Sunday November 18, 2018

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

0
//
Obese? Blame it on Fat Cells' Expansion
Obese? Blame it on Fat Cells' Expansion. VOA
Republish
Reprint

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.
Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2018 NewsGram

Next Story

Small Farmers in Asia Miss Out On Climate Change Resilient Seeds

East-West Seed has built a successful business focusing purely on smallholders

0
pollution, seeds
Women farmers use sticks to make holes in the soil for seeds, on a farm near Pangalengan, West Java, Indonesia. VOA

Millions of smallholder farmers in South and Southeast Asia are missing out on new, resilient seeds that could improve their yields in the face of climate change, according to an index published Monday.

The 24 top seed companies fail to reach four-fifths of the region’s 170 million smallholder farmers for reasons such as poor infrastructure, high prices and lack of training, the Access to Seeds Index found.

Access to seeds bred to better withstand changing weather conditions such as higher temperatures is vital as farmers battle loss of productivity due to climate change, said Ido Verhagen, head of the Access to Seeds Foundation, which published the index.

Egypt, pollution, seeds
A farmer burns rice straw at his field in Qalyub, causing a “black cloud” of smoke that spreads across the Nile valley, near the agricultural road which leads to the capital city of Cairo, Egypt. VOA

“We see increasing demands for new varieties, because [farmers] are affected by climate change,” Verhagen told Reuters.

“If we want to feed a growing population, if we want to tackle climate change, if we want to go towards a more sustainable food system, we have to start with seeds,” he said.

Smallholder farmers managing between one to 10 hectares of land provide up to 80 percent of the food supply in Asia, said the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

 pollution, seeds
FILE – Farmer sifts wheat crop at a farm on the outskirts of western Indian city of Ahmedabad. VOA

But traditional methods of preserving seeds from harvests are not always sufficient to cope with a changing climate.

About 340 million people were hungry in 2017 in South and Southeast Asia, a number that has barely changed since 2015, according to latest figures from the United Nations.

“The question is how to get markets to provide the varieties [of seeds] that farmers want, at prices that they’re able to pay,” said Shawn McGuire, agricultural officer at the FAO.

Some smaller companies are leading the way in helping smallholders access more resilient seeds, Verhagen said, such as Thailand-based East-West Seed which topped the index ahead of global giants Bayer and Syngenta, which ranked second and third.

 pollution, seeds
Indian Farmers causing smog in Pakistan. wikimedia commons

East-West Seed has built a successful business focusing purely on smallholders, he said, while Indian companies Acsen HyVeg and Namdhari, ranked sixth and seventh respectively, have also reached small-scale farmers with seeds.

Also Read: Climate Change’s Fight Harder Than Thought: Study

The index, funded by the Dutch government and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, ranks companies based on seven areas including strategies to help small farmers and supporting conservation. (VOA)