Japan aims to promote global obesity standard

Japan aims to promote global obesity standard

With one survey claiming that 2.1 billion people in the world are obese, the Japan Society for the Study of Obesity (JASSO) has started a campaign to raise awareness that obesity is a global disease and early treatment is essential.

Japan defines obesity as a disease when obese people meet certain criteria. However, obesity is not generally considered a disease overseas and obese people suffer from obesity-related diseases in many cases. Measures taken by Japan to combat obesity have proven to be effective and other countries are taking notice.

Osaka-based JASSO will propose making Japan's definition of obesity as a disease a global standard at international conferences.

Masato Kasuga, president of National Center for Global Health and Medicine, said it would be significant if Japan's definition became the global standard.

"The number of obese people has been increasing around the world," Kasuga said. "It [obesity] is considered to be a risk factor in other countries, but people don't think of it as a disease, even though it is under a certain criteria."

In those countries, diabetes and hypertension are treated, but there will never be a fundamental solution because obesity itself is not treated, he added.

The World Health Organisation hopes to stem the increase in the number of obese people around the world by 2025.

According to a survey by the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, there are about 2.1 billion obese people in the world whose body mass index, or BMI, is 25 or more. This means one out of three in the world's population is obese. This compares with 857 million people who were considered obese in 1980.

Some countries are taking measures to reduce the number of obese people. In 2013, Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, where 30 per cent of the population is obese, gave one gram of gold for every one kilogram lost in weight to people who lost two kilograms or more over a certain period of time.

In 2014, Mexico, where the rate of people suffering from diabetes is the highest among the 34 members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, started to regulate TV ads for high calorie drinks and food, including sodas and snacks.

In 2008, Japan began to introduce specific medical checkups focusing on metabolic syndrome for those aged 40 to 74 and provides specific health guidance.

According to an interim report by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry in 2014, people in all age brackets succeeded in reducing abdominal girth and weight after receiving such guidance. Their blood sugar and blood pressure also improved. Over a one-year period from fiscal 2008, about 30 per cent of men and about 40 per cent of women recovered sufficiently to be rid of metabolic syndrome.

These measures help prevent obesity as a disease. According to the ministry, about 5,000 people went to hospital for treatment of obesity as a disease in 2011.

JASSO will describe Japan's experience in addressing obesity with the aim of making Japan's definition of obesity as a disease as the global standard, hoping that it will prompt other countries to implement countermeasures.

This country's health awareness shown through its food and other areas has drawn attention from around the world. JASSO aims to lead the world in measures against obesity.

JASSO plans to spread Japan's definition of obesity as a disease first in Asia. It will propose a standard for obesity as a disease at the Asia-Oceania Conference on Obesity, which is scheduled to be held in Nagoya in October in the hope of incorporating it in the Nagoya declaration to be adopted at the conference.

JASSO will compile a draft for the declaration by the end of this month and call on participating countries to adopt it at the conference.

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