Study probes overweight secondary school students

National 2 minutes, 33 seconds


A STUDY on overweight secondary school students has found the condition to be more common among males than their female counterparts, said a Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) lecturer.

Dr Nik Ani Afiqah Hj Mohamad Tuah, from UBD’s Pengiran Anak Puteri Rashidah Sa’adatul Bolkiah Institute of Health Sciences, said her study also showed that most of the overweight students were of Malay ethnicity.

The research was conducted in five secondary schools across Brunei-Muara involving 169 Bruneian schoolchildren, aged between 11 to 18 years old.

Dk Nik said the study was held to investigate the relation between leptin levels and body mass index (BMI) among Bruneian secondary school students.

Leptin is a hormone in the body that controls hunger and feelings of satiety. It is secreted by adipose fat tissue.

The more overweight a person is, typically, the higher his leptin levels, said Dr Nik.

It is a protein made in fat cells which circulates in the bloodstream, and goes to the brain as an indicator of the amount of energy stored in your fat cells, she said.

“Obesity is defined as excessive growth of adipose tissue. In humans, circulating leptin correlates with body weight and fat mass, and therefore, leptin is a good predictor for adiposity,” said Dr Nik.

Upon conducting the study, Dr Nik said “no significant increase in the salivary leptin concentration was observed in overweight compared with normal weight Bruneian secondary school students.”

However, their study did find that 54 per cent or 20 of the participants had BMI of over 22 while 31 per cent or 18 of the female students had BMI exceeding 21.5, which is considered to be overweight, said Dr Nik.

According to the BMI weight status categories, anyone with a BMI between 25 and 29.9 would be classified as overweight and anyone with a BMI over 30 would be classified as obese.

She said of the 169 schoolchildren saliva samples, 74 samples were excluded because the salivary leptin measured was below the detection threshold.

From this, a total of 95 student samples were selected for analysis, of which 37 were boys and 58 girls.

Dr Nik said there has been no reports on the link between leptin levels and obesity being done in the Bruneian population and secondary school students, adding that this was the first study ever conducted on BMI and salivary leptin levels in the nation.

The health professional added that the projected sample size was initially 374 students, but only 169 secondary school students managed to participate in the study.

She said students were asked to fill in questionnaires, anthropometric measurements (height and weight) were performed, and saliva samples were collected.

“No physical examination was performed during data collection. Schoolchildren were from five secondary schools in the Brunei-Muara district, and consent was obtained from all participants and their parents,” she said.

The UBD lecturer added that obesity is a growing global health problem that needs to be adressed.

Obesity is closely associated with several health-related conditions, including non-communicable diseases like cancer and cardiovascular diseases.

A 2008 World Health Organisation report on BMI also showed that Brunei had the highest obesity rate among Southeast Asian countries

The Brunei Times