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Is Asia’s Obesity Part of Westernization?

10 Nov 2010

Along with McDonald’s, KFC, Starbucks, and drive-thrus, its seems like obesity has been added to the list of lifestyle changes associated with the development and Westernization (or maybe just “Americanization”) of major economies, now including Singapore. While an “Asian Diet” has traditionally been linked to low obesity rates and high life expectancy in places such as Japan and South Korea, there seems to be a steady change occurring — one that will require new clothing.

In South Korea, there is only a 4% rate of obesity among adults and in Japan, the life expectancy is 82.17 years – both among the best in the world, and especially among OECD nations. However, the country with the next highest life expectancy in Asia — Singapore — has recently seen its obesity rate rise dramatically. The most recent report by the Health Promotion Board, which conducts a National Health Survey, reveals that the rate has risen to 10.8% of the population.

In the U.S., being overweight is primarily seen as a sign of low-income and represents a lack of education and access to healthy food and lifestyle activities.The blame in Singapore is placed solely on a sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy eating habits. Maybe it’s time to stop ordering McDelivery and start making use of the year-round sunshine to swim a few laps.

Meanwhile, despite low levels of obesity in South Korea, the nation’s category of overweight has reached 30% with projections for a steady increase. With Katy Perry blaring on the radio and iPads flashing in the metro and at meetings, it seems like it was only a matter of time before America started exporting something else it has in such surplus.

I guess we can understand why it took a while for it to get here.

Nathan Bullock is a Fulbright Fellow based in Singapore, researching human and cultural geography, urbanization, and critical studies. Read about his adventures at East Coast Elitist.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Lokies permalink
    10 Nov 2010 3:34 AM

    Yes, Asia’s got the West to blame for getting fatter. I mean, before them fastfood restaurants & cafes, I believe we were just living on rice & simple dishes, right?

    Still, Asians got themselves to blame for being sloths = fatties.


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