The Ministry of Health in Malaysia reported in 1998 that the number one cause of death is due to heart disease and diseases of pulmonary circulation. 14.09% of death reported in Malaysian hospitals is due to cardiovascular disease which is directly related to diets and lifestyles.
Currently, the diets of the Malaysian population are high in fats, coconut milk, sugar and low in fiber. Traditionally the Malaysian diet is very healthy. Herbs, spices, plant products and fibre are utilized in cooking. Lower amounts of fats and animal proteins are consumed. The Malaysian staple is rice. Rice is usually boiled and eaten with fish and local vegetables and relishes. The portion size of protein foods is small. Currently, the influence of westernization, fast food chains and processed foods with refined carbohydrate and high animal protein intake, as well as inactivity, have contributed to the problems of obesity and cardiovascular diseases. Based on the Malaysian food balance sheets (1960-1990), Malaysians are now consuming 21% more calories than two decades ago. The Malaysian sugar intake has increased from 14.3% of total calories to 107 gm/capita/day. Calories from protein have increased from 6.4% to 9.9%. The increase in caloric, fat and sugar consumption in the Malaysian diet due to the influence of westernization coupled with an inactive lifestyle has led to the chronic diseases of CVD, diabetes mellitus and metabolic syndrome.
In conclusion, the traditional Malaysian diet must be retained and lifestyle changes be made to reverse the atherogenic process.
University Kebangsaan, Malaysia