Thailand fact of the day

Obesity has reached alarming levels in Thailand, which ranks as the second-heaviest nation in Asia, after Malaysia. One in three Thai men are obese, while more than 40 percent of women are significantly overweight, according to Thailand’s national health examination survey.

Monks are at the forefront of the problem. Nearly half are obese, according to a study conducted by Chulalongkorn University. More than 40 percent have high cholesterol, nearly 25 percent have high blood pressure and one in 10 are diabetic, the study found.

That is from Mukita Suhartono at the NYT.


"Monks are at the forefront of the problem. Nearly half are obese, according to a study conducted by Chulalongkorn University. More than 40 percent have high cholesterol, nearly 25 percent have high blood pressure and one in 10 are diabetic.."

>>The expanding waistlines are largely filling out because of the donations to their daily diet, researchers concluded. For the alms often consist of drink juices, sweet tea, snacks and street foods – all laden with fat and sugar.

The largely sedentary nature of temple monastic life – with large amounts of time spent in prayer and meditation – is also exacerbating the health woes.

Needs more Kung-Fu.

Low income countries generally have underweight populations. As the country's income rises, so does average weight, with a higher percentage of obesity in the population. As with ascetic monks, obesity is more prevalent at the low end of the income scale, as they, like the monks, rely more on high sugar and fat content (but cheap) drinks and processed foods. Obesity in the population is also a function of inequality, with a higher obesity percentage at the low end of the income scale. It's not just a phenomenon in LDCs, as obesity in America has reached epidemic levels, with the condition most pronounced on the low end of the income scale. As for Asians, I often eat at the local Thai and Vietnamese restaurants because the ingredients are fresh and the meals "light" (mostly vegetables). I assume the families who operate the places eat their own food, and they are invariably thin or average in size, obesity non-existent. I suppose it's because the restaurants afford them the luxury of eating well, unlike the poor in Asian countries which have experienced rising but unequal incomes.

Obesity signals IQ and conscientiousness, and hence has a spurious correlation to social class. It has very little (almost nothing ) to do with access to "healthy" foods.

We are seeing this across the developed world. There are very few rich obese people. Because you don't get / stay rich without the IQ and conscientiousness to keep yourself reasonably healthy.

'and hence has a spurious correlation to social class'

Actually, a couple of centuries ago, it was a reliable marker of social class, and not connected to any signals concerning IQ and conscientiousness.

The social connotations of being tanned are similar in that sense - they have not remained stable due to changes in how various social classes work and enjoy available leisure time.

Oh gosh, yes; centuries ago, Prior, centuries ago....

BUT, the interesting thing is they do not eat a Western diet. Obesity is simply your body trying to "be all it can be" and all it needs is calories and enough labor saving devices. It is NOT the diet it is more or less natural. Keep in mind that more than half are NOT obese. Obesity is genetic. Your environment allows you to gain weight but it is your genes that demands you gain weight. If your genes are "skinny" you can eat what you want and not become obese.

"If your genes are "skinny" you can eat what you want and not become obese."

True to some extent, but I think we have seen there is virtually no upper limit on the level of obesity, so it seems such people are quite few and far between.

"It is NOT the diet it is more or less natural."

Not really. No matter your genes, a whole food, plant-based diet (fruits, veggies, nuts, some fish/lean meat) is extremely difficult to get obese on. Nobody can force themselves to eat a high enough volume of such foods.

They ARE eating Western diets. I live in Asia, have for 20 years, the refined high fructose corn syrup diet is everywhere these days. If you looked at what they were eating, like a food diary, I think you would change your mind on this comment.

Someone should do an IQ+Conscientiousness+SES study, check out the diverging results. IQ+Conscientiousness (even if best two predictors) are not very strong predictors of SES so easy to obtain enough divergence to test.

I think it's very unlikely that none of the following and linked matter at all; differences in disposable income, relatively lower costs of meat and vegetables relative to income, relatively less attraction to fat, starch and sugar heavy food choices from marginal income savings. See how middle class college students eat when they're on constrained budgets as students; they won't be eating boiled beans and rice, and the choices they make won't be because their conscientiousness and IQ suddenly dropped.

