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5.1% of Filipinos obese due to affluence, unhealthy diet

/ 05:34 AM July 22, 2019

MANILA, Philippines — About 5.1 percent of Filipino adults are obese, as rising consumer affluence fuels unhealthy diets across the region and strains health care costs across the Asia-Pacific region, a research from UK-based Fitch Solutions showed.

The number of obese adults in the Philippines increased by 6 percent during the 2010 to 2014 period. The 5.1-percent obesity incidence was based on 2014 data, which also rose from 4.1 percent in 2010.

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Leaner than most

Compared to its Southeast Asian neighbors, the incidence of adult obesity was smaller than the 5.7 percent in Indonesia, 13.3 percent in Malaysia, 6.2 percent in Singapore and 8.5 percent in Thailand.

Vietnam had the lowest obesity incidence in the region at 3.6 percent but the number of obese adults in Vietnam actually grew by 38 percent from 2010 to 2014, the fastest pace seen in the region.

“Downstream costs from high obesity levels place strains on health care budgets. The association between excess weight and chronic diseases, such as diabetes, cancer, hypertension and heart disease, is well recognized,” Fitch Solutions said in the report.

Growing health care costs

“This has resulted in growing direct and indirect costs to health care systems of the Asia-Pacific region, which among others include medication and hospitalization costs,” the agency said in a July 18 commentary.

“Loss of productivity as a result of obesity has also been a growing concern, particularly in countries with less-developed economies,” the research said.

With high dietary-induced obesity levels in Asia-Pacific jacking up costs for health care systems, the research said governments were generally expected to be increasingly involved in battling obesity, varying on a country-by-country basis.

On the other hand, obesity trends and expanding health care systems are seen to provide ample opportunities for generic drugmakers.

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“The improving economic standards in the region have brought about lifestyle changes, which in turn have led to a shift to more unhealthy diets. Food of low nutritional value is more easily and widely available due to its low cost and the introduction and adoption of Western dietary habits. These changes, coupled with a lack of physical exercise, have led to growing obesity levels in the region, both in children and adults,” the research said.

As such, 40.9 percent of adults are overweight or obese—defined as having a body mass index above 25—in 2013 compared to 34.6 percent in 1990.

Similarly, the number of obese children in Asia-Pacific rose by 38 percent between 2000 and 2016, with almost 50 percent of obese children under 5 years of age across the world living in Asia.

“Governments in the Asia-Pacific region are likely to follow suit from their Western and [Middle East-North Africa] counterparts in taking measures and launching initiatives to tackle rising obesity levels,” it said.

“Promotion of physical activity, especially in younger ages, and establishment of exercise infrastructure are considered a direct and relatively inexpensive way of fighting the disease.

“Government investments in exercise facilities are therefore expected to be high on the agenda in the coming years,” the research added.

Government intervention

Interventions by the government can include labelling of food according to its nutritional value in a way that is easily understandable by consumers, for example, the “health stars” used in Australia, Fitch Solutions added.

Drugmakers are also seen to benefit from the need to fight obesity.

“Although surgical interventions for obesity are generally effective, they have a higher cost and require strong technical expertise to perform. This, coupled with sparse data on the outcomes of surgical interventions in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations countries, provides generic drugmakers of antiobesity drugs with ample opportunities,” it added.

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TAGS: diet, Fitch Solutions, health care systems, obesity
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