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3 out of 10 Filipino adults are overweight, obese – report

Three out of 10 Filipino adults 20 years old and above are either overweight or obese, according to a report by the former president of the Philippine Association for the Study of Overweight and Obesity Inc.(PASOO) on Tuesday during a health forum in Quezon City.

Endocrinologist Dr. Rosa Allyn Sy called obesity a "growing epidemic" in the Philippines based on the study of the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) in 2013.

"6.8 na ang prevalence natin ng obesity based on the BMI classification, dati 5.2 lang reported in 2008. So, there is a significant increase," said Sy.

The report was based on the World Health Organization's guidelines for Body Mass Index (BMI) classification. The BMI is a simple index for weight-for-height to classify underweight, overweight, and obesity in adults. A person is overweight if his or her BMI is ≥25, and obese if his or her BMI is ≥30.

The occurence of obesity is most prevalent in the 40-49.9 age group and least prevalent in people 70 years old and up, the report said. It also noted that there are more females who are obese than males. Specifically, android obesity or apple-shaped obesity is more common among women than men, according to FNRI.

Sy also reported that there is an increase in the waist circumference and waist-hip ratio among adults in the country in recent years.

Factors of increased prevalence of obesity

According to the president of Philippine Psychiatric Association (PPA) Dr. Edgardo Tolentino, many factors have led to the increase of obesity in the Philippines. Stress is one of the biggest factors, he pointed out.

"There is, in fact, a relationship between stress and obesity... Para silang mag-asawa," Tolentino said.

According to his discussion, studies have shown that there is a biological connection why people are wired to crave for "comfort" food that are high in sugar and/or fat.  

He added, "Tayo rin ay emotional eaters pagkat namimili tayo ng sugary or fatty foods when we are stressed out."

Eating more food is also a form of self-medication, Tolentino said. When under stress, the body's feel good chemical serotonin level drops. But, carbohydrates raise the level of this chemicals.

Stress can also cause the body to release excessively the hormone cortisol, which is critical in managing fat storage and energy use. It is also known to increase appetite and encourage cravings for sugary and fatty foods.

A molecule called neuropeptide Y is released from  the nerve cells when under stress, which encourages fat accumulation.

Another factor of increased obesity is the increased portion sizes in serving in many food establishments, especially in fastfood chains. Unhealthy food has also become cheaper than more nutritious food in the past few years.

Tolentino also pointed out that obesity has increased because of reduced physical activity as more jobs now require sedentary tasks. — BM, GMA News