Thursday, February 08, 2007

Nutrition survey results cause concern

HA NOI — A recent survey on eating habits has the nation’s leading nutritionists worried about the overall health of Vietnamese people.

According to a National Institute of Nutrition survey, citizens are eating more red meat and fatty foods than ever.

People reported eating up to 62 grams of red meat and unhealthy food a day compared to 24 grams in 1987.

Fish and seafood consumption stayed constant, with citizens eating about 50 grams everyday.

In more troubling news according to health experts, the amount of vegetables eaten per day dropped from 214 grams to 203 grams.

Heath professionals are concerned for residents because of research linking poor eating habits to disease and illness.

Out of the 150,000 cancer patients diagnosed every year, 35 per cent have cancer because of unhealthy foods and a lack of exercise, says Nguyen Ba Duc, director of Ha Noi’s hospital specialising in cancer treatment.

Duc, also vice president of the Viet Nam Cancer Association, says additives and preservatives in processed foods are considered carcinogenic and can cause cancer cells to form.

Over the last six years, Viet Nam has seen an increase in obesity rates across the nation. About 16 per cent of the population is overweight, according to a 2005 study.

Bad choices

Professor Ha Huy Khoi, president of the Viet Nam Nutrition Association, says people who eat food with large amounts of sugar or fat don’t realise it’s bad for them.

Vietnamese people are not eating in moderation either, echoes Nguyen Cong Khan, director of the National Institute of Nutrition.

Sixty-year-old Cao Thi Hoa, a housewife who lives in Ha Noi, says she and her husband were surprised to find they had diabetes at their last checkup.

"We used to eat without worrying about anything, despite our doctor’s warnings," says Hoa.

The problem is particularly acute in Viet Nam’s younger generations.

"Vietnamese youth prefer eating Western fast food and ready-to-eat products made with lots of salt and preservatives," says Khan.

A healthier way

Khan says people should eat vegetables at every meal and limit the amount of meat they have in their diets.

The World Health Organisation recommends a person eat 300 grams of vegetables and between 100 and 200 grams of fish everyday. In order to meet those targets, Vietnamese people would have to triple their consumption of both types of food.

The institute is trying to change this trend by educating children on healthy meal options.

The programme is in the works and will be seen in schools soon, says Khan. — VNS



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