alex German, Professor at the university.

“What they may not know is that if their beloved pet is too heavy, they are more likely to suffer from other problems such as joint disease, breathing issues, and certain types of cancer, as well as having a poorer quality of life. These health and well-being issues can significantly impact how long they live,” he added.

The study, published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, examined more than 50,000 dogs across 12 of the most popular dog breeds.

The results showed that the pups' attractiveness was lowest at birth and increased to a maximum before 10 weeks of age before declining and then levelling off.
Representational Image. pixabay

Although the study did not examine the reasons behind the extra pounds in dogs, feeding habits are thought to play a role in pet obesity.

According to a recent Better Cities For Pets survey, more than half (54 per cent) of cat and dog owners always or often give their pet food if they beg for it, and nearly a quarter (22 per cent) of cat and dog owners sometimes overfeed their pet to keep them happy.

Also Read- Actor Aamir Khan Feels Necessity To Guide Children on Good Lifestyle Habits

“For many owners, giving food, particularly tasty table scraps and tidbits, is the way we show affection for our pets,” German said.

“Being careful about what you feed your dog could go a long way to keeping them in good shape and enabling them to be around for many years to come,” he noted. (IANS)