Obesity Growing in Asia

Asian countries are growing more concerned by rising obesity levels among their populations. While Asia still has some of the lowest rates worldwide of people classed as overweight or obese, the region has seen an alarming increase in recent years. The trend is being driven by economic development and cultural factors.

In June 2017, the Asian Development Bank estimated that 40.9% of adults in Asia and the Pacific regions were overweight or obese. A Malaysian National Health and Morbidity Survey in 2015 suggested that a fifth of Malaysians will have diabetes by 2020. Indonesia’s health minister told the Nikkei Asia Review in November 2017 that the government planned to introduce legislation in 2018 to reduce the content of sugar, salt, and fat in food. Singapore, where obesity rates have been rising by 0.7 percentage points a year since 2004, is considering following the lead of some European countries and introducing a sugar tax. The prime minister used his National Day rally in August 2017 to note that one in nine Singaporeans now has diabetes and to call on citizens to adopt healthier lifestyles. In Hong Kong, a government study of more than 12,000 people released in November found a rise in the obesity rate to 29.9% from 21% 10 years ago. The survey predicted a 10.6% increase in the risk of cardiovascular problems among people aged 30-74 in the next 10 years.