Asians, unlike their Caucasian peers, tended to collect fat internally, around internal organs. This internal fat — properly termed visceral fat — wraps itself around the heart, liver, kidneys and pancreas, and streaks through muscles. Because this fat is internal, one often cannot tell that he or she might be seriously unhealthy and may even be a high risk case for certain diseases. Caucasians, on the other hand, tend to collect fat subcutaneously first, which shows rather obviously.
A friend of mine once told me that her personal trainer, an expatriate who had moved here only a few years ago, said that he had never seen so many “skinny-fat people” prior to moving to Singapore. While an amusing phrase to mull over, the sad reality is that we are indeed a population of skinny-fat people. Instead of gaining weight visibly, we collect fat in the inside, which, doctors have said, is much more dangerous. End result? We look great. But we’re really not.
Recent surveys here have pointed out that more than 54 percent of our population never exercises and that 11 percent of the population is clinically obese. Similarly, more and more young people seem to be plagued with high cholesterol. One of my own business partners—an ex-Miss Singapore Universe finalist — was diagnosed with dangerously high cholesterol in her late twenties. You would never have guessed from looking at this svelte stunner that she had such health issues, but the sad reality is she isn’t alone here.
Another statistic that Professor Chia shared with his audience that day was that one-third of Singapore’s population has a very high risk of contracting diabetes. This was also startling to me. While 11.3 percent of our population has diabetes today, all the indicators suggest that from one out of every nine persons, with the way we’re living and eating, one out of three will have diabetes within a generation.
So what can we do about this? The simple answer is eat better.