Why Are Malaysians Getting Fat?

By Edeline Anne Goh

The rate of obesity is sky high in many developed and developing countries and Malaysia is no exception.

While we’re aware that many of us are subject to sedentary lifestyles and find it hard to resist delicious but often unhealthy local food, it was still quite a shock when former health minister Dato’ Seri Liow Tiong Lai announced last year that Malaysia has the highest percentage of obese citizens in South East Asia!

If you’re wondering why Malaysians are getting fat, these facts and figures tell the story:

8.5 million Malaysian adults are overweight

4.4 million Malaysian adults are obese

Obese Malaysians

35.7 % Indians

32 % Malays

19.7 % Chinese

How Did We End Up With These Statistics?

  • Unhealthy food choices
  • Unbalanced daily diet
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Security issues that cause people to stay indoors
  • Advancements in technology
  • Easy access to transportation

Average Calories Needed For A Sedentary Lifestyle

Men      2000 – 2600 kcal

Women 1600 – 2000 kcal

Malaysia’s Favourite Foods And Their Calorie Content

Type of Food Calorie (kcal) per serving
Nasi Lemak Rendang 600
Char Kuey Teow 332.4
Roti Canai Telur 357
Mee Bandung 519.1
Cendol 662.7
Ice Kacang 256
Teh Tarik 233
Curry puff 235


An Average Malaysian Adult’s Daily Diet

Breakfast – 8.00 am

Nasi Lemak with rendang (600 kcal)

Neslo (113.4 kcal)

Morning tea – 10.00 am

2 pieces Curry puff (470 kcal)

Lunch – 12.30 pm

Chicken rice (329.2 kcal)

Iced Grass Jelly drink (117 kcal)

Afternoon tea – 3.30 pm

2 pieces cekodok pisang (361 kcal)

Dinner – 6.30 pm

Banana leaf rice (average 700 kcal)

*calorie count depends on choices of various dishes

Teh Tarik (233 kcal)

Supper – 9.00 pm

Hot cocoa drink (140.75)

Total calories: 3064.35

Ideal Serving On A Plate

Many Local Delicacies Contain:

Coconut milk

Refined carbohydrates


High salt and sugar content

In 2010, 2004 food samples were analysed by the Ministry of Health and 5.4 % were found to have too much sugar

Eating Habits Of Malaysian Women

In a study on Malaysian women and their eating habits, this was the relationship between food and stress for half the participants…

levels of stress is up; consumption of unhealthy food is up too

Combat Obesity

#1 Eat according to the Malaysian Food Pyramid

*Source: Nutrition Society of Malaysia

#2 Get moving!

#3 Reduce time spent on tech gadgets

#4 Stock fridge with fresh fruits and vegetables

#5 Drink lots of water


No More Waiting!

I’ll change my lifestyle  ‘TODAY’


“Malaysia has highest obesity rate in S.Asia.” New Straits Times 14 Nov. 2011. Web. 21 Oct. 2013.

Ortega, Adriana, Haslinda Abdullah, Nobaya Ahmad, and Rahimah Ibrahim. “Stress Indicators and Eating Habits among Working Malaysian Women.” Asian Social Science 9.7 (2013): 12-21. Web. 21 Oct. 2013.

nutriWEB. Nutrion Society of Malaysia, n.d. Web. 21 Oct. 2013.

Azizan, Hariati. “Record-breaking Malaysia!” The Star 1 Jan. 2012. Web. 21 Oct. 2013.

Why Are Malaysians Getting Fat?

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