More Taiwanese are gaining weight while others are more quickly becoming underweight, as the weight spectrum shows an increasing gap between the heaviest and lightest people, with teenagers and elderly people being more underweight than average, a nutrition and health survey showed.
The survey, conducted from 2017 to 2020 by the Health Promotion Administration (HPA), was published in May this year.
The proportion of obese people increased in all age groups, with 50.7 percent over the age of 19 being overweight or obese, defined as those with a body mass index (BMI) greater than 24, a 6 percent increase from surveys conducted from 2013 to 2016, it showed.
Photo: Chiu Chih-jou,Taipei Times
About half of Taiwanese over the age of 45 are overweight or obese; 60 percent of people aged 65 to 70 are in that category; and 30 percent under 18 are above normal weight, it showed.
Many people who sought weight loss treatments said that they gained weight during the COVID-19 pandemic, Taipei Medical University’s Weight Management Center director Wang Wei (王偉) said.
The proportion of underweight people — with a BMI below 18.5 — under 18 or older than 65 also increased, the survey showed.
Underweight people comprise 10.1 percent of children aged seven to 12; 6.6 percent of teenagers aged 13 to 15; 12.6 percent of teenagers aged 16 to 18; and 2.8 percent of people aged 65 to 74, all higher from the previous survey, it showed.
Teenagers being underweight is related to their diets, exercise and sleep, the HPA said.
More than 80 percent of teenagers eat out more than seven times per week, while about 50 percent do not get enough daily physical activity and some sleep less than seven hours on weeknights, it said.
Finicky eating habits are the primary cause of children and teenagers being underweight, said Lo Yu-fang (羅玉芳), a physician at Cheng Hsin General Hospital’s department of pediatrics.
Some children lack clear concepts of a healthy diet or mistakenly believe that it is fine not to eat when not hungry, she said, adding that some even cut their food expenditures to buy games or participate in hobbies.
The body shapes of celebrities might also contribute to children and teenagers being underweight, said Kuo Tien-ling (郭恬伶), a physician at Shin Kong Memorial Wu Ho-Su Hospital’s department of pediatrics.
About 70 percent of people aged 65 or older have missing teeth, and 63 percent have dietary restrictions, contributing to their weight issues, HPA Community Health Division head Lo Shu-ying (羅素英) said.
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