5 main causes of obesity among Malaysians


Malaysia has the highest prevalence of obesity among adults in South East Asia. In the Year 2019, National Health and Morbidity Survey, 50.1% of the Malaysian adult population was reported to be overweight (30.4%) or obese (19.7%).

Overweight and obese is the abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that can cause health risks. Body mass index (BMI) is calculated using weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters.

Body mass index (BMI) is calculated using weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters.
  • If your BMI is 18.5 to 22.9, it falls within the healthy weight range.
  • If your BMI is 23 to 24.9, it falls within the overweight range.
  • If your BMI is 25 to 29.9., it falls within the pre-obesity range.
  • If your BMI is 30.0 or higher, it falls within the obesity range.

1. Excessive Calories

Calories are the measurement of the energy value of food in units. On average, a physically active man needs about 2,500 calories per day, while a physically active woman needs about 2,000 calories per day to maintain a healthy weight.

People gain weight when they eat more calories than they burn through activity. This imbalance is the greatest contributor to weight gain because calories consumed end up being stored in their body as fat.

2. Poor diet

Obesity does not happen in the blink of an eye. It develops gradually over time due to poor diet and lifestyle choices, for example:-

  • Consuming a lot of processed or fast food which is high in fat & sugar.
  • Consuming excessive alcohol can cause weight gain due to its high calories.
  • Eating out too much as the food is higher in fat and sugar. Moreover, you will be tempted to order starters & desserts.
  • Eating more than you need.
  • Consuming excessive sugary beverages which include soft drinks, added sugar fruit juice and milk tea.
  • Comfort eating due to low self-esteem/depression will cause eating more to make yourself feel better.

3. Lack of regular exercise

Lack of regular exercise is another important factor related to obesity. People such as office workers have jobs that involve sitting at a desk throughout the day. People tend to rely on driving, rather than walking or cycling.

After a long hectic day, people choose to sit down and watch TV, browse the internet and play computer games instead of exercising for relaxation.

If you’re not active enough, you don’t use up the energy provided by the food you ate, causing the extra energy consumed to be as fat in the body.

Adults are recommended to have at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week, which means at least 30 minutes per day for 5 days a week like cycling or fast walking. To lose weight, one should do more exercise than suggested by starting off slowly and increasing gradually.

4. Genetics

Studies show that genetics is one of the factors that cause obesity. For example, Prader-Willi syndrome caused by some missing genetic material in a group of genes on chromosome number 15 leads to excessive appetite and overeating can easily result in obesity.

Genes play a part in a person’s susceptibility to weight gain. Scientists believe that genes may increase a person’s chances of having obese. However, other factors like an abundant food supply or little physical activity may still be needed for a person to gain excess weight.

5. Medical Conditions

Certain underlying medical conditions will cause weight gain.

  • Underactive thyroid glands known as hypothyroidism cause weight gain due to a decrease in BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate). The cause of weight gain in a hypothyroid person is complex, and not always related to an accumulation of excess fat. Most of the extra weight gained in hypothyroid individuals is due to excess accumulation of salt and water.
  • A rare disorder is known as Cushing’s syndrome when bodies make too much cortisol. Cortisol stimulates fat and carbohydrate metabolism, creating a surge of energy in the body. While this process is essential for survival situations, it also increases your appetite. Additionally, elevated cortisol levels can cause cravings for sweet, fatty and salty foods
  • Medications for example some corticosteroids, medications for epilepsy and diabetesmental illness(antidepressants) and schizophrenia can cause weight gain.

People who are overweight or obese, compared to those with healthy weight, are at increased risk for many serious diseases and health conditions including diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers. You can control many of these risk factors by changing your lifestyle. If you have an obesity issue, speak to your doctor about your treatment options.

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