Week 5: メタボ (Obesity/Metabolic Syndrome)


Why is Japan’s obesity rate so low compared to other world powers? This article from The Atlantic discusses a major reason: the so-called “Metabo Law.” メタボ is short for メタボリックシンドローム, or metabolic syndrome, which consists of high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol and obesity. But the abbreviated term has become popular enough in Japan to refer to obesity itself.
Once again, the government mandate is the norm here, and any people suffering from obesity or any of the illnesses involved in metabolic syndrome have to go to mandated dieting classes or risk having their companies or city governments pay fines, and companies have to have a low percentage of overweight individuals or risk fines as well. Of course, such a stigma would never go over well in the United States, but it could incite some discussion.

This week’s vocabulary:

メタボ: metabolic syndrome/obesity
If you’re obese, you can’t miss those classes! Do you want to quit your job?

肥満 (ひまん): obesity (technical term)
People with obesity, please be mindful about your weight.

糖尿病 (とうにょうびょう): diabetes
My dad’s diabetes has gotten bad. He’s always injecting himself with insulin.

心臓発作 (しんぞうほっさ): heart attack/failure
Is your grandfather okay? I heard he recently had a heart attack. I think that’s scary.

菜食主義者 (さいしょくすぎしゃ)、または ベジタリアン: vegetarian
For my health, I want to become a vegetarian. But steak is too delicious (to give up)…

I am not a firm believer in government regulation, but I am certainly intrigued by the way Japan does it in order to combat their side of the worldwide obesity epidemic. But there is a weird paradox there, too, as I remember from my stay over there that going to restaurants was more of an occasional treat than an everyday thing, a far cry from the US point of view. And, of course, their diet is one of the healthiest in the world, another fact the article mentions. So, it’s all due to a combination of factors, really. Next week, I plan to take a look on another disease (well, disease segment) that the Japanese have a very different view on than the US: mental illness.

Other sources on the subject:


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