MANILA, Philippines - Filipinos are getting fatter.
A survey by the National Statistics Coordination Board (NSCB) as of 2008 showed that 26.6% of Filipino adults are overweight, higher than 16.6% in 1993.
Of the number, 5.2% are obese.
Among children aged 5 to 10 years old, 6.6% are overweight against only 5.8% during the last survey in 2003.
The rise comes despite a reported drop in Filipinos' food intake to 861 grams per day in 2008 from 803 grams in 1993, said Candido Astrologo Jr. of the NSCB during a seminar for health journalists in Quezon City recently.
However, Astrologo said the question that should be asked is not how much food Filipinos eat, but what kind.
He said households' nutrition habits are changing. According to him, consumption of meat and poultry has been on the rise, contributing to obesity.
Intake of poultry has increased the highest, by 4.3% from 1978 to 2008, followed by other meats (3.1%) on an annual compounded basis, Astrologo said, citing government data.
On the other hand, intake of roots and tubers declined by 2.6%, and fruits by 2.2%. Consumption of rice slightly increased by 0.1%.
From 2003 to 2008, the proportion of households that met the required intake of nutrients such as Niacin, Ascorbic Acid, Thiamin, Iron and Calcum also decreased.
"Intake of fruits and vegetables has been on the downtrend because they're expensive," said Astrologo.
He added, "Majority of households now eat outside. And what do they eat? Fast food."
However, while the number of fat Filipinos is growing, it is still much less than those in neighboring countries in the region, Astrologo noted.
Only 5.2% of the population in the Philippines are obese, against 14.1% in Malaysia, 8.5% in Thailand, 7.9% in Brunei and 6.4% in Singapore, according to the NSCB survey.
Obese people, meanwhile, are more prone to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke, said Dr. Tony Dans of the Philippine General Hospital.
Using the waist-to-hip ratio, Dans said "a third of Filipinos are obese and at risk of heart disease."
"A high waist-to-hip ratio is the most common risk factor for heart disease," he said.
Dans said there is an epidemic of NCDs in the world, with 200,000 dying of NCDs in the Philippines alone every year.
He named two of the usual causes for the epidemic -- smoking and bad diet -- which, he said, are not only behavioral problems but also "societal."
Dans said several studies have also shown a direct relationship between poverty and NCD. Globalization and lack of urban planning are also culprits.
"There are more deaths in poorest countries in Southeast Asia... Insufficient intake of fruits and vegetables is also highest amongst the poor...Today, NCD is a disease of poverty," he said.
Given these, Dans said the solutions should not only concern the individuals and health care institutions but also the government and "all of society."
"The real of departments of health are the DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways), the urban planners, the food industry, the DepEd (Department of Education). They need to change the environment so lifestyle becomes healthy," he said.
"The biggest misconception is that NCD is disease of an individual. No, it's a disease of society. We need to solve the problem at a societal level."