PETALING JAYA, Sept 27 — Late night binge-eating is contributing to obesity in the country.
Many, however, do not view obesity as a disease which could lead to other diabetes, heart problems and even cancer.
Nutrition Society of Malaysia president Dr Tee E Siong said while Malaysians enjoyed their food, our sedentary lifestyle is contributing to expanding waistlines and other illnesses.
“Food consumed late at night will not be digested and the calories will turn into body fat,” he said.
“I believe many who indulge in late night meals are aware of the consequences but are not making an effort to live a healthier lifestyle as many do not exercise.”
He said people viewed obesity as a cosmetic problem and not a health issue.
“I keep telling my patients they need to exercise regularly and eat at the right time, but they keep coming up with excuses.”
He said the problem was not just the frequency of late night snacking but the size of the meal.
“Let’s not talk about exercise first as many Malaysians are either too lazy to walk or are just glued to their seats.
“At the same time, it is difficult for young working adults to find work-life balance.
“Some may overeat to compensate a meal they missed while others overeat to cope with stress,” he said.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam recently said the unhealthy habit of eating after 11pm exposed many to the risk of various diseases. He said food was easily available around the clock and thus late night eating has become a Malaysian lifestyle.
Dietician and author Goo Chui Hoong said the rise of obesity rates in the country was because people worked long hours and did not have regular meals.
“When you skip meals and get hungry, there is a tendency you will be irrational and impulsive. This can lead to overeating and this is where the problem lies,” she said.
She said the estimated daily intake of calories is about 2,000 for women and 2,500 for men, depending on a person’s weight.
“With about 50 per cent of the population in Malaysia being overweight and obese, we are the most obese nation in South East Asia.
“Employers should encourage their staff to adopt a healthy lifestyle by implementing healthy options at the office cafeteria. People should stop making excuses and plan their meals properly.”
According to the World Health Organisation, worldwide prevalence of obesity rose rapidly between 1980 and 2014. Over 1.9 billion adults, 18 years and older, were overweight in 2014. From this figure, over 600 million were obese.
About 13 per cent of the world’s adult population (11 per cent men and 15 per cent women) were obese in 2014 and 39 per cent of adults, aged 18 and over (38 per cent men and 40 per cent women) were overweight.
In 2013, 42 million children under the age of five were overweight or obese.
The report noted being overweight and obese, once considered a problem in high-income nations, were now on the rise in low- and middle-income countries, particularly in urban settings.