Weighing in on obesity
OUR younger generation seems to be gaining one too many pounds – which certainly is not a healthy sign, according to a survey conducted by Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) on some 11,400 primary schoolchildren.
The survey was commissioned by Nestlé (Malaysia) Bhd and carried out in 2007/08.
According to its findings, 12.6% of the pupils were found to be overweight while 13.5% were deemed obese. The rates were higher among those aged 10 to 12, and those residing in urban areas.
At a recent forum organised by Nestlé to discuss the survey findings, Prof Dr Norimah A. Karim, chair of UKM School of Healthcare Sciences in the Faculty of Health Sciences and vice president of the Malaysian Association for the study of Obesity (Maso), said there was a significant increase in the number of overweight and obese children compared to the findings of a similar survey conducted in 2001/02.
“Our latest survey also showed that there was a drop in the number of students who had normal weights.”
Pointing out to the children’s poor eating habits as the cause of the obesity, Norimah said one in three children surveyed skipped breakfast, had poor snack choices or consumed fast foods too frequently.
They were also physically inactive, preferring to spend their leisure time reading, watching television, playing with toys and computer games.
Dr Chin Yit Siew from the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences in Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), said: “One in five adolescents is prone to eating disorders. The more overweight and obese they are, the more prone they are to eating disorders.”
She said 200 million children and adolescents worldwide are overweight while about 30 to 45 million are classified as obese.
In July, Chin conducted a survey involving a total of 359 secondary school students aged 13 to 17 in the Klang Valley. The students were handed questionnaires assessing their eating habits, body weight and height.
The findings of Chin’s survey showed that the students were more prone to being obese than underweight, the prevalence of obesity being five times higher than the latter.
Further research also indicated a strong link between overweight and obese students, and the risk of eating disorders like skipping meals, binge eating and unhealthy dieting.
“It’s all about the energy balance between the intake of food and output of energy so it doesn’t quite matter exactly what you’re taking in,” said Chin.
Nestlé, meanwhile, has embarked on several initiatives to provide nutritional education to schools and the public to promote general wellness.
Among them is the ongoing Nestlé Healthy Kids Programme (launched last August), conducted worldwide to promote nutritional awareness as well as to educate the young on the importance of maintaining a healthy diet.
The programme also addresses the challenges of under-nutrition and obesity among the young.
For more, go to www.nestle.com.my.