Obesity is still a global health issue during this Covid-19 pandemic(1). In conjunction with World Obesity Day 2022, we should be aware that the global prevalence of obesity has increased three-fold since 1975(2), and the number is still escalating presently.
In Malaysia, according to the National Health and Morbidity Survey 2019, one in every two adults is overweight or obese(3, 4). It is anticipated that the rates of overweightness and obesity will surge further as the Covid-19 pandemic may restrict the public’s mobility, thus reducing physical activities.
Obesity is a condition with excessive accumulation of fat that predisposes individuals to cardiometabolic diseases(2). The fat tissue in the human body is supposed to be flexible and multifunctional(5). Besides serving as an energy reservoir, the fat tissue is also responsible for secreting hormones that regulate many physiological processes; serving as a hub for inflammatory responses; providing mechanical cushioning and insulation; and participating in heat production for the regulation of body temperature(6, 7).
However, obesity will lead to a decline in adipose-tissue flexibility, thus possibly causing fibrosis and inflammation. These sub-pathological changes impair the adipose tissue’s critical nutrient-buffering functions, leading to insulin resistance and other diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, stroke, and coronary artery disease(5).
Although obesity is reversible through dietary monitoring and physical activity, weight management during an ongoing pandemic is challenging.
To overcome obesity during the Covid-19 pandemic, we need to factor in common life stressors like stress and anxiety that can negatively impact our eating behaviour.
For instance, employees who work from home are more likely to be sedentary or may increase snacking of junk foods, resulting in weight gain.
Therefore, individuals who work from home should control stress eating, have a good stress management strategy, and try to make the home environment more assessable for healthy-eating conditions, such as stocking up on healthy foods like fruits and vegetables; lessening oil, salt, and sugar contents while cooking at home; preparing sufficient plain water for daily consumption; and avoiding all kinds of unhealthy snacks and junk foods, in compliance with the Malaysian healthy plate concept and the latest dietary guidelines(8) recommended during the ongoing pandemic and beyond.
1. Tantengco OAG. Decreased global online interest in obesity from 2004 to 2021: An infodemiology study. Obesity Medicine. 2022;30:100389.
2. World Health Organization. Obesity and overweight: World Health Organization; 2021 Available from [Link].
3. Institute for Public Health. National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) 2019: Vol. I: NCDs – Non-Communicable Diseases: Risk Factors and other Health Problems. In: National Institutes of Health MoHM, editor. 2020.
4. Institute for Public Health. National Health and Morbidity Survey 2015 (NHMS 2015). Vol. II: Non-Communicable Diseases, Risk Factors & Other Health Problems; 2015. 2015.
5. Sakers A, De Siqueira MK, Seale P, Villanueva CJ. Adipose-tissue plasticity in health and disease. Cell. 2022;185(3):419-46.
6. Rosen Evan D, Spiegelman Bruce M. What We Talk About When We Talk About Fat. Cell. 2014;156(1):20-44.
7. Zwick RK, Guerrero-Juarez CF, Horsley V, Plikus MV. Anatomical, Physiological, and Functional Diversity of Adipose Tissue. Cell Metabolism. 2018;27(1):68-83.
8. NCCFN. Malaysian dietary guidelines 2020. National Coordinating Committee on Food and Nutrition, Ministry of Health Malaysia. 2021.
Ng Yit Han is a PhD candidate, and Prof Dr Moy Foong Ming is from the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya.
- This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.