Less obesity in countries that uphold food traditions

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 1 -- People of countries that still strongly uphold their traditional food preparations are less likely to become obese, like the Koreans and Japanese, says a nutritionist.

Dr Goh Ee Von from Crops For the Future (CFF) said although these countries’ economy had grown tremendously and their people’s rates of obesity should have matched those in western countries, they were not obese as they should be.

“One of the reasons is that they very strong uphold their food culture, using lots of vegetables and also follow their traditional food preparation methods.

“Korea is a country where the temperatures can be very harsh, hence traditionally they couldn’t grow many crops so they use fermentation techniques and other traditional methods to preserve the food as well as increase the nutritional value,” she told Bernama on the sidelines of the Khazanah Research Institute’s (KRI) panel session on tackling micro-nutrient deficiency, here, today.

It was held following the recent release of KRI’s ‘Addressing Malnutrition in Malaysia’ report by its research adviser Prof Dr Jomo Kwame Sundaram, visiting senior fellow Prof Dr Wan Abdul Manan Wan Muda and Tan Zhai Gen, a research associate at KRI.

Goh, who is also a research fellow at CFF, said Malaysians were generally treasuring their food but “it’s the proportion and method that differ”.

”They are still having ‘gulai’ but not the ‘ulam’. With regard to Indian food, for example, the preparation for ‘idli’ and ‘thosai’ has changed. We have instant flour instead of traditionally fermented batter,” she said.

Goh said Malaysians also tended to consume western food as a reward for themselves or as appreciation for family members and friends.

“I think it is not about us forgetting our roots, but also we see this as progress. If we can afford that food, it means we are doing much better. It's a reward culture.

“But to tackle health issues and obesity among us, we have to go back to our roots where it's all about moderation. There is no good food or bad food; it's about eating healthily with a balanced diet as well as keeping the food traditions alive,” she said.

Meanwhile, the report has summarised that malnutrition remains a huge challenge in Malaysian society and the need to address this should be a priority for a healthy and more productive nation.

It suggests that a holistic, ‘all-of-government’ National Nutrition Strategy is urgently needed in order to effectively tackle these issues. 

“Sustainable food systems need to be ensured to promote healthy diets, while public nutrition education needs considerable improvement and strengthening to educate both children and adults on eating healthily.

“Misleading advertising compromising health and nutrition, especially for children, will also need to be restricted.

“Universal school feeding is also crucial to inculcate good eating habits in children, while improving socialisation and cooperation, and improving academic results and physical development,” the report says.

It also notes that anaemia in women of reproductive age needs to be given due attention by encouraging adequate micro-nutrient intake and temporary supplementation, especially in cases requiring urgent attention.

“Food safety will also need to be ensured, including reduction of the overuse and abuse of antimicrobials (antibiotics) for animals, including in fish breeding,” it says.

-- BERNAMA  






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