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“40% of working-age Thais are overweight, at risk of disease”

PHOTO: Omron Healthcare

Thai health officials are warning of the risk of non-communicable diseases from being overweight, eating junk food, and not exercising. Dr. Suwanchai Wattanayingcharoenchai, director-general of the Health Department, says 42.4% of working Thais aged 15 and over are classified as overweight.

Suwanchai says this section of the population is at increased risk of developing diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, as well as heart and kidney disease. The medic is calling for a change in lifestyle, moving away from the consumption of fast food and insufficient exercise.

The Health Department cites a survey carried out among working Thais during 2019 and 2020, which shows an average body mass index of 24.2 in men and 25.2 in women – both higher than normal BMI levels. The data also classifies 37.8% of working Thai men, and 46.4% of working Thai women, as fat. Out of those, 27.7% of men and 50.4% of women have belly fat.

The findings also show that more Thai people are eating less fruit and vegetables – 78.8% compared to 74.1% in a previous survey.

According to Dr. Suwanchai, one of the biggest reasons for the obesity epidemic is the fact that working Thais spend around 40 hours a week at a desk and a busy professional life often means they grab junk food on the go. In addition, he says that, while a culture of socialising in restaurants might alleviate stress, it can also mean piling on the kilos.

Health experts are urging people to make time for frequent exercise, with a recommendation of 30 minutes a day or 150 minutes a week of fast walking, jogging, cycling, or yoga, in accordance with World Health Organisation guidelines.

Dr. Suwanchai points out that getting enough sleep is vital, adding that people should aim for between 7 and 9 hours a night and monitor their waist size and weight.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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