Vietnam should follow Japan's lessons to fix its obesity problem

June 14, 2024 | 03:50 pm PT
Vietnam should follow Japan's lessons to fix its obesity problem
Students play inside an elementary school in Vietnam's southern Ben Tre Province in 2020. They wear masks in wake of an ongoing Covid-19 outbreak back then. Photo by VnExpress/Hoang Nam
Vietnam can learn from Japan's approach to tackling obesity by promoting healthy eating habits, and encouraging physical activity from a young age, readers said.

These comments emerged following reports of rising obesity rates among children in Vietnam compared to the low rates in Japan. According to the World Health Organization, Japan has the lowest obesity rate among high-income countries at 3.3%.

The average weight of Japanese people is also low compared to many other countries, with an average BMI of 22.6, ranking at the bottom along with countries like Laos, Myanmar, and Zambia.

Vietnam's obesity rate is not high compared to the region, but the alarming issue is that it is increasing the fastest among Southeast Asian countries, at a rate of 38%.

A reader, tuyenht.267, shared her observations on her child's weight gain in Japan versus Vietnam, highlighting the differences in eating habits.

"In Japan, my child (under 6 years old) gained at most two pounds a year. When he returned to Vietnam, he gained 3-4 kg in half a year. In Japan, every time he comes home from school, he runs, jumps, climbs, and complains of hunger. In Vietnam, during dinner, he just sits and plays with his spoon. I noticed that their school meal portions are moderate, only 70-80% full, but quite diverse in food groups. In Vietnam, we fill a tray with food, and everyone eats until they are full."

Reader Kien Pt6498 commented:

"Currently, Vietnamese people's lives are better off, but they lack scientific knowledge in eating and exercising to maintain health. Combined with a lack of physical activity, more young people in Vietnam are becoming obese, suffering from cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and stroke. It will take time to disseminate knowledge about healthy eating and living to increase awareness before significant changes can be expected."

Reader blknemesis98 pointed out:

"Many people lack knowledge about the science of eating. When eating, Vietnamese people do not divide portions individually but often eat as much as they want, leading to imbalances in nutrition. As for physical activities, Japanese people also use cars and public trams, but they often walk or exercise. In Vietnam, whether it’s far or near, people use motorbikes, and few walk. Road conditions do not always facilitate walking in Vietnam either, as the sidewalks in big cities are often encroached upon, and the streets are filled with vehicles, leaving little space for pedestrians or cyclists."

Reader Huu Nghi noted:

"Japanese people eat less meat than those in other countries, with seafood, fermented foods, and vegetables always included in meals. A Japanese meal typically includes a tray of rice with various dishes in moderate amounts - rice, soup, a main dish, vegetables, and pickles - rather than serving large portions on a single plate for everyone to eat as they wish."

Japanese people engage in sports and exercise from a young age and walk more than people in other countries, which contributes to their lower obesity rates. Additionally, in terms of aesthetics and culture, Japanese people do not view being overweight as a sign of wealth or luxury, unlike in Vietnam or China. They are very concerned about avoiding visceral fat syndrome (metabolic syndrome), a condition that leads to excessive visceral fat accumulation, high blood pressure, increased risk of arteriosclerosis, brain infarction, and myocardial infarction."

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