Child Obesity Threatening Asia, Warns US Expert

KUALA LUMPUR, March 5 (Bernama) -- Children in developing countries, especially in Asia, are falling victim to obesity, a worrying trend as it leads to severe health complications at a tender age, warned an expert.

"The United States (US) is very involved in obesity but now it is definitely spreading to Southeast Asia and in particular we are seeing it in younger people, they are getting diabetes," Dr Norman Samuels, a surgeon with the Florida-based Centre For Severe Obesity, told Bernama here Saturday.

"It is becoming a worldwide problem and it has increased in recent years because of fast food and the advent of television and computer games.

"Children are not going outside to play or have an active life any more. Most of the time they sit in front of computer games or television.

"As a result, from an early age they eat a lot of wrong food and don't burn out the calories. So they get heavier and heavier," he said.

In countries like China and India, two fast growing economies in the world, and even in West Asia, more children were prone to obesity, due to changing lifestyle but this was a very unhealthy trend, said Dr Samuels.

Overweight children are prone to high blood pressure, diabetes and degenerative arthritis, which eventually affect their quality of life.

To combat the rising obesity cases, doctors are now performing gastric bypass, found to be more effective compared with traditional weight reduction methods like taking slimming pills.

"On average, at least 70 per cent of the excessive weight in a person can be removed and there is permanent weight loss if patients follow procedures," Dr Samuels said, adding that in the US, about 100,000 such surgeries were performed in 2004.

Dr Samuels is in Malaysia to introduce obesity surgery to local hospitals and he said that several hospitals were keen to learn about it.

"There is a problem in Malaysia and it is a service to the public because it is not cosmetic surgery but it is done against diseases.

"We will help set up the whole programme, train the surgeons and nurses, and we will bring dieticians, psychologists and trainers," he added.

-- BERNAMA