More than half of Pakistanis overweight: study

Updated February 29, 2020

Email

Data shows not only adults but children are also falling victim to obesity-linked diseases, says research organisation. — AFP/File
Data shows not only adults but children are also falling victim to obesity-linked diseases, says research organisation. — AFP/File

KARACHI: More than half of the country’s population is overweight or faces obesity, which is making a majority of the people vulnerable to multiple diseases and health complications that could prove fatal, says a study conducted by an official research body.

Officials and experts who helped write the report about a recent survey conducted by the Pakistan Health Research Council said the fresh data showed alarming trends in society, where not only adults but children too were fast becoming patients of obesity-linked diseases.

“In the countrywide study two cutoffs were put as standards by the experts,” said a source citing findings of the study.

“According to the WHO [World Health Organisation] 58.1 per cent people of Pakistan are overweight and 43.9 per cent of population is suffering from obesity. Similarly, according to the Asian cutoffs, 72.3 per cent people of Pakistan are overweight and 58.1 per cent of the population is suffering from obesity. These are fresh figures suggesting an alarming trend.”

Data shows not only adults but children are also falling victim to obesity-linked diseases, says research organisation

Health professionals and practitioners saw the study as a “wakeup call” and called for promoting healthy lifestyle including importance of daily exercise, consumption of healthy food and educating young children about the need for taking part in physical activity and avoiding junk food.

“And most alarmingly, we are seeing these trends in the children,” said Dr Musarrat Riaz of Baqai Institute of Diabetology and Endocrinology, who assisted the PHRC in the recent study on overweight and obesity.

“If we talk about the trend, there is no urban-rural divide. It’s same in every segment of society with people from different backgrounds. But at the same time, we have seen a kind of rise of awareness among the people on these issues [overweight and obesity] but we need to do a lot more individually collectively.”

The fresh figures came months after an international health body warned that Pakistan was now among the top 10 countries in the world for absolute increase in diabetes prevalence. The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) released new figures in November last year highlighting the alarming growth in the prevalence of diabetes around the world. It reported that 38 million more adults were now estimated to be living with diabetes globally compared to results published in 2017.

Prof Abdul Basit, a member of the IDF Diabetes Atlas Committee in Pakistan, said that it was not diabetes alone, the obesity carried threats of several diseases.

“It would not be wrong if we say that obesity or being overweight is mother of several diseases,” he said. “Obesity is known to cause 23 different diseases. From hypertension to diabetes and from cardiac issues to arthritis, there are a number of diseases which one develops mainly due to obesity. It’s a disease we usually invite through our lifestyle and casual approach. Better lifestyle and healthy diet can help you prevent obesity and diseases linked to it.”

“Preventing obesity is possible through adopting and maintaining healthy lifestyle, eating balanced food while treatment of chronic obesity is possible through medicines and bariatric surgery combined with healthy lifestyle. Following extensive weight reduction, it has been observed that people can get rid of many ailments including diabetes, hypertension and live a normal life”, said bariatric surgeon Dr Tanvir Raazi Ahmed.

Published in Dawn, February 29th, 2020