The Straits Times
Published on Oct 15, 2012

Malaysia weighed down by obesity problem

Numbers are worrying - almost half of all adults there are obese or overweight


KUALA LUMPUR - When Mr William Tan was still in his 20s, playing basketball and hitting the gym were part of his exercise regimen. But since switching jobs, the marketing executive, now 33 and bogged down by a more hectic work schedule, has seen the kilos pile onto his 1.76m frame. "I got busy. Then I got lazy. I wanted to enjoy my free time, eating and drinking," Mr Tan said.

In just six years, his weight climbed from 76kg to 84kg, moving him from the "acceptable" to the "overweight" range. "At my age now, it's harder to lose weight than it was in my 20s," said Mr Tan, who is also busy preparing for his wedding next year.

Not just Mr Tan but thousands of other Malaysians like him are also weighed down by excess fat. In fact, their expanding waistlines have Malaysian authorities worried about their health and the strain this would put on the public health-care system.

The numbers are worrying. In 1996, only 5 per cent were obese, which means their body mass index was above 25. A decade later, this figure had almost tripled to 14 per cent. Last year, it rose to 15 per cent, in a country of more than 28 million people. These days, almost half of all adult Malaysians are overweight or obese - a level some doctors have described as "alarming".