Obesity in Malaysia.Obes Rev 2002; 3(3):203-8OR
This study was undertaken to assess the recent data on Malaysian adult body weights and associations of ethnic differences in overweight and obesity with comorbid risk factors, and to examine measures of energy intake, energy expenditure, basal metabolic rate (BMR) and physical activity changes in urban and rural populations of normal weight. Three studies were included (1) a summary of a national health morbidity survey conducted in 1996 on nearly 29 000 adults > or =20 years of age; (2) a study comparing energy intake, BMR and physical activity levels (PALs) in 409 ethnically diverse, healthy adults drawn from a population of 1165 rural and urban subjects 18-60 years of age; and (3) an examination of the prevalence of obesity and comorbid risk factors that predict coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes in 609 rural Malaysians aged 30-65 years. Overweight and obesity were calculated using body mass index (BMI) measures and World Health Organization (WHO) criteria. Energy intake was assessed using 3-d food records, BMR and PALs were assessed with Douglas bags and activity diaries, while hypertension, hyperlipidaemia and glucose intolerance were specified using standard criteria. The National Health Morbidity Survey data revealed that in adults, 20.7% were overweight and 5.8% obese (0.3% of whom had BMI values of >40.0 kg m(-2)); the prevalence of obesity was clearly greater in women than in men. In women, obesity rates were higher in Indian and Malay women than in Chinese women, while in men the Chinese recorded the highest obesity prevalences followed by the Malay and Indians. Studies on normal healthy subjects indicated that the energy intake of Indians was significantly lower than that of other ethnic groups. In women, Malays recorded a significantly higher energy intake than the other groups. Urban male subjects consumed significantly more energy than their rural counterparts, but this was not the case in women. In both men and women, fat intakes (%) were significantly higher in Chinese and urban subjects. Men were moderately active with the exception of the Dayaks. Chinese women were considerably less active than Chinese men. Chinese and Dayak women were less active than Malay and Indian women. In both men and women, Indians recorded the highest PALs. Hence, current nutrition and health surveys reveal that Malaysians are already affected by western health problems. The escalation of obesity, once thought to be an urban phenomenon, has now spread to the rural population at an alarming rate. As Malaysia proceeds rapidly towards a developed economy status, the health of its population will probably continue to deteriorate. Therefore, a national strategy needs to be developed to tackle both dietary and activity contributors to the excess weight gain of the Malaysian population.