November 24, 2022
HANOI – Việt Nam’s Ministry of Health has issued its first specialised guidance on the diagnosis and treatment of obesity in response to the increasing obesity rate in the last decade.
According to the National Nutrition Census 2019-2020 of the National Institute of Nutrition, the rate of overweight and obese children increased 2.2 times, from 8.5 per cent in 2010 to 19.0 per cent in 2020.
According to the Ministry of Health, in 2020, the rate of overweight and obesity in urban areas reached 26.8 per cent, in rural areas 18.3 per cent and mountainous areas 6.9 per cent.
The National Institute of Nutrition also announced the obesity rate among children in inner districts in HCM City surpassed 50 per cent. In comparison, the rate in Hà Nội surpassed 41 per cent.
Guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of obesity promulgated under Decision No. 2892/QD-BYT dated October 22, 2022, are applied at medical examination and treatment facilities across the country.
Prof. Dr Trần Hữu Dàng, President of the Việt Nam Association of Endocrinology – Diabetes, said that the guidance marked a milestone that could help millions of Vietnamese people prevent obesity and its complications such as diabetes, hypertension, stroke, kidney failure, heart attack, or sleep apnea.
Dàng said that obesity adversely affects all health problems, reduces life expectancy, causes many chronic diseases and reduces the quality of life.
“Measures to prevent and treat overweight and obesity and maintain long-term weight control can improve health status and reduce complications for patients,” he said.
“However, obesity has not been paid enough attention. Obese people usually struggle to lose weight, and many of them believe in and use remedies that are advertised online without health workers’ consultation,” he said.
“According to the World Health Organisation and the American Medical Association, obesity is a chronic disease requiring long-term management and treatment because obesity causes a lot of dangerous complications, affecting people’s health,” Dàng said.
According to Doctor Nghiêm Nguyệt Thu, Head of the Department of Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics, National Institute of Nutrition, the way in which obese people try to lose weight is the issue.
Thu said that many people aim to lose four or five kg a month, which is not sustainable.
“The goal of losing weight is not to pressure obese people to fast or exercise until fainting. However, a weight loss goal set between 5-15 per cent over six months is realistic and has proven health benefits,” Thu said.
“Lifestyle interventions are the foundation for maintaining safe and sustainable weight loss, including nutritional interventions, physical exercise, behaviour change, and psychological support,” she said.
Drug treatment is only applied after three-month lifestyle interventions do not help lose five per cent of weight or for patients with a BMI of more than 25 kg/m2.
The surgical weight loss method is only suggested for cases with a BMI of 35 kg/m2 or higher, or those with a BMI of 30 kg/m2 with other obesity-related comorbidities.
“The challenge for nutritional treatment is to make patients change their behaviour. No amount of exercise is effective if people keep eating too much,” said Thu.
Experts recommend eating more boiled green vegetables and fewer sweet fruits. In addition, people should exercise for 30-60 minutes a day.
Dr Phan Bích Nga from the National Institute of Nutrition said a high-sugar diet with too much sugar and unhealthy fats often found in cakes, soft drinks, sauces, junk food, and fast food, plus not getting enough rest and inactivity are the leading causes of excess energy and metabolic disorders.
However, she noted that these concerns should not matter until children are at least three years old, as their bodies naturally carry more fat.