Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Local Buzz: Obesity in Hong Kong

Most of us are aware, by now, that obesity has become a global epidemic. More and more of us are overweight and obese every year--and not just in the Western world. Rates of obesity are rising at an alarming rate in Asian countries as well, and are especially high in Hong Kong.

The World Health Organization uses the terms "overweight" and "obese" for those persons with a BMI greater than or equal to 25 and 30, respectively (BMI is height-for-weight index calculated by dividing a person's weight in kilograms by the square of his/her height in meters). In 2008, WHO estimated that over "1.4 billion adults, 20 and older, were overweight." They also stated that of these overweight adults "over 200 million men and nearly 300 million women were obese. Overall, more than one in ten of the world’s adult population was obese." The mass adoption of the "Western pattern diet"(characterized by high intake of red meat, sugar-laden desserts, high-fat foods, and refined grains) and decreased physical activity during the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries has resulted in a global surge in obesity, the dangers of which are multifold, and include an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases (mainly heart disease and stroke), diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders (especially osteoarthritis), and even some cancers (endometrial, breast, and colon).

And according to recent studies, rates of obesity in Hong Kong are nearing those of the the "fattest" developed countries.  In 2003, the Hong Kong Department of Health conducted a survey, and concluded that "19.7% of men and 13.8% of women were overweight, while 23.4% of men and 12.7% of women were obese." For comparison, the overall rates of obesity in adults in the US and UK in 2003 were reported as 30.6% and 23%, respectively. In countries like those just mentioned, who have a longer-standing battle with obesity, government offices and independent organizations continue to roll out conspicuous campaigns and health initiatives to raise awareness and combat this dangerous and expensive condition; and these efforts have resulted in a recent leveling-off (though not decline) of obesity rates. The prevalence of obesity is much lower in most of Asia than it is in Hong Kong, so the question must be raised: is enough being done in Hong Kong to alert the public to the dangers and costs of obesity? Here, on the TFT HK blog, we'll continue to monitor the obesity-combatting programs being rolled out, and bring you information and tips on how to maintain good health and fight against obesity and poor nutrition.

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