Tue, Nov 15, 2011 - Page 2 News List

Asia-Pacific poll shows Taiwan’s weight obsession

HEALTHY LIVING:With 77 percent of Taiwanese saying they wanted to lose weight, a doctor expressed concern that this desire seemed to be driven by ‘image’ issues

By Crystal Hsu  /  Staff Reporter

Taiwanese have a stronger desire to lose weight than most other people in the Asia-Pacific region, leading a doctor to conclude that Taiwanese assign too much importance to staying slim, a survey released yesterday shows.

The survey, conducted by TNS Research International, the world’s largest provider of custom research and analysis, was commissioned by American International Assurance Co (AIA).

It found that 77 percent of Taiwanese expressed the desire to lose weight, compared with a regional average of 54 percent across 15 Asian markets.

That made Taiwan next only to Macau, where 78 percent of respondents considered themselves overweight, and ahead of South Korea at 75 percent and Hong Kong at 70 percent, the survey found.

Most Taiwanese aged 18 to 29 are dissatisfied with their body shape, as 78 percent in the bracket longed to be slimmer, far outnumbering their peers in other countries, the survey showed.

About 73 percent of young South Koreans desired to lose weight, followed by their Hong Kong counterparts at 68 percent, the survey added.

The findings suggest Taiwanese adults are more conscious of obesity than the rest of the region, the survey said.

Fan Hao-yi (范豪益), a family doctor at Taipei Medical University Hospital, said young people in Taiwan, South Korea and Hong Kong overemphasized the importance of body weight based on the survey.

“I don’t think the problem [of being overweight] is that serious in Taiwan,” Fan said. “Image, rather than health concerns probably drive this desire to be slimmer.”

Fan said the body mass index (BMI), defined as an individual’s body weight divided by the square of their height, is a better indicator of fitness than body weight or body shape.

Slim people may have higher BMI scores than their heavier counterparts who maintain a healthy diet and regular exercise, Fan said.

A BMI value of 18.5 to 24 may indicate optimal weight, he said. A BMI below 20 suggests the person is underweight, while a number above 25 may indicate the person is overweight.

To stay fit, people should maintain a balanced, healthy diet, as well as regular exercise, Fan said.

Many Taiwanese, or 59 percent, do not exercise regularly, compared with the regional average of 52 percent, the survey found, adding that 42 percent exercised less than an hour a week, on par with the regional average.

While Taiwanese generally appreciate the importance of a healthy diet, 85 percent equate the concept with drinking more water, the survey said.

The survey also showed that Taiwanese adults sleep 6.6 hours a day, slightly lower than the 6.8 hours a day for the region and shorter than the ideal target of 8 hours.

While some work too long, more young adults sacrifice sleep in order to play online games or surf the Internet, Fan said.

“In the pursuit of healthy living, it is more important to exercise regularly and maintain a balanced diet, than fixing one’s attention on body weight,” the doctor said.

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