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Tuesday, May 18, 2004


Obesity and the Ultimate Healthy Diet

::Recently, mention was made that more Malaysians are getting overweight and obese. The last survey done by the MINIstry of Health from 1996 to 1997, found 4.4% of the population were obese and the survey also found that 16.6% of Malaysians are overweight. So presently, the number of fat Malaysians must be more than 20 in every 100. We are obviously catching up with the 1st world people as far as this aspect is concerned.
So what is meant by obesity, is it the same as being overweight? Though the term "obesity" is often used interchangeably with "overweight", they are not identical. Obesity may be defined as the excess accumulation of body fat sufficient to endanger health; it occurs when energy intake (in the form of food) exceeds energy expenditure (in the form of resting metabolism and physical activity). Overweight, on the other hand, means only that the person carries more weight than is "normal" for his/her height.
Being underweight, normal, overweight and obese is actually a continuum. One can slip from one category to the next, the progression of weight being easier for most than the other way around. Weights and heights of people vary from country to country and from one culture to another. So in order for international comparison to be made, an international measure of obesity has to be used and most often the BMI or Body Mass Index is used. BMI is the ratio of body weight in kg divided by square of the height in metre. A BMI of between 18 and 25 will put you in the normal group, between 25 and 30, makes you overweight and more than 30 pushes you into the obese class I group, 35 to 40, obese class II, more than 40 you are in the "super-obese" or obese class III group. But the BMI has been said to be an unreliable measure of obesity when used alone. This is claimed by the International obesity task force chairman Prof Philip James.
A better measure of obesity would be using BMI in combination with waist measurement in order to take muscle bulk into consideration. Using the BMI alone, one may conclude that that the body builder Hidayat is obese and the singer Siti Nur underweight! Another ratio used is the waist-to-hip ratio, this takes into consideration the distribution of body fat.
The most common causes of obesity are overeating and lack of meaningful exercises. These are the two activities most of us over indulge in. So in order to overcome obesity we will have to eat less and exercise more
There are all types of diets mentioned claiming to help weight reduction, numerous pills and tablets promising weight loss and also patches which one just need to stick-on and magically the extra fat would disappear. Some even claim that one can continue eating and still lose weight! Don't believe them. As mentioned earlier, the only two effective means of getting rid of unwanted fat is to eat less and exercise more.
For those who are still waiting for the perfect diet, take heart, work is still in progress. The Medical Research Council in UK has been given some £2.7m to to research and seek for the ultimate healthy diet. This study is expected to take four years to complete, in the meanwhile those who are on the popular Atkins diet, there is good news for them, two studies published in the journal : Annals of Internal Medicine : found weight loss was greatest when people followed an Atkins-style diet. But please note these two studies were funded by the Robert C Atkins Foundation.
If you like to try out our local Weight Management Information Centre WMIC, check out this site. Here you can find out your BMI and get some weight loss tips. Happy weight loss!


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