Asia-Pacific

Malaysia obesity campaign targets students

Eid al-Fitr festival biscuits on display for sale, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 18 Oct 05
Malaysian food is not renowned for being lightweight

Malaysia's government has announced it will record the body mass index of students on report cards as part of a campaign to fight obesity.

The Malaysian health minister says the country has the highest percentage of obese citizens in Southeast Asia.

Teachers now have to measure students' body weight and height to see if they have a healthy amount of body fat.

The authorities say this will help parents monitor whether their child is overweight or obese.

It might seem controversial, but even teenage girls, who are usually self-conscious, say they do not mind the move.

"Because we can know our healthy weight, height... Yeah, I worry about getting fat," several told the BBC.

The government says that one in six Malaysians is either overweight or obese.

But it is not just because of the increasing number of fast food restaurants - Malaysian cuisine is also full of deep-fried, oily and spicy dishes.

Parents like Saiful say it is very difficult to get Malaysians to eat more healthily: "Because our main food in Malaysia is coconut rice and everything in our foods must use the coconut milk. Not so healthy, not healthy at all!"

One of the ways the government is trying to tackle obesity is to get Malaysians to take in less sugar.

Since last year they have been running a campaign, but it has been very difficult. Roadside food stalls, which are hugely popular among Malaysian families, serve very sugary drinks.

There is a sense that it would be very difficult for Malaysians to stop indulging their sweet tooth.

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