Health authorities on Saturday said that the level of obesity among Taiwanese has reached a record high, citing a study released last year that showed that 47.97 percent of adults were overweight.
Eating habits are a major reason for the increase, a Health Promotion Administration (HPA) official said, adding that many people have a habit of drinking sugary beverages or often share excessively large meals with family and friends.
The HPA said that it is alarmed by the development, especially since the agency together with the Sports Administration has for years been promoting active lifestyles, including regular exercise.
The obesity rate has increased steadily since 2009, when 38 percent of adults were overweight, HPA data showed. Last year’s study included data of 4,280 people throughout Taiwan.
The HPA classifies people with a body mass index of 24kg/m2 or greater as overweight and those with an index of 30kg/m2 as obese.
The WHO classified obesity as a chronic disease that increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, dyslipidemia, high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney and liver diseases, and metabolic syndrome.
Kuo Po-hsiu (郭柏秀), a professor of epidemiology and preventive medicine at National Taiwan University’s (NTU) College of Public Health, said obesity is a global phenomenon, adding that the main causes are diet, level of physical activity, lifestyle, and social and environmental conditions, with genetic factors also playing a role.
“The main contributing factor is people’s diet. For example, one cup of a tea beverage with the full amount of sugar could contain 80 percent of the daily recommended sugar intake. The food industry has increased the amount of sugar and fat in many products to attract customers. The popularity of fried donuts is one such example,” she said.
“Stress also affects hormone levels. Many people are working prolonged hours and do not exercise regularly, which can lead to a hormonal imbalance and result in them gaining weight,” Kuo said.
Lin Wan-yu (林菀俞), an associate professor at the same department, said that jogging is one effective way to lose weight, especially if it is combined with a balanced diet.
However, people with cardiovascular conditions should consult a doctor before taking up physical exercise, Lin said.
HPA Community Health Division head Lo Shu-ying (羅素英) said that the agency is planning to collaborate with local governments to provide incentives to the public to take up physical exercise and healthy lifestyles.
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