Friday, July 01, 2016

Would Rise Of Childhood Obesity Cause Higher Diabetes Rate?

On April 2, 2016, ‘The Lancet’ journal published an article indicating that the number of people globally with a body mass index (BMI) of over 30 has risen from 105 million in 1975 to 641 million in 2014. People who are overweight or obese are at a higher risk of developing many health disorders as adults. These include diabetes, heart disease, stroke, joint problems, endometrial, and cancer.

Despite the fact that the percentage of obese individuals in Singapore is lower than that in other nations, its obesity rate is also on the rise. The last National Health Survey in 2010 found that 11 percent of Singaporean adults aged between 18 and 69 were obese, up from 7 percent in 2004.

Main reason for the obesity rate to rise at a faster rate in people below the age of 40 is that there is a big drop in physical activity when people start working. Most of them continue to eat the same amount of food, or even more as they have higher disposable income.

In January 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) also published a report stating that the number of fat children to increase from 42 million in 2013 to 70 million by 2025. WHO warns that obese infants and children are likely to continue being obese during adulthood. Obesity in schoolchildren in Singapore has risen from 11 percent in 2013 to 12 percent in 2014, while it was 10 percent in 2000.

Rising obesity in children and young adults will certainly push up the rate of diabetes in Singapore, who is already among the highest in the developed world. Based on projection, 34 percent of people aged between 24 and 35 this year will be expected to become diabetics by the time they are 65. In fact, diabetes rates have risen, from 8.6 percent of the adult population in 1992 to 11.3 percent in 2010, and this would have gone up to 12.9 percent in 2015.

According to The International Diabetes Federation’s estimate, there are 387 million diabetics globally, and just over 500,000 diabetic adults in Singapore in 2014. Its prevalence has grown from only 4.7 percent about 30 years ago to almost 13 percent of adults. The number will grow exponentially if no intervention has been done.

Fortunately, the Health Promotion Board (HPB) in Singapore has taken measures to curb the rise of childhood obesity. For instance, HPB has encouraged the stallholders in school canteens to use healthier ingredients, and sell drinks that meet the HPB’s reduced-sugar requirement.

Schoolchildren are now also eating more fruit and vegetables. In 2012, only 1 in 5 consumed at least 2 servings each of fruit and vegetables a day but almost half did so last year (2015). Almost half of the more than 6,000 overweight primary and secondary school children who took part in the programs were able to bring their weight down to a healthy level.

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