Sunday, May 23, 2004

Fighting obesity 

Remember the guy in a post of mine about two months ago who needed to shed 10 kg? Well, according to The Sunday Times today, he has finally achieved his goal. His weight is now 61.7 kg compared to 71.5 kg 10 weeks ago. His waistline has also shrunk from 88 cm to 75 cm.

If the World Health Organisation (WHO) has its way, more people should follow his example. Yesterday, the policy committee of the WHO launched a global campaign against obesity. It plans to set out recommendations such as the reduction of sugar, fat and salt in processed food, the control of food marketing to children and of health claims on packaging, and more comprehensive nutrition labeling and health education.

With this plan, it hopes to combat the surge in cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers which, according to the WHO, account for nearly 60 percent of the 56.5 million deaths a year around the world that are deemed preventable.

According to the World Heart Federation, there are over 300 million obese adults globally. 115 million persons in developing countries suffer from obesity-related health problems, including heart disease, hypertension, non-insulin dependent diabetes and high levels of cholesterol. About 22 million children under five years are obese across the world and many more are overweight.

And what about the statistics for Singapore? Well, we will know soon. From September to November, the Ministry of Health will be conducting a National Health Survey on obesity and other risk factors like blood cholesterol, smoking, physical inactivity, obesity, alcohol intake and dietary practices in Singapore. It will also determine the prevalence of diseases like diabetes mellitus, high blood pressure and coronary heart disease.

While the survey will be helpful to the Ministry of Health in gathering detailed statistics for its planning, we don't really need it to know whether Singapore is part of the world-wide trend toward obesity. Just take a walk down the streets of Singapore; the evidence should be apparent enough.


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