A marked increase in obesity amongst the Sri Lankan population

Global Obesity Prevention Day” is today – 04th of March. More than two billion people in the world are overweight. 650 million of them are obese. The number of overweight and obese men in Sri Lanka has also increased by 30 percent. Women are also 48 percent overweight and obese”, said Dr. Shanthi Gunawardena, Community Medicine Specialist at the Ministry of Health’s Non-Communicable Diseases Unit (NCDU) in Sri Lanka.

Addressing the media, at the Health Promotion Bureau (HPB) on the 2nd of March,  on ‘Changing Perspectives: Let’s talk about obesity’ for World Obesity Prevention Day, Dr. Gunawardana, Consultant Community Physician said that 22.5% of men had been obese or overweight according to a survey carried out in 2015. But it had risen to 30% by 2021.

The survey carried out by the Non-Communicable Diseases Unit  (NCDU) every five years, to assess the Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) risk factors, had revealed that 34 percent of women, were obese or overweight in 2015. It had increased to 48 percent, by 2021, she said.

Considering the figures, there was an increase of 6.3 percent among men and 15 percent among women.

“10% of children in Sri Lanka are overweight and obese. 10 out of Sri Lanka’s pregnant mothers suffer from diabetes. It was pointed out that obesity is the reason why young women marry and have no children, and the reason for this is the changes in the reproductive system with this obesity.” Dr. Gunawardana noted.

The Consultant Community Physician explained that ‘overweight’ and ‘obesity’ was decided based on the Body Mass Index (BMI). According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the BMI of a healthy person should be between 18.5 and 24.9. Those below 18.5 were malnourished. A BMI between 25 and 29.9 was considered as ‘overweight’, she noted.

“It affects weight gain. This increases the risk of developing non-communicable diseases later on. A BMI of 30 or more was considered obese, as Asians, we should try to maintain a BMI of 23 making sure that it did not exceed it,” she added.”

Dr. Shanthi Gunawardena also stated that due to these conditions, the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, certain cancers, and lung diseases has increased in these people.

According to reports from the Institute of Medical Research, 50 percent of Sri Lankans still add salt when cooking rice.

According to the data of the unit’s food control unit of the Environmental and Occupational Health of the Ministry of Health, all the bakery products in this country are high in salt. A 100 gram patty has 1.77 grams of salt. Add about 06 grams of salt for a pound of bread. In 2015, one person consumed 10 grams of salt per day, which has now increased to 14 grams.

But the report said that a person needs less than a teaspoon of salt per day. Thus, excessive consumption of salt increases morbidity.

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