Malaysia has become the fattest country in Southeast Asia

Malaysia has become the fattest country in Southeast Asia

According to a recent report published by the Khazanah Research Institute, the obesity rate among youths in Malaysia younger than 18 increased from 5.4% in 2006 to 11.9% in 2015. On the other hand, the rate for Malaysian adults (aged 18 and above) almost doubled in 10 years — from 16.6% in 1996 to rising slightly to 30% in 2015. Overall, the obesity rate in the country increased from 4.5% in 1996 to 17.7% in 2015 — a four-fold increase over 19 years.

So, why is obesity so prevalent in the country? According to the report, among the top ten foods consumed by Malaysians daily, sugar was the second-highest at 55.9%, next to rice.

The Malaysian lifestyle has also changed over the years. Now, the majority of Malaysians spend less time on physical activity at work or during their leisure time. We also see a lot of Malaysians using vehicles, lifts, and escalators rather than walking or taking the stairs. Accordingly to the report, in 2010, 33.5% of adults did not have physically active lifestyles — where they spent an average of 74.4% of their daily waking hours on sedentary activities.

This is a serious matter, as obesity poses a threat to our health — it leads to poorer sleep quality, less sleeping, increased sleep disturbances, increased stress levels, poor mental health and more. According to the World Health Organization, 73% of deaths in Malaysia were caused by non-communicable diseases, often associated with obesity.

So, what can we do to actively stay healthy and active? Ultimately, balanced and diversified diets are still the simplest answer to improving nutrition for the people. We should have a well-rounded diet that does not contain unprocessed and refined foods high in additives, sugar, and salt.

You can start small. Start with ensuring that you have enough vegetables and protein in your diet. Try to eat at least two homecooked meals a day and try to reduce your consumption of refined sugar. If you're craving for something sweet, you can bake or cook these food items at home so you can control the ingredients.

Make sure you're also consuming enough protein (animal-based or plant-based) in your diet. Protein helps to keep you full, which means you'll also be less likely to snack on processed foods in between meals. If you're in a hurry and don't have time to eat, don't grab a chocolate bar! Eat something filling that isn't made of refined ingredients. If you need a suggestion, check out our protein powders — up to 21g of protein and under 100 calories a serving.

In terms of exercise, you can also start small. Park your car far away from entrances so you have to walk or take the stairs instead of the elevators or escalators. Go for a walk after lunch or do some light stretches in between work sessions. These changes might seem small but they'll pay off in the end! Here's to staying healthy and active!


Wan Muda, Wan Manan, et al. Addressing Malnutrition in Malaysia. Khazanah Research Institute, 19 Sept. 2019.

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