I believe it's a canard that healthy food is more expensive

It is. Religious ascetics, gym rats, surfers, artists, and others eat nutrient-dense diets on low incomes.

Well, the absolute cheapest foods, calorie for calorie, are oil and sugar. Cheaper than grains. So if you're trying to minimize costs in an absolute sense, and keep your calorie intake up, you will be eating a lot of that.

For a given level of pre-processing (getting a restaurant to prepare you a meal, buying a microwave meal), as well, the cheaper versions are less healthy.

All this said, people can live on a healthy diet at low income. If they are dedicated to doing so, whether they're generally conscientious and intelligent, or whether they're not.

It's just that most richer people who profess that, if poor, they would of course live on a diet of beans and brown rice, and so stay slim, because of the superior intelligence and conscientiousness of their class, really I think they wouldn't. They wouldn't have that dedication. They'd be eating the cookies, and the instant pizza and the instant ramen, even if it cost them incrementally more of their income than the rice. Then they'd get fat.

So, basically if the Football Team had got stuck in the cave after becoming monks, we might not have been able to pull them out the narrow gaps?

Add this to the list of Comments That Let You Know You Are Reading MR!

her shoulders rose and she grew her breadth

So is Thailand great because even the poor are obese?

In many rich nations, such as the US, obesity is a problem that affects the poor more than the rich. While obesity certainly leads to many bad health outcomes, it is in some ways a "miracle" of human technological progress that the poor in rich nations now worry about obesity and "too many calories", as opposed to worrying about starvation.

you been wrong before, Ray. You never admit it.

I am often wrong! I admit it!

Modernity brings its own set of problems but nobody seems to be thinking very hard about it. Most people have this hilariously backward-looking view of the poor as Victorian street urchins, or the beggar Lazarus at the rich man's gate. In fact, modernity enables the poor to enjoy the vices of the Biblical rich. You can be fully fed, tatted up, promiscuous, keep and bear arms, and still have enough left for weed and alcohol.

Nobody seems to be devoting much thought to what happens after we abolish scarcity. They're still thinking about Oliver Twist and the African famines they saw documented in the 1970's. Charities have had to invent "food insecurity" and "food deserts" to stay in business.

Such is life in Trump's America.

I see your "Trump's America" and raise you a "Rio Carnival."

I can assure you there is nothing wrong with Rio de Janeiro.

It's not crime ridden anymore?

People exaggerate. Ouro Army has the situation under control. Leading presidential candidate has vouched to defeat crime

Sheesh, Ryan Lochte wasn't THAT bad.

I think in rural Thailand the obesity problem is much less.

In fact in Bangkok one does not see as many fatties as in, say, Milwaukee.

I think a rather tough obesity standard must be at work to conclude Thais are fatsos.

However, the modern diet is making for more fatties than before. You see some younger blimps with the sodas and candy.

Even traditional Thai deserts had some nutritional value (peanuts, rice, bean mash, fried bananas etc.).

Once kids drink coke and eat french fires, they never want to go back.

French fries ain't so bad

I have no idea how this is taken into account at this stage in the obesity statistics of Thailand but the subtlety in having higher quality casual observations of obesity in Asia is knowing that individuals can be metabolically obese despite normal weight and that major ethnic differences exist in the amount of abdominal and visceral fat for a given overal adiposity or BMI, with seemingly a 20 pc. extra for Asian women over Caucasian women for instance. In other terms, Asian women will store a lot of invisible fat around their viscera and we have to account for that extra fat we do not perceive as casual observers given that it is a major driver of elevated metabolic risk.

Korea understands motivation.

All want to be Happy Buhhdas?

The greatest Thai golfer, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, is a very big boy as well so this doesn’t surprise me too much. Very talented player as well. Was top 50 in the world for a while.

Not to forget people with heavy bones

